Nothing brings a parent more joy than to see his/her children loving one another – laughing together in good times, sharing with one another, supporting one another in difficult times, enjoying being together, listening to one another, showing affection, growing together in character, working through conflicts, sacrificing for one another, crying together, rejoicing together, being united in thought. When we see these things as parents, a deep sense of contentment, rightness, and joy is felt. How much more does God feel these things when his children live in love as he commanded us, for in those times we are the most like him and are making him truly known to the world in which we live. We demonstrate to the world God’s love; his plan to make a family where every person belongs and is united together. The problem is love God’s way is difficult because we all come from a fallen background. What follows are lessons learned that have transformed our friendships in the body and have helped draw others to God. Relationship Lessons that Keep Making a Difference
Believe and accept God’s love. Find my security and confidence there.
There is a strong direct correlation for me between my belief in God’s love for me and my ability to love others. I John 4:16 says that we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. I came into God’s family full of insecurities and preconceived ideas about relationships based on my experiences in the world. I needed love and needed to feel needed or wanted or even just liked. It was difficult to believe God could love me, even knowing the fact that Jesus died for me – it took time for that to be real. I’m reminded of these words, “Jesus loves me, this I KNOW, for the Bible tells me so.”
What my insecurities do:
Keep me self focused and fearful (will they like me, what do they think of me, can I trust them, etc.)
Keep me from sincerely loving and being sensitive to another’s needs (seeking the very best for another’s good and knowing their needs, desires, joys, and hurts)
Keep me lonely and easily hurt, taking things very personally
Keep me from freely giving grace and the benefit of the doubt
Keep me always wanting reassurance
It is one thing to know a fact in my head, quite another to believe it with my whole being. Believing God loves me changes me from the inside out (loosens the chains of insecurity and selfishness and heals old wounds) and has helped my relationships grow deeper and closer.
Choose to obey the command to love.
Love is a decision that overcomes how I may or may not feel toward someone. I will be learning to love all of my life and it is this that causes God’s love to be made complete in me and enables me to fulfill the law in God’s eyes! Choosing to love empowers me to love! If I don’t decide to love, I tend to just operate by my emotions and not by God’s Spirit and command. Deciding to love focuses my heart on the other person. The following verses inspire me to choose to love, especially when tempted not to.
But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. 1John 2:5
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12
Let no debt remain outstanding, expect the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 1 John 4:17
Love God’s way.
I’m in HIS family so all the one another verses apply to me; they are God’s rules for my behavior and attitude in his family. Jesus’ example inspires me and the letters are full of practical advice.
God sets the example in how to love:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thessalonians 4:9
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11
To love God’s way I must choose to know my siblings in Christ. Meeting people is NOT comfortable for me, nor is being in crowds, especially groups of women! Fellowship has always been a challenge, but these verses have helped me Phil. 2:3-5, James 1:19, and Eph. 4:29.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-5 This verse encouraged me as a young Christian that I could learn how to fellowship!
Ask others about their lives, their interests, hobbies, conversion story, children, jobs, what they are learning, what you can pray about, needs, etc.
Look for the good in another, what God is doing in their lives, consider what I can learn from them and offer them
Don’t boost about myself and hog the conversation, focus on whom I’m talking too.
Call, text, Marco Polo, email, etc., and get together. Show hospitality. Do a variety of things together. Initiate!
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
Listen for insight and understanding; hear what is said so that appropriate questions, comments, or actions can be taken.
Listen and consider well and pray before speaking!
When I’m being offended or tempted to be angry, look for the wound in the person speaking – what happened to them to make them say what is bothering me. Looking for a wound that needs healing changes my perspective and how I want to respond to what is being said or how something is said.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph. 4:29
Be mindful of the needs of others when I’m in a conversation.
Be careful what feelings I share with others and how I share them. Ask myself why I am saying what I am.
If I am full of anger, frustration, fear, criticalness, etc., it is best just to go pray, read God’s word and calm down before sharing with another. Venting doesn’t benefit the listener.
Loving God’s way, these are the lessons that keep teaching me:
Appreciate differences in people and in the friendships with them. Not all friendships will develop in the depth desired. Appreciate different friendships for what they do bring to my life. Jesus didn’t have the same intimacy with all his disciples.
Difficult relationships refine my character and improve my ability to love. Through them I learn compassion, patience, perseverance and endurance among other traits of loving others. I may be the difficult person to someone.
Learn people. Learn what makes them feel loved and needed. Learn the best way to communicate with them. Consider the Love Languages book. God expresses his love to us not only as a group, but as individuals.
Pray for my friends, especially those with whom I’m having difficulty. Praying changes my heart toward them. I cannot write people off, the least I can do is pray. Perhaps at a later time the relationship with change, because God is growing everyone.
Accept others for where they are in their understanding of friendship and what friendships in Christ involve. Bear with differences and forgive freely.
Always be open to new friendships, but realize limits and discuss expectations as needed.
Verses that help with learning to love God’s way:
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph. 4:2
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Col. 3:13
Questions to discuss:
What have been some of the greatest blessings God has given you through relationships in the body of Christ?
What is the most difficult aspect for you in forming close spiritual friendships? What are some ways to overcome it?
What are some small daily things you can do to help build friendships? What do others do for you that help build your friendships with them?
What are my strengths in relationships? What are my weaknesses? What Scriptures can help me with my weaknesses?
What can I do to experience richer friendships in the body?
Is there anyone I’m having difficulty with? Have I written them off? How can I love them as God would have me?
What lessons has God taught me through difficult relationships?
How do I see myself maturing into the image of Christ through the relationships in the body?
Stay close to God and in the knowledge and understanding of his love, keeping my heart tender. Be determined to love as he loves me.
Pray about my relationships in the body.
Choose to love and make a plan to reach out to others by communication and service.
Persist in loving. Do what I can and trust that God will use me and bless me in and through the lives of others.
Sweet friendships refresh the soul And awaken our hearts with joy, For good friends are like the anointing oil That yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence. Proverbs 27:9 Passion Version
Jewelry received by women and girls in India
A lot of women here in the Athens Church of Christ donated used jewelry to Lisa Goodwin to be sent to older women without families and some of the orphans in India. It was a gift to them so they would feel remembered by us and hopefully feel pretty wearing it.
Lisa thought it would be encouraging for the women to see that the collection actually made it to the women who were intended to get it.See pictures below!