"Building Better Relationships"
This morning and over the next several weeks, we’re going to talk about how to build strong, healthy, loving relationships. We’re going to explore some of the problems that creep into our relationships and threaten to destroy them, we’ll talk about some principles that can help you be an encourager and build others up, we’ll discover some ideas for strengthening our relationships with our family members, and we’ll talk about mending relationships that have been broken.
We’re going to be covering a lot of very practical, very important material. This series will be relevant for every one of you. So let me encourage you to aim to be here each and every week. And hey, why not invite someone to come with you?
To start things off, this morning we’re going to look at the most basic ingredient in all healthy and growing relationships: Love.
The Truth About Love and Relationships:
1. The best relationships are founded on love.
One day when Jesus was teaching, a man asked him, “Out of all the commandments, and we’ve got a lot of them, what’s the most important? If you had to rank them, Jesus, what would you put first?”
Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
That’s a very recognizable passage right there. It’s one we’ve referred to here many times before. So what’s Jesus telling us? He’s telling us that the best relationships are founded on love.
That fact right there is the foundation for this entire series and one of the greatest truths in life. Whether you’re talking about a relationship with God or a relationship with anyone else, the best relationships are founded on love. The best thing you can do is love… love God and love others.
You see this same theme played out in other passages of Scripture, too. Like what Paul wrote to the Colossian believers...
Colossians 3:14 (CEV)
Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.
Or from The Message paraphrase, what Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth...
1 Corinthians 13:3 (MSG)
No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
If you don’t have love, you have nothing at all. Everything we’re going to talk about during this series needs to be against this backdrop right here: The best relationships are founded on love.
2. Love makes it possible for relationships to endure.
Here’s one of the primary reasons that love is so critical in a relationship. Because without love, your relationship wouldn’t last very long. Whether you’re talking about a friendship or a marriage, love is essential. Otherwise, you’re going to get ticked off and go your separate ways.
But if love is the foundation of your relationship—again, whether you’re talking about a friendship or a marriage—then you might still get ticked off but you’re going to care enough to work it out.
I expect you already know that to be true by first-hand experience. I’m sure you’ve been hurt by a friend at some time or another. How did you respond? If you really loved them, then I’m sure you felt the pain and maybe you had to deal with it, but you were also willing to stick with the relationship and work it out, weren’t you? Maybe you were even willing to just forget about it and put it in the past because of your love. And maybe you even have trouble remembering it right now because you really did decide to put it behind you for the sake of the relationship.
Love helps you forgive. And we’re going to be talking about that more as the series goes on. But love helps you forgive. It gives you motivation to forgive. You won’t forgive just because you have to as a Christ-follower but you’ll forgive because you want to. And there’s a big difference between doing something because you have to and because you want to.
Peter, in his first letter that’s included near the end of the New Testament, wrote this...
1 Peter 4:8 (NLT)
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
That’s true on a cosmic level and it’s true on an interpersonal level. First of all, the love of God expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross provides the cover for all of our sins. It’s was love that motivated Jesus to give Himself so freely, pay the penalties for our rebellion, and make it possible for us to be forgiven.
But second, it’s true for us in our own relationships with one another. When you love someone—when you really care about them—you’re going to be willing to be hurt. You’re going to be willing to put that hurt behind you for the sake of your relationship.
There’s a saying in Spanish…
Amor conquista todo”
“Love conquers all”
Love can overcome anything. The love of God overcame the chasm that had developed between us and Him. The love of Christ overcame our sin, death, and the grave. And that same love flowing through you can overcome any obstacle that may want to pull you away from God, separate you from your family, or divide you from your friends.
3. You choose whether you will love or not.
Years ago, the Christian psychologist Gary Smalley wrote a book about this very thing. It was a book simply titled, “Love Is a Decision.”
And you know what? That’s right, it is a decision. You choose whether you will love someone or not love someone. Sure, there are some feelings that can play a role, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But ultimately, love is a decision you make. Will you love, or won’t you.
In Ephesians 5:2, Paul wrote...
Ephesians 5:2 (NLT)
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us…
How could Paul write that? How could he encourage us to live a life filled with love if love were just something that happened to us and is out of our control, like a hurricane or a tax audit? He could write it because it’s not just something that happens to us; it’s something we decide to do or not to do.
Notice, too, in that verse, how Jesus decided to love us. Jesus decided to love us by doing something. By offering Himself. Later this morning, we’re going to take part in what we call Communion or the Lord’s Supper, which recalls that decision Jesus made to give Himself on the Cross for us. But make no mistake; it was a decision He made. His love was evidenced through His actions. Which takes us to number 4...
4. Love is expressed more through actions than through words or emotions.
In other words, love is something you do, not something you say or feel.
The apostle John drove this point home in his first letter. From the New Living Translation...
1 John 3:18 (NLT)
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
Love is not a matter or words but of action. I like how the Contemporary English Version translates this same verse...
1 John 3:18 (CEV)
You show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it.
That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it? It’s pretty profound. You show your love for someone else by actually getting off your butt and helping them, not just talking about it. That means you’re going to be willing to be inconvenienced, you’re going to go out of your way to help, you’re going to do things that perhaps you’d rather not do, all because you love someone and you’re going to prove it through your willingness to help out.
It reminds me of what James wrote about faith. He said that faith without works is dead... that if your faith is really real, then it’s going to be shown through your deeds. Well, the same can be said of love. If your love is really real, it’s going to be shown by the things you do.
5. Your love can always grow beyond where it is now.
What’s the quality of your love? How deeply do you love? Do you have a lot of love or do you find it difficult to love? Does your love have a short fuse or is your love pretty patient? No matter how you would rate your ability to love, you can always learn to love more. Not only can your love for an individual grow, but your very ability to love at all can grow as well.
Very early in the book of Philippians, Paul expressed to the Church in Philippi his desire for them to grow in their love.
Philippians 1:9 (NLT)
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
No matter how much or how little you are able to love right now, your ability to love can continue to grow more and more.
Those of you who are parents, you know this to be true better than anyone else. As soon as your child was born you knew you loved him or her and that you would gladly give your life for your child. You never knew a love like that before, and you never thought you were capable of loving like that, right? And then what happened? With each new passing day, your love just keeps growing, doesn’t it? Everyday, you love your child more and more. It overflows.
Your love... your love for your spouse, for your family, for your friends, for your neighbor, for your coworker... your love can grow more and more every day. You have a limitless capacity to love because of the limitless Source of all love...
6. Ultimately, all love emanates from God.
Your very ability to love at all comes from God. God gave you that ability. He infuses you with love for you to extend it to others. All love emanates from God. It all comes from Him. The apostle John really emphasized this fact with these words...
1 John 4:7-8 (NLT)
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Wow, not only does all love come from God, but God Himself is love. It’s the core of His nature. It’s not just something He has, and it’s not just something He does; it’s who He is. God is love.
So what does that mean for you and me? It means that if we’re going to become more godly... if we’re going to become more Christ-like... we’re going to learn to love. It’s got to become core to who we are, too. And with God’s help, that can become a reality. Love can be something that you instinctively do, and not something you struggle to do with some people. You’re going to be able to love your enemies, those who persecute you, those you don’t get along with... you’re going to be able to love the unlovable.
This is what Jesus said...
Matthew 5:43-45, 47 (NLT)
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven... If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?”
How is this possible? How can we love the unlovable? Because of the love of Christ at work in our lives transforming us and making us capable of such love.
1 John 4:19 (NIV)
We love because He first loved us.
7. Your ability to love goes hand-in-hand with the depth of your faith.
If you really want to learn to love more and more, then the key is to get to know Jesus more and more. The closer you get to Him, the more you’ll become like Him and the more you’ll be able to love others as He does.
Paul talked about the connection between faith and love when He wrote...
2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.
And that makes senses, doesn’t it? I mean, if God really is love as we talked about earlier, then the way to learn to love more is to get closer to Him. If you want to grow in your ability to love, the way to begin is by growing in your faith. Spend time reading the Word, talking with God daily in prayer, ask Him to increase your capacity to love, serve Him by serving others. As you do, you will discover that both your faith and your ability to love grow at the same time.
Love. It’s the foundation for any healthy relationship. Everything we’re going to be talking about throughout this series springboards from that fact right there: the best relationships are founded on love. Let’s pray.
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson