On Healthy Relationships (Part 3)

On Healthy Relationships I. Scripture has much to say about human relationships (the state of being related; a condition or character based upon this; kinship). A. In sinless innocency, God declared it not good that man should be alone. GEN 2:18. B. There are great benefits in the healthy companionship of others. PRO 15:22; 27:17; ECC 4:9-10. C. There are also potential pitfalls in all relationships except one. 1. The supreme relationship that any human can have is with God, and He has rightly commanded this to be our priority. MAT 22:36-38. 2. Since He made us, owns us, loves us greatly, gave and gives of Himself so freely for our benefit (JOH 3:16; ROM 8:32), He has every right to be jealous of our attention, affection and worship. EXO 34:14 c/w REV 2:4. 3. Because God is perfect, pure and holy, we can be assured that a whole-hearted relating to Him will never not be in our best interests. JAM 1:13. a. He is harmless. HEB 7:26. b. He is faithful. 1CO 1:9; 1PE 4:19. c. He never lies. TIT 1:2. d. He is a good listener. PSA 34:15-18. e. He provides security for all of our being. PRO 18:10. f. He will never leave nor forsake. HEB 13:5. g. He is merciful, gracious and longsuffering. EXO 34:6. h. He is good and rejoices to do us good. PSA 136:1; DEU 28:63. i. He comforts. 2CO 1:3-4. j. He is love. 1JO 4:8. k. Submission to Him will always be beneficial. 1JO 5:3; PSA 81:15-16. 4. Whole-hearted relating to anyone else will not be in our best interests; in fact, it will be to our own destruction. JER 17:5. II. There are basically four categories of human relationships for a believer to ponder: A. God-ordained/approved relationships which would include: 1. marriage of man and woman. HEB 13:4. 2. family. PSA 127:3-5; 1TI 5:1-4. 3. civil society/nations. ACT 17:26. 4. co-workers. ECC 4:9; 1CO 3:9. 5. friends. PRO 27:6, 9-10. 6. church. EPH 4:16. B. God-forbidden relationships such as: 1. fornication, adultery, homosexuality. 1CO 6:9-10. 2. spiritual ties with known wicked brethren. 1CO 5:9-11. 3. spiritual ties with unbelievers/false religion. 2CO 6:14-18. 4. collaboration with unprincipled men/criminal enterprises. PRO 1:10-16; EXO 23:2. 5. relationships where inordinate affection rules. COL 3:5. a. inordinate: Not 'ordered'; devoid of order or regularity; deviating from right or rule; irregular, disorderly; not regulated, controlled, or restrained. b. affection: The action of affecting, acting upon or influencing; or (when viewed passively) the fact of being affected. Of the mind: An affecting or moving of the mind in any way; a mental state brought by any influence; an On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 1emotion or feeling. c. Such a relationship might be lawful and profitable to begin with but become an occasion for an affection that goes beyond lawful restraints to where sin enters and/or the relationship becomes more important than the love of God: one's dependence shifts from God to that person. PSA 62:5-6. d. In such a case, a repentance is required to reorder the relationship and/or the relationship may have to be ended completely. C. Profitable/wise relationships which would include: 1. companionship with those who fear God. PSA 119:63; MAL 3:16-18. 2. companionship with virtuous people. PRO 2:20; HEB 6:12. 3. companionship with those who have a good name. PRO 22:1; 3JO 1:12. D. Unprofitable/unwise relationships which corrupt (1CO 15:33) and would include: 1. companionship with vain persons/fools. PRO 12:11; 13:20; 9:6. 2. dwelling with the depraved. 2PE 2:8. 3. meddling with changelings. PRO 24:21. 4. friendship with furious people. PRO 22:24-25. 5. companionship with drunks or gluttons. PRO 23:20-21. 6. the company of dissemblers. PSA 26:4. 7. the company of those who mock God and His truth. JER 15:17. 8. companionship with those who poison the mind against brethren. GAL 2:11-12; 4:17. III. Friendship is a good thing, especially familiar friendship (JOB 19:14), since it reflects the relationship we should have with Christ and God. JOH 15:14-15; JAM 2:23. A. familiar: Of or pertaining to one's own family or household. B. Even a marriage is supposed to be a familiar friendship. SON 5:16. C. Scripture also speaks of inward friends (JOB 19:19) and chief friends (PRO 16:28). D. These terms (familiar, chief, inward) all imply special closeness above other friendships. E. The person you are closest to and that you love the most has the potential to bring you the greatest joy but also the greatest temptation and pain. 1. Love is a powerful thing (SON 8:6). The more you love someone, the more power that person has over you. 2. There is probably not another theme that has more driven men's writings. a. “But love is blind, and lovers cannot see The pretty follies that themselves commit.” (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, II, 6) b. “When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies.” (Shakespeare, Sonnets, CXXXVIII) c. “...certain also of your own poets have said...” (ACT 17:28). 3. Therefore, your best friend has the potential to become your worst enemy. a. Satan will seek to attack us through our friends if he can. PSA 41:9. b. How many have been lured into sin by friends or betrayed their faith for them? c. How many times has love for a spouse been a believer's downfall? 4. This should put us on guard to: a. select our close friends carefully. b. never trust anyone in any way that we should only trust God. JER 17:5; PSA 62:5-6. On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 2c. give no place to the devil lest he use us to attack our friends. EPH 4:27. IV. Voluntary relationships are generally begun by someone deeming that there is something in the other party that satisfies something that is deemed to be lacking in oneself. And the strongest ties are when such feelings are mutual. A. Some obvious examples would be: 1. work relationships. ECC 4:9. 2. health/care relationships. ECC 4:10-11. 3. security relationships. ECC 4:12. B. Another aspect of this principle is seen where a relationship provides emotional satisfaction for one or both parties. The relationship fills a perceived emotional need. 1. It may be as simple as the satisfying of basic sexual lust. a. The only godly relationship for this is marriage of man and woman. 1CO 7:1-2. b. Sexual activity with anyone else is forbidden. HEB 13:4. 2. A tight friendship may develop because of a need for companionship with someone with whom one can be oneself without fear of exposure or scrutiny. a. As seen earlier, close friendships are good and valuable. b. But we do well to not desire such close friendships with people who only make us feel good about ourselves regardless of our conduct. c. The best close friends are those who draw lines for us and for the relationship. PRO 27:6; 28:23. 3. A weak person may find satisfaction in a relationship with someone that they think provides missing strength. 4. A strong person may have a deep need to be needed and so finds satisfaction in relationships where he/she relieves, coaches, teaches or otherwise provides a good service to the deficient. 5. Such relationships are, in limited context, profitable and blessed by God's law. a. But, for example, what of the person who completely defines himself by providing “help” for every possible circumstance and so injects himself into every situation where he deems that his strength, knowledge, opinion, or expertise is “needed?” b. The relationship this person thrives on is that of savior or fixer to others. c. Such a person crosses the line from healthy relating to being a busybody that meddles. 1PE 4:15. (1) busybody: An officious or meddlesome person; one who is improperly busy in other people's affairs. (2) officious: Unduly forward in proffering services or taking business upon oneself; doing, or prone to do, more than is asked or required; interfering with what is not one's concern; pragmatical, meddlesome. d. Such a person is constructing a faulty sense of personal fullness by such relationships and who may be using that as a cover or substitute for personal deficiencies that he/she doesn't want to address. (1) “OK, so my house is a wreck but look at how many people I have saved by my witnessing and how many causes I am involved in to help those whose lives are in a mess.” But see TIT 2:5. (2) “OK, so I don't train my children properly but look how involved I am in church programs and committees.” But see EPH 6:4. (3) “OK, so I haven't been doing a good job of providing for my own On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 3household but look at all the people that have been helped by my “ministry.” But see 1TI 5:8. (4) The sense of worth that the other activities and relationships represent becomes so important that it creates a trap of dependency: the savior/fixer can't be fulfilled without a “cause” to divert their attention away from appointed duties or responsibilities. C. We must ever be on guard against making another person (other than Christ or God) the center of our universe. 1. When we do so, we cede control of ourselves to that person or to the perceived fullness that the relationship represents to us. 2. People who NEED a relationship to be complete will tend to give up a part of themselves and/or their principles to make the relationship work. The relationship is deemed to be the most valuable thing imaginable. This is bordering idolatry and is at least a substitute for First Love, per REV 2:4. 3. Have you ever heard someone say about a spouse, romantic counterpart or a very close acquaintance things like, “He/she completes me” or “I can't live without him/her,” or “I'd do anything for his/her love,” or similar sentiments? a. If genuinely affirmed, these indicate tipping points of danger to where the relationship is unhealthy. b. These sentiments imply a complete dependency on that person for satisfying one's needs. c. This is where compromise of values/principles enters in. d. This is where a believer is likely to start redefining his/her Christianity and righteousness in order to maintain the relationship. e. This is where a normally sensible person will suffer continual abuse for the sake of the approval of the person who is abusing them. 4. We should never be swayed from the fact that it is Christ Who completes us. COL 2:9-10 c/w 1CO 1:30. a. Anything at all that we perceive as lacking in ourselves, He is able to provide by His grace. JOH 1:16. b. By His Spirit He comforts in His absence. JOH 16:7. c. By His experience He knows our infirmities and is merciful. HEB 4:15-16. d. By His salvation He gives us peace, joy and hope. ROM 5:1-2, 11. e. He calms the heart. JOH 14:1; 1JO 3:20. f. He assures us that we are loved. ROM 8:39. 5. Is there a perceived need in our lives that needs filling? See PHIL 4:19. a. Perhaps that need is an emotional need that you perceive as only being met by a relationship with another person. b. God is able to supply that need through a relationship with another person. c. But He is able also to supply that need without you having that relationship. 1CO 7:7-8. d. Contentment may be found in any state. PHIL 4:11; 2TI 4:16-17. 6. When a relationship with someone other than Christ or God controls us to the point that we will do ANYTHING for the sake of maintaining that relationship, we place ourselves in bondage to that person and the perceived emotional well-being that person represents to us. a. That person and/or that emotion controls us, rules us. b. We are called to liberty, not bondage to any other than Christ. 1CO 7:23; GAL 1:10. On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 4V. God wants us to depend upon Him for our well-being, satisfaction, security and fullness. A. He calls us to trust Him for the same. PRO 3:5-6; PSA 4:8. B. He bids us to draw nigh to Him. JAM 4:8. C. He promises satisfaction for the inward man. PSA 63:3-5; 107:9. D. He rightly chides and chastens us when we insist on meeting those needs by means that conflict with His word. ISA 55:2; PSA 62:9; 118:8-9. VI. Man has a strong propensity for developing dependencies to counter the deficiencies of life. A. Alcohol, drugs, possessions, excitement, entertainment, etc. are just a few things for which people will develop a dependency. B. Relationships can also become dependency-oriented, particularly in the area of emotion: the on-going presence and/or nurturing of another is believed necessary for personal security. C. Emotional dependency can pervert otherwise healthy relationships and cause one or both parties to compromise on godly principles. 1. Dale and Tammy were faithful church members. Their marriage was good and God blessed them with a baby. Then Dale's job dried up and he decided to take a position with good pay overseas. With Dale gone for many months at a time, Tammy was left alone in the unenviable and insecure condition of being a first-time mother without the regular presence of her husband during critical child-training years. She still attended church and interacted with fellow-believers but her emotional need for family bonding was very strong, so strong that she bonded inordinately to her little boy. Not wanting to do anything that she thought might cause a separation between her child and herself, she refused to discipline him for bad behavior or restrain him from “acting out.” The little boy ended up controlling that relationship and by the time Dale returned home, he had lost the control of his household to an emotionally dependent relationship that Tammy had formed with their son. 2. “Mary had spent long hours with Sarah, counseling her and helping her through the struggles of being a new Christian. They seemed to have a great friendship with lots of common interests and a mutual love for the Lord. Sarah felt Mary understood her better than anyone ever had. Even Sarah's husband, Bill, couldn't provide her with the closeness she experienced with Mary. Mary and her husband, Tom, had a fulfilling marriage, but Tom's sales career kept him away from home often. A loving person, Mary willingly invested her time and caring in Sarah, who really seemed to need her. It was rewarding for Mary to see Sarah growing the Lord, and she enjoyed Sarah's obvious admiration. The shock came when Mary and Sarah found themselves emotionally and physically involved with each other. Neither woman had ever been aware of homosexual feelings before. Both of them loved God and cared for their husbands. Their friendship had appeared to be Christcentred, as they frequently prayed and read the Bible together. If what they were doing was wrong, why hadn't God stopped them? Why hadn't they seen the danger signals along the way? Now that they were so closely involved, they couldn't imagine being apart. "What are we doing to do?", they wondered.” (Lori Thorkelson, Emotional Dependency: A Threat to Close Friendships) 3. Samuel had invested so much in Saul that even though he knew God had abandoned Saul and rejected him, he mourned for Saul. 1SAM 15:35. a. To mourn is to feel sorrow, grief or regret; to lament (the loss of...). There On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 5was an emotional aspect in play. b. There was a lot at stake for Samuel in the discarding of Saul. c. Was not Saul the man whom Samuel had anointed and presented to Israel as their first king; was he not Samuel's “firstborn” ordination-wise? d. Had not Samuel assured Israel that even though they had not done wisely in demanding a king, that things would work out? e. Was Samuel not a judge in Israel whose credibility and discernment could be called into question now? f. God finally chided Samuel for his protracted mourning. 1SAM 16:1. g. Samuel had placed excessive value on the relationship he had with Saul. 4. David couldn't get over the loss of his rebel son, Absalom. 2SAM 18:33-19:4. a. Absalom had fomented conspiracy and insurrection, raised a rebellion, sought to depose and kill David, and openly fornicated with David's concubines in outrageously scandalous manner AFTER having previously killed his own half-brother. 2SAM 13-18. b. A victory for righteousness was sullied by David's inordinate affection for his rotten son until Joab rebuked him. 2SAM 19:5-8. c. David's emotional bond with Absalom was overriding his duty: his wicked son was still controlling him even after his death. 5. Barnabas was John Mark's uncle. COL 4:10. a. John Mark departed from Paul and his company in the performance of the work of evangelism. ACT 13:13. b. Barnabas chose to overlook this desertion in a later campaign, which resulted in a rift between Paul and himself. ACT 15:36-41. c. Blood may well have been running thicker than water here. If so, it is very possible that Barnabas was concerned that other men's approval of himself was being jeopardized by the notion that he was related to a quitter. d. Beware of the “approval trap.” When we are desperate for the approval of others, we become their slave. (1) Approval from others is a major obstacle to a healthy relationship to God. JOH 12:42-43. (2) Recall that we are to walk free, not in bondage to men. 1CO 7:23. (3) Learn to differentiate between wants and needs. The believer who wants the approval of others can be full and at peace without it, but the believer who needs the approval of others cannot do so (and has likely disregarded the fact that God's approval is worth more, which is a great obstacle to the exercise of faith, JOH 5:44). VII. Here are some signs that an inordinate emotional dependency has begun in a friendship. A. Either party: 1. views other people as a threat to the relationship. 2. prefers to spend time alone with this friend and becomes frustrated when this doesn't happen. 3. becomes irrationally angry or depressed when this friend withdraws slightly. 4. completely loses interest in friendships other than this one. 5. becomes preoccupied with this person's appearance, personality, problems and interests. 6. is unwilling to make short or long range plans that don't include the other person. 7. is unable to see the other's faults realistically. On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 68. becomes defensive about the relationship when asked about it. 9. displays physical affection beyond that which is appropriate for a friendship. 10. (if a same-gender friendship) experiences romantic or sexual feelings about the friend and begins fantasizing. 11. refers incessantly to the other in conversation; feels free to “speak for” the other. B. The above characteristics may be problematic in opposite-gender friendships but they are especially perilous in same-gender friendships. C. In either case, one or both of the friends is/are looking too much to a person to meet their basic needs for love and security rather than to Christ and God. D. NOTE: None of us are exempt from the temptation to draw our life and security from another person, especially when that person is handy and willing. Inordinately dependent relationships can form between friends, married couples, parents and children, counsellors and counsellees, teachers and students, doctors and patients, pastors and church members, or even the church member and the church. 1. Remember that one of Satan's most successful methods of destroying someone's relationship with God is by pushing otherwise blessed and normal things past their God-given limitations. This is a classic deception! 2. As a result of the deception that sets in, we can't see inordinate dependency as sin. ISA 44:20. VIII. Scripture speaks of the innate tendency of our nature to gratify ourselves. PHIL 2:21; 2TI 3:2. A. Self-gratification precipitated the Fall (GEN 3:1-6)! If it was an issue with sinless humans, it is a bigger issue for sinners. B. Have you ever noticed that you normally don't involve yourself in any form of behavior if you don't believe it benefits you in some way? 1. Even inordinate dependency upon someone provides some gratification, regardless of the negative aspects of the dependency. 2. The fear of losing this gratification makes dependent relationships hard to forsake. C. Some of the benefits include: 1. Emotional security. A dependent relationship makes us feel that we have at least one relationship we can count on and it gives us a sense of belonging to someone which means that we therefore have worth. 2. Intimacy. Our need for warmth and affection might be filled through the relationship. 3. Self-worth. We feel better about ourselves when admired, attractive to others, or needed. 4. Relief from boredom. The relationship might add zest to an otherwise dull existence and the stressful ups and downs of the relationship actually become an addictive part of the zest. 5. Escape from responsibility. The focus on maintaining the relationship diverts us from confronting personal problems and duties. 6. Familiarity. Someone may not know any other way of relating and fear giving up the known for the unknown. D. Because of the power of the benefits of an inordinately dependent relationship, it can be very difficult see how it could separate us from God. 1. “How could something that feels so good not be good for me?” This question tends to be asked, not inquiringly, but imperatively. 2. If one does not allow the “goodness” of such a relationship to be critically examined, the tendency will then be to justify maintaining the relationship. On Healthy Relationships 7-1-12 Page 7a. “But this friend draws me even closer to God!” which, being translated, probably means that the emotional dependency has produced a euphoria that is masquerading as “closeness to God.” b. The proof of this deception is that when the friend draws away even slightly, God suddenly seems far away! E. It must be remembered that the pathway to closeness to God is not by self-gratification but by self-denial. MAT 16:24. IX. Typical issues that promote inordinate emotional dependency in a relationship include: A. Covetousness. We desire to have something or someone that God has not given us. B. Idolatry. This is maximized covetousness (COL 3:5) where a person or thing (perhaps a relationship, feeling, perception or pleasure) is the absolute center of our lives. We make our decisions based upon the person or thing rather than God and His Law. C. Defiance. We refuse to surrender areas of our life to God because we know that do so would mean not getting or keeping what we covet. LUK 16:13-14. D. Unbelief. We fail to believe that God will meet our needs if we do things His way, the very reason for which Israel perished in the wilderness. PSA 78:19-22. E. Wounded past. Sometimes bitterness and resentment towards those who hurt us in the past open us up for unhealthy or ungodly relationships. 1. An insecurity from a dysfunctional past or even an emotionally compromised present can factor into the forming of an inappropriate emotional bond. 2. We need to remember that Scripture shows us that injustices, flawed backgrounds or present deficiencies (real or perceived) are not justification for giving in to the temptation to react in an ungodly fashion. PSA 27:10; 38:11-15; 1PE 2:23. 3. If we have been using such excuses to justify an inappropriate emotional bond, we need to confess and forsake such thoughts and ties. ISA 55:7. X. These observations are not meant to forbid or discourage the forming of friendships or relationships with others, nor to cast aspersions on current healthy relationships. A. But there is clearly a danger zone in even God-ordained relationships when that other person takes precedence over God and His will in your life and you look to that person to fill you, complete you, secure you, and satisfy your needs exclusively. B. In such a dependent relationship, godly principles will fall by the wayside in order to enhance or preserve the relationship and all the perceived benefits it represents. C. A good safeguard against emotionally dependent relationships is for you to have a healthy love for the Biblical God through the Biblical Son of God, Jesus Christ. EPH 3:14-19. D. It may be necessary to give up a relationship with someone where an inordinate affection or dependency has robbed Christ of your devotion. But the immediate reward in doing so is peace with God. PSA 119:165; ROM 8:6; ISA 26:3. E. “Peace with ourselves is another blessing we receive. It's much easier to like ourselves when we are not scheming and striving to maintain a relationship we know God does not desire for us. When we have relinquished a dependent attachment, we are no longer tormented with fear of losing the relationship. This, too, brings peace to our hearts. In the aftermath of dependency, we discover a new freedom to love others....Individuals who have given up dependent relationships say they discover a new caring and compassion for people that's not based on sexual or emotional attraction. They find they are less critical of people and less defensive. They begin to notice that their lives are founded on the real security found through their relationship with Christ, not the false security of a dependent relationship.” (Love In Action, San Rafeal, CA)

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