Most of our day-to-day activity is lived in the context of relationships. Because of that, it is crucial that we have a biblical view of relationships so we can relate to others and deal with relational problems in a realistic, healthy, and grace-filled way.
That’s why I’m glad that CCEF Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane of CCEF wrote the book Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. It is a gospel-rich and practically insightful book that isn’t afraid to be honest about the relational problems we face and share the hope that the gospel provides to messy relationships.
In the second chapter, the authors share eight biblical facts that summarize how God wants us to think about relationships. Below is an abridged version of those eight points in their own words, sharing a simplified version of what the Bible says about relationships.
1. You were made for relationships.
“This fact takes us back to the beginning. It asks the beginning questions, ‘Who are we, and how important are our relationships?’ In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be ‘alone.’ This statement has more to do with God’s design for humanity than Adam’s neediness. God created us to be relational beings because he is a social God. God lives in community within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit, and has made humanity in his image.”
2. In some way, all relationships are difficult.
“While the first fact is exciting, we still have to deal with reality. All of our relationships are less than perfect. They require work if they are going to thrive. Quickly on the euphoric heels of Genesis 2 comes Genesis 3, where the entrance of sin brings frustration and confusion into relationships.”
3. Each of us is tempted to make relationships the end rather than the means.
“…the primary relationship Adam and Eve were intended to enjoy was their relationship with God. This vertical communion with God would provide the foundation for the horizontal community they were to have with each other… We settle for the satisfaction of human relationships when they were meant to point us to the perfect relational satisfaction found only in God.”
4. There are no secrets that guarantee problem-free relationships.
“Skills and techniques appeal to us because they promise that relational problems can be fixed by tweaking our behavior without altering the bent of our hearts. But the Bible says something very different. It says that Christ is the only real hope for relationships because only he can dig deep enough to address the core motivations and desires of our hearts.”
5. At some point you will wonder whether relationships are worth it.
“The health and maturity of a relationship are not measured by an absence of problems, but the way the inevitable problems are handled. From birth to death, we are sinners living with other sinners. A good relationship involves honestly identifying the sinful patterns that tend to trouble it.”
6. God keeps us in messy relationships for his redemptive purpose.
“What happens in the messiness of relationships is that our hearts are revealed, our weaknesses are exposed, and we start coming to the end of ourselves. Only when this happens do we reach out for the help God alone can provide. Weak and needy people finding their hope in Christ’s grace are what mark a mature relationship. The most dangerous aspect of your relationships is not your weakness, but your delusions of strength.”
7. The fact that our relationships work as well as they do is a sure sign of grace.
“We tend to see sins, weaknesses, and failures, rather than the good things God is accomplishing. If you look for God in your relationships, you will always find things to be thankful for.”
8. Scripture offers a clear hope for our relationships.
“In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brought reconciliation in two fundamental ways. Jesus reconciled us to God, which then becomes the foundation for the way he reconciles us to one another…The New Testament offers hope that our relationships can be characterized by things like humility, gentleness, patience, edifying honesty, peace, forgiveness, compassion, and love. Isn’t it wonderful that God’s grace can make this possible even for sinners in a fallen world!”