I used to hate people.
I didn’t hate them so much as I thought they hated me, and that’s why I hated them. Bad philosophy, huh?
Ever since I was the new kid at a large church in sixth grade, I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to live in a world with other people. This adventure has been filled with ups, downs, and a variety of creative hiding places. I’ve been hit in the face by dodgeballs, had a receipt yanked out of my hand by a less-than-friendly customer, and gotten reprimanded by multiple managers. There were times I felt like I was so awkward and inept at the art of peopling, I might as well give up.
Perhaps the greatest grace God has shown in my life–aside from salvation–is the very fact that I didn’t give up. I kept going to youth group, clocking in at work, and introducing myself in class until eventually I reached the point of understanding that, as difficult as relationships are, I couldn’t live a meaningful life without them.
If you’re struggling with whether people are even worth the effort, I get it. They’re not easy, for sure. Before you make up your mind, though, take these three reasons into consideration for why you might need relationships in your life.
1. For Fellowship in the Body of Christ
You and I were designed for community. From the very beginning, God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone. That’s why he made Eve as a helper, not some kind of personal secretary or maid, but a human being who could understand him on a soul level, strengthen him emotionally, and expand his concept of the glory of God.
This connection between Adam and Eve is the essence of all human relationships, romantic, platonic, and whatever else you can think of. The reason there are so many people on this spinning ball of dirt is so that we can have 7 billion faces to reflect the image of God and 7 billion tongues to worship him in their own words.
If you think “Just me and Jesus” is an acceptable way to go about the Christian life, then you’re missing the mystery of the gospel. See Ephesians 1-3, where God unfolds the plan he’s been working out since the beginning of time, to unite all people and nations to himself through the blood of Jesus Christ.If you think “Just me and Jesus” is an acceptable way to go about the Christian life, then you’re missing the mystery of the gospel. Click To Tweet
We were created for community, and we were saved for community. God sent his Son to die on a cross to bring his people together into one family, one church. The way we live and love each other is the outpouring of that gospel life from our hearts through our hands, in our homes and to our neighborhoods.
God is glorious, far too glorious for our relationship with him to be no more than a few prayers in a closet. He deserves our praise. Not to just mine, not just yours, but ours. All of it.
2. For Spiritual and Practical Growth
Way back hundreds of years ago in Europe, some particularly pious men and women believed that the best way to become holy was to hole themselves away in monasteries and nunneries to perform religious rituals and pore over Latin Scriptures. Their devotion was incredible, but what these monks and nuns didn’t realize is that by shutting themselves off from the outside world, they were actually restricting their growth.
Let me explain. Holiness has close ties to purity, and purity has to do with all the things you don’t do wrong. But holiness is so much more than just subtracting sin from our lives. Holiness is a positive expression of our relationship to God himself, who is loving, merciful, and just.
The word “holy” means “set apart.” But we are not just set apart from sin, we are set apart to do good works. In response to the self-righteousness of the Israelites in the Old Testament, God reminds his people that he takes no delight in burnt offerings sacrificed by ceremonially clean hands attached to a heart that is far from him.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
We don’t grow in holiness by isolating ourselves. We grow by living on this earth as God intended us to live, in a community, walking side by side. How can we learn the longsuffering nature of God if we avoid any relationships that require patience and enduring love? How can we return evil for good if we block out anyone who might offend us?
But it’s not just for spiritual growth that we need relationships. Believers and unbelievers alike have incredible loads of wisdom from life experiences that we can learn from. Even unsaved bosses and teachers can help us to achieve our goals, to live at peace with others, and to become mature, professional individuals who know how to handle life in the real world.
It would be foolish, at best, to refuse to learn from the people God places in our lives.
3. For Accomplishing our God-given Mission
Take a nice hard look at the world we live in. Say the names of victims who have been shot by a system paid to serve and protect. Try to make sense of the American political systems that claim justice for one group of people while denying justice to another. On second thought, don’t. You’ll get a massive headache.
The world is a mess; that’s about as obvious as the sky being blue. What’s not as obvious is that Christians have the answer to humankind’s greatest needs: the need for reconnection with our Creator, the need for justice against the evil in our hearts, the need for forgiveness when we feel the guilt of sins we can’t undo.
We have a mission to love, to speak truth, to reach out to the world with open arms and eyes to heaven. That mission’s not going to go away, no matter what happens in this world. Sure, you can pack your bags for Alaska, but in the end, you’re only ignoring the reality God has chosen to place you in.
God has equipped us to do healing work in a desperately broken world. He’s shone the light of the gospel into your heart, and opened your eyes to a living hope. What are you going to do with it?
Will you keep it to yourself like a ember burning in your soul? Or will you take somebody by the hand, pray for them, and show them what it feels like not to be alone?
What about your bosses who work overtime just to keep a store running even though all they get in response is a bunch of Karens blaming them for the national toilet paper shortage?
How about your classmate who always takes the seat in the back corner because nobody takes the time to learn her name?
Or the roommate whose mom has cancer, the friend who battles mental illness day and night, or the thousands of LGBTQ+ youth in schools across America who are bullied on a daily basis?
Your life isn’t yours to live, it’s Christ’s to give. He gave it to you when you were dead in your sin, lost and without hope in this world, and now he’s asking you to give it away. Give it to the lonely people, the annoying people, the ones who drive you crazy. Give it to the people who need it the most.Your life isn’t yours to live, it’s Christ’s to give. He gave it to you when you were dead in your sin, lost and without hope in this world, and now he’s asking you to give it away. Click To Tweet
We need relationships, because loving encounters are the roads we lay out for the gospel. And the gospel, the good news of a God who reaches into our broken, hurting world and lives among us, a God who will restore all things to himself and recreate both our souls and our earth? This is a God worth living, and loving, for. –Sailing Your Relationships, Olivia Morgan White
Editor’s Note: We love it when our writers get their work in print! Olivia White, long-time writer for the Reb, is celebrating the release of the brand new devotional Sailing Your Relationships. This article is based on the content of Sailing Your Relationships. Check out more about the devotional below and pick up a copy to learn more about navigating relationships according to God’s Word.
Relationships aren’t exactly a breeze . . . Thank goodness for God’s Word. With 15 devotionals that’ll last you three weeks, this devotional is a necessity for anyone who deals with people on a daily basis. Learn how to embrace fellowship, enrich your relationships (friends, family, church, and yes, boys), put in the work to make relationships work, forgive and process hurt, and more.