Chapter 4

Relationship Maintenance

No one wants to experience the pain and embarrassment of a broken relationship. We would much rather have things go well between us and others. But healthy relationships are not easy to maintain. They require a diligent effort from everyone involved.

Talk Openly. When we freely and regularly share our thoughts and feelings with each other, we gain more understanding. It gives us the ability to know each other better and to respond in the appropriate manner.

Communicate Honestly. The apostle Peter instructed us to get rid of all deceit and hypocrisy (1 peter 2:1). And Paul wrote that we should not lie to one another (colossians 3:9). Honesty builds trust and brings us closer together.

Respect Each Other. Having the esteem of others is fundamental to our personal well-being. Friends and loved ones can affirm our worth even as we affirm theirs. When personal regard is mutually expressed, it causes us to respond to one another with a warmhearted acceptance. And this acceptance is maintained as we continue to honor one another (romans 12:10).

Resolve Your Anger. The Bible says, “‘In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (ephesians 4:26). Our anger should not be permitted to simmer.

Be Patient. All of us have character flaws. Instead of judging and criticizing others, we should be humble and tolerant. After all, we want others to be patient with us too.

Share One Another’s Problems. We each have the responsibility to handle our own troubles, but there comes a time when we all need the help of a friend. In fact, the Bible tells us that we should share each other’s burdens and in this way we obey the Lord’s command (galatians 6:2). We need each other!

Give Constructive Criticism. The Bible says that open rebuke is better than secret love (proverbs 27:5). We may be reluctant to confront others about their faults, but it’s more loving to say something than to keep quiet and allow them to continue on as they are. Truthful and loving criticism has the best interests of the other person in mind. Although this kind of criticism hurts, it is the pain of friendship. Through constructive criticism we become better people and our relationships improve.

Serve One Another. Rather than asking what we can get, we should be asking what we can give. As Paul reminds us, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (romans 15:2). An attitude of servanthood recognizes that selfishness only ruins a relationship, but self-sacrifice builds it up. When we serve one another our relationship is maintained and everyone involved benefits.

RECONCILIATION IS POSSIBLE

Paul and Barnabas suffered a rift in their relationship over Mark’s youthful lack of perseverance (see acts 15:26–27). But that isn’t the end of the story. God used that disagreement to multiply the ministry. Barnabas went one way with Mark, and Paul went another direction with Silas. In other words, God redeemed that angry separation by doubling the work accomplished, and the entire world has benefited from it. But the split wasn’t permanent.

In 60 ad, as Paul sends his closing greetings to his friends in Colosse, he says, “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas” (colossians 4:10, emphasis added). This was approximately 10 years after his falling out with Barnabas. He wrote a similar message in Philemon at about the same time, calling Mark his “fellow worker” (v.23).

But it is near the close of Paul’s life and ministry in about 67 ad that we see the complete restoration of the friendship. As the apostle awaits his execution, he sends this message to Timothy: “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 timothy 4:11).

That is the beauty of God’s love and redemption at work over a lifetime. That is a broken relationship restored.

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