When it comes to relationships, are you and those around you ‘consumers-of’ or ‘investors-in’? Have you noticed that the more developed a society becomes, the more consumerist it’s practices? This leads to overconsumption, excessive production, a throw-away mentality and great waste. Humankind currently produces two billion tonnes of waste per year between 7.6 billion people. Perhaps then it is not surprising that littering and fly-tipping are common. Some would regard graffiti as litter whilst others call it art! Where are you on the approval-disapproval scale of littering and graffiti ... or indeed on your approach to relationships? Yet sometimes graffiti like the one pictured can make powerful statements rather than throw-away remarks. The deeper question it provokes is about the quality of relationships that last because of significant inward investment rather than those which are merely consumed and discarded.
- ‘I’m just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love’ – Marilyn Monroe
- ‘Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in it, continue firm and constant’ – Socrates
- ‘Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend’ – Martin Luther Jr
- ‘A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth’ – Charles Darwin
- ‘Graffiti's always been a temporary art form. You make your mark and then they scrub it off’ – Banksy
Do you think people feel any guilt when they throw litter in a clean street, use a spray can on the side of someone’s house or chuck good food away when there are people starving? Would they do this if they owned the street, lived in the house or choose not to share the food with a hungry friend? Some people view relationships as passing clouds with zero commitment but as trophies to line a shelf. Statistics showing domestic violence, physical abuse, stabbings and the numbers of people divorcing have all increased in recent decades. At the same time, measures of loneliness have been spiralling whilst measures of trust have been plummeting. Relationships at the heart of our fragmented modern society are in crisis – every family and household has some issues with something going on behind every closed door.
- ‘We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it’ – John Lennon
- ‘Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better’ – William Shakespeare
- ‘Intense love does not measure, it just gives’ – Mother Teresa
- ‘Love is a decision’ – Selwyn Hughes
- ‘Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical. Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul’ – Mahatma Gandhi
It was Selwyn Hughes who talked about the shape of the soul, as if it were made for relationship! Certainly we know that the Bible shows human beings to be ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, ‘in the image of God’ but with body, soul and spirit.
- ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
- ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second (commandment) is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself. “There is no commandment greater than these’ – Mark 12:30-31
Perhaps we find it easier to love God than the people we live with! Despite all the challenges of the need for give and take in relationships, the reality is that humans crave interaction in happy marriages, families, friendships and communities. Sadly, self-centred human nature means that many of these are broken, either stuck together with sticking-plaster or abandoned for something easier. Homelessness, drug abuse and imprisonment are symptoms of this fragmentation, but none of them solve the essential need of a person which is to find relationship with God who enables them to live in healthy relationships with others. This is the reason Jesus came.
- ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’ – John 17:26-26
- ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful’ – Colossians 3:12-15
The reasons why relationships break down and how they can be repaired is a subject worth giving 8 minutes to investigate: see C4L Video4Life, ‘All at Sea’ (https://connect4life.org.uk/c4l-videos-4-life)
- ‘This love is difficult but it’s real’ – Taylor Swift
- ‘Love is all you need’ – The Beatles
- ‘And now I will show you the most excellent way’ – 1 Corinthians 13
Why not ask God to help you live out the love of the ‘most excellent way’ in all of your relationships? God is our Father who gives us unconditional love in a secure relationship and calls us to live this out with others. Whilst you may not get it right all of the time, at least it will be a move in the right direction and you will know that help is on hand. As you treasure relationships rather than discard them, you will find that others around you notice a change in your life ... and theirs!
TAGS – renewal, grace, intimacy, affection, solace, enduring, forgiveness