“Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.” Romans 12:5
We were created by God to be relational beings. We seek relationships and thrive off of them. But many times we find ourselves in broken relationships and wondering “how did we end up here?” Over the next 3 weeks I want to explore the question of “what destroys relationships and what builds them?”
The first force that destroys a relationship is selfishness. James 4:1-2 says, “What causes fights and quarrels? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it.” When the relationship begins, we usually work hard at making it healthy but eventually selfishness creeps in or creeps back up. Dennis Rainey does an excellent job of illustrating this with the 5 stages of a married cold.
The first year: “Baby darling, I’m worried about that sniffle. So, I’ve called the paramedics to rush you to the hospital for a checkup and a week of rest. I know you don’t like that hospital food, so I’m having gourmet meals brought in for you.”
The second year of marriage: “Sweetheart, I don’t like the sound of that cough. I’ve arranged for Dr. Feelgood to make a house call. Let me tuck you into bed.”
The third year of marriage: “You look like you’ve got a fever. Why don’t you drive yourself over to the 24 hour clinic and I’ll watch the kids.”
The fourth year of marriage: “Look be sensible. After you’ve fed and bathed the kids, washed the dishes, and taken out the trash, you really should go to bed.”
And the fifth year of marriage: “For Pete’s sake, do you have to cough so loud? I can’t hear the TV. Would you mind going in the other room while this show is on? You sound like a barking dog!”
The truth is we begin life self-centered. Selfishness comes naturally. It is a part of our nature so much so that we are acting out of character when we aren’t self-centered. Our culture does not help. It feeds us the idea of “have it your way” and “obey your thirst”. It’s our job to change and become others-centered.
While selfishness destroys relationships, selflessness builds them. Selflessness simply means a little less of me and a little more of you. Philippians 2:4 tells us to “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.” It’s amazing what selflessness will do to a relationship and to an individual. It causes people to change. Selflessness causes them to relate to us differently and it transforms people. Many of us would say our parent’s sacrificial love has made us become something we would have never become without the experience of receiving such a selfless act. Conversely, a self-centered parent sowed, in many of us, things that we are reaping well into our adult lives.
“The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others-and ignoring God- harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, and eternal life.” Galatians 6:8
Galatians tells us that we are to be selfless in response to God, not to what others do. In our culture we usually respond to people based on how they treat us. If they offend us, we respond accordingly. Paul says here to respond to God, not the offender. When you do that, you are being selfless and life is better. That is another way of saying that only those of you who learn to give your life away to others, learn what it means to really live. This is why we support our friends in difficult times and share our time, talents, and treasures with others.
“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.” Galatians 5:16
All of us are compulsive in some way. A compulsion is a behavior that has become a way for us to reduce anxiety or enhance a sense of well-being in our lives. For selflessness to become a way of life for us, and not just a spurt of positive behavior, we have to be motivated by God’s spirit. God’s indwelling Spirit is His cure for a life diseased by selfishness.