Written by Santhosh Vennamalla on 22-12-2019
We cannot choose the family we are born into; and by extension, neither the relatives. As we grow, we make a lot of relationships, give up on some, lose some, cherish a few and regret some. Each one of them teaches us something. Each one of them gives and takes something from us, moulding us into something new with every transaction. It is sometimes too late when we realize a relationship is bad or when we let go of a good one. How do we decide which relationship is good and which is bad? Do we go with gut feel, or do we wait and watch? Do we start with a hundred percent trust or build it as we go along?
A believing Christian’s primary relationship is with God. All relationships are measured by the influence they have on this primary relationship and how they are impacted by it. The Bible is replete with stories of relationships – good, bad, sacrificial, selfish, generous, narcissistic, loyal and deceiving; each of them teaching us what to do and what not to do.
One of the most often quoted verses when it comes to relationships is 2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” It is not really possible to deal only with believing Christians at work, in the market, at school or any other place that requires us to work with others. So, how do we apply this? A parallel verse in this context is Psalm 1 - Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. This also echoes what the earlier verse says, making it seem impossible to be with anyone who is not a believer. How then do we get around having any relationship at all without alienating everyone (well, almost everyone) around us?
Let us look at four levels of relationship:
There are people who are merely acquaintances. People you may meet once in a while, or sometimes even often, but about whom you do not really know much beyond possibly their name, place of work, study or stay. And they in return do not know about you beyond what is necessary for any transaction that you two may be involved in.
Then there are people that you spend time with because you have a common goal – you are either studying, working or conducting business together. You may move beyond just know about them to actually knowing them as individuals. There could a fair share of exchange of information and opinions.
These are friends, the numbers of whom can be counted on your fingers; people with whom you do not hesitate to share your feelings with. These relationships are built over a period of time and based on shared values, experiences and demonstrated actions of friendship.
The one relationship that you finally choose above all else, if you so wish, to spend the rest of your life with. There is neither fear nor doubt in this relationship. This is where you bare your soul – your fears, failures, mistakes, hopes and dreams; where you are willing to put the other person ahead of you for all that is good.
Now, if we were measure these four levels of relationships against the yardstick given to us in the aforementioned verses – we will be able to make the right judgement as to how close do we let someone come. We cannot choose those who are not believers to be our bosom friends, mentors, or life partners. If we are strong in our faith, then they should be influenced by it. And if we pick those who are stronger in faith, our own faith is strengthened and thus are drawn closer to God.
I would propose a fifth level of relationship – Christ-like. Would your friend be willing to give up his life (or anything smaller also for that matter to make yours better? Would you be willing to do the same – sacrifice your ego, dreams, aspirations, belongings or maybe even your life to encourage someone else and help enrich his/her life in Christ Jesus.
Meditate on John 15: 12-17 – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”