We are in the middle of a sermon series called Relationship Status. In this series, we are wrestling with one of the most important aspects of our lives, how to relate properly to one another. Loving one another is one of the most challenging and difficult things we do every day. Therefore, we need to talk about it.
No matter where we find ourselves in our lives today, relationships are unavoidable. They are in the backdrop of all aspects of our day-to-day lives. But that makes sense since God did create us for relationships. We are hardwired for connection with others. So what’s our relationship status right now? Is it single, in a relationship, married, or is it just flat out complicated? Because the real question is, how do we live in a way that honors God and honors others in light of that relationship standing?
Social media has made it incredibly simple to tell what your relationship status is. With just a quick selection from a dropdown arrow, you can simply choose to display whether you are single, in a relationship, married, or even if it’s complicated. Yes, I’m serious. However, I’m sure that we can all agree today that the actual navigation of these relationships is a whole lot messier and complicated than a dropdown selection, so we need God’s help if we want to do it well.
Last week we began with the relationship status of singleness. If you missed last week, whether you are single or not, you can catch up at yorkspringsumc.org. Each week, whether the relationship status we are talking about fits you or not, I promise you, if you want to, you will still get so much out of this series.
To recap last week, we discovered the Biblical view of being single is not the worldly view. In a culture where relationships are often seen as validation of our worth, it is tempting to view singleness as a punishment or waste. Though this may be the message of our culture, it is certainly not the message of the Bible.
The Bible speaks of singleness as a special gift that may be a season or even a lifetime. But it’s definitely not one of punishment, instead it’s one of opportunity. An opportunity to focus on pleasing God without a divided life. Being single, whether for a season or a lifetime, is a gift that must be stewarded well. And since God wants you to love Him above all else, what is your focus on? What is your time, energy and attention going towards? We are called to live in such a way that will enhance our relationship with God. So are you giving Him the whole pizza?
As it can happen in real life, today the relationship status changes. Today we are talking about being In a Relationship.
When someone enters into a romantic relationship there are a lot of things that change. In a healthy relationship, you spend a whole lot more time together and less time with other people. You can’t spend money on just yourself anymore because there are flowers to buy, dinner dates to pay for, and birthdays that come up. Gentlemen, you’ve got to keep your truck clean and yourself clean. Things change. We all put a little more time and effort into a few things.
The point is, when you enter into a relationship, you are committing to sharing yourself with someone else. That is not something to take lightly. The Bible speaks about relationships often because it is a fundamental part of what is means to be humans who are made in the image of God.
POINT #1 – GOD EXISTS IN RELATIONSHIP
In Genesis 1:26 God says, “let US make man in OUR” image. Notice that means more than one. He is speaking of the three-part existence of the divine. Yes, even from the very beginning there was the Trinity that consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God himself always has and always will demonstrated what a true relationship looks like as He exists within the Trinity. They are ever giving and ever receiving from one another and are the blueprint from which we are made.
So, if we are created for relationships and God is committed to relationships being the expectation for what it means to be human, then how do we do it well?
I believe Jesus offers us the answer in a discussion with some religious leaders in Matthew 22.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
There was a discussion going on in the Jewish religious circles of Jesus’ day concerning which parts of God’s law and His commands were most important. Every Rabbi (religious teacher) had a different opinion on what the answer was. So Jesus is approached with this question as well. This religious leader is essentially asking Jesus what is the most important thing to remember and do in his life. Where should all of his time, attention, energy, and affection be directed? Jesus’ answer offers us the roadmap to relationships.
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Jesus tells the man that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. He is quoting a very well-known Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy that was a part of what was known as the Shema (Translated as listen, in English) and was recited daily by faithful Jews. When Jesus mentions loving God with heart, soul and mind, He is covering all the bases.
Remember that the Hebrew word for heart is the word Lev. The Hebrew understanding of the heart was not an organ that pumped blood or a shape used to indicate affection. They believed the heart to be the very center of one’s being. It was where all of one’s actions, thoughts, and life flowed from.
So, we are to love God with all that we have, first. There is nothing more important than this. When we love God more than anything, when we put God first, it becomes very evident in our lives.
When someone is in relationship with someone else, particularly when someone would say that they are “in love”, you can expect to hear about their loved one…like a lot. If you have ever been around someone who’s in love or especially newly in love, it can be a bit overwhelming. You hear about their smile, their humor, their kindness, their laugh, just how stinkin’ cute they are.
And yet Jesus says that there is nothing more important than love, especially a love for God. If we really love God first, why wouldn’t we talk about Him more? If we really love Him with all we have, He should be a part of every conversation and interaction.
The reason I think that Jesus lifts up love for God as paramount is because He knows that a love for God affects our love for everyone else. Our relationship to God impacts the relationships all around us. Let me put it this way: when our relationship status changes to #InARelationship, the only true hope we have for success is a love for God first.
POINT #2 – HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS PUT GOD FIRST
If someone loves God first, before they love their significant other, then all of their decisions will flow from a godly place. It’s about priority. Though it sounds good to say that the person you are entering into a relationship with is your priority, that’s not healthy. You want to find someone who loves God more than you. I want to be someone who loves God more than my husband. Because when I love God first, then and only then, am I able to demonstrate the kind of love God gives.
This kind of love, the one God has for us, is what is called agape love. The word agape means sacrificial and selfless. It is a love that puts the other first. And let me tell you, God demonstrates this love for us more than anyone ever could through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came to die on the cross for us, you better believe we witnessed agape love.
So let me ask you this question. Would you want to be in a relationship with someone whose love is selfish or inward focused? Of course not. We all want to be in a relationship where the other person sacrifices for us and puts us ahead of themselves.
This kind of love is only possible when priorities are in place and we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Two people who are continually seeking God first in their lives will ultimately grow closer to God and one another.
Picture it like this. Picture a triangle. A trinity of sorts. On the bottom of the triangle, there is you on one corner and your significant other on the other corner. Now picture the top of the triangle as God. As each person in the relationship grows closer to God and moves up the triangle, they will automatically grow closer to one another. This is how God has intended it to work. Put Him first, and everything else has a way of working itself out.
Jesus continues on in His discussion about the most important command. It doesn’t stop with your relationship to God. Put God first and then…
39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus goes on to connect this most important command with a second that is absolutely related. The second command is like the first. It is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Now Jesus makes a pretty big assumption here. Let me just skip over that neighbor part for a second and first talk about this last piece, “as you love yourself.” Verse 39 says, a second command is EQUALLY important. Now I have to say, many of us don’t treat ourselves very kindly. And I will be the first to admit, I am my worst critic. I can pick myself apart faster than all of you put together. But then I have to say and sometimes out loud, no, no, no. Give yourself a break. Don’t forget whose you are!
I believe we don’t love ourselves like we should because we may not be loving our God like we should. The reason I say this is, because if we loved God with all that we are, not just loving Him, but IN LOVE with Him, then we love the things He loves…YOU, ME!
He makes the assumption that the way we love ourselves would be the kind of love others would want to receive. You see, our vertical relationship with God plays out in the horizontal relationships that we have with others. How we love ourselves, and how we love others, is all tied to how we love God first. And they can never be disconnected from one another.
POINT #3 – LOVING OTHERS BEGINS WITH LOVING SELF
Please don’t miss this today. The love that comes from God is unconditional. It is agape, sacrificial. And it should be the way in which we develop a healthy and accurate love for ourselves. This is not about ego; it’s about confidence. This is not about arrogance in ourselves, it’s about contentment in Him. The problem is that many of us today don’t really love ourselves as a child of God. In fact, many of us don’t really even like ourselves. If you were to love me, a part of God’s creation, in the same manner you love yourself, a part of God’s creation, I likely wouldn’t appreciate it very much.
One of the things that most attracted me to my husband was the fact that he seemed to be so comfortable in his own skin. He knew who he was, was okay with that, and truly didn’t care or even hear what someone might say about him. I believe he was and still is confident because he knows he was created by God and therefore, is full of incredible worth. He carries himself like that, and he treats other people like that. I was drawn to him because he loves God, and in turn, loves himself. He did not need me to give him validation or worth, he was already receiving that from God.
Only when we love God first with all of our heart, soul, and mind can we truly love ourselves. It is only when we truly love ourselves and see ourselves in light of the Creator God, that we can really love someone else well.
Now I talked about this a bit last week, and I’m going to reiterate and talk more about it.
POINT #4 – HOW WE LOVE OTHERS IS A REFLECTION OF HOW WE LOVE GOD
It is clear from the beginning of this passage that our relationship with God cannot be separated from our relationships with others. In fact, I would say that the way we treat others that we are in relationship with is a reflection of how we really feel about God. How we treat God’s creation is a sign of how we feel about the Creator.
When I was in 6th grade, I was introduced to pottery. One of my first pieces was a terrible looking challis that everyone had to make. When I think at it today, it’s nothing, just something I made as a kid and would honestly throughout. But my mom on the other hand, sees it differently. She has a shelf in her family room where she has displayed a piece of pottery from each of us kids. This is mine. Out of all the years I took pottery class and got so much better, this is the piece she kept. Why? Because how she treats that creation is really based on how she feels about the one who created it.
God created every single one of us, and He believes we are full of divine worth. Are you treating the person you are dating, talking to, engaged to, interested in in such a way that it honors the One who created them? How do you speak to them? Is it out of a love of God and a love of self? How do you speak about them? How do you encourage them? Do you give to them as much as you receive from them?
Jesus ends the passage we just looked at by saying that all the laws and the prophets hang on these two commands. What He is saying is that if you get these two things right, loving God and loving others and self, then everything else will fall into its right place.
When we accept God’s love for us and love Him in return, then we are able to love ourselves with a clear understanding of our God-given value.
The healthiest relationships flow out of a deep love for God. So when your relationship status changes to being in a relationship, if you can love God first and with all you have, know who you are as a child of God, then you can receive His love so fully that it will be the way in which you love others.
When we love God first and love ourselves in a healthy manner, then, and only then, are we able to care for someone else the way they need to be cared for.
I want to invite you today to consider your love for God.
Do you know God’s love for you? Have you excepted the fact that He loves you so much that He gave His one and only Son up for you?
Have you asked for forgiveness of your wrong doings, and excepted His sacrificial love for you that came through Jesus Christ?
And have you allowed that forgiveness to change your focus and the direction of your relationship in a way that honors God and the person you are with?
We invite you to remind us of our divine worth, how much you love us and how much you have really have given just so You can have a relationship with us. Remind us how much you have fought for us and continue to do every day. And Father, please forgive us of our sins, and restore our relationship with you. Then may we live out our relationships with those around us and especially our significant other in a way that honors you and honor them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.