Creating a Loving Environment for Godly Relationships
By Peter Garich
Plumbing the depths of how to create an environment of godly love in our relationships is more than we can accomplish in these few paragraphs. It is, however, possible to explore some of the most important passages and principles that, I believe, are primary to the process. I call it a process because, as humans, we are engaged in its ongoing practice for the rest of our lives. And since God cares so deeply about seeing us have godly relationships, He has been quite specific in His word as to how we accomplish this undertaking. Marriage counseling often reminds me of the importance of what can be created between two people. Recently I watched a couple, while sitting in counseling, go from a state of kindness and peace to boiling tempers in a matter of seconds. The initial, enjoyable atmosphere of guarded peace and love quickly turned into an out-and-out war of words with anger, hurt and resentment on both sides. The problem was not merely their fighting, but that they had no idea how they got there so quickly, or how they could change things for the better. Upon reflection, though, how we get to that point of anger and rage should not be strange to us. The truth is, it’s our natural fallen bent to go there—in our flesh we are inclined to fight with each other because our motives are selfish. Recall what Moses writes in Genesis 3:16 concerning our fallen proclivity to fight for personal dominance and control. When God curses the woman after the fall, we’re told that, “your [the woman’s] desire shall be for your husband [to rule over and dominate him] and he shall rule over you [to fight back; ruling over and controlling you in his position of divine headship].” John MacArthur, commenting on this very state of affairs, writes, “Just as the woman and her seed will engage in a war with the serpent (i.e., Satan and his seed – v. 15) because of sin and the curse, the man and the woman will face struggles in their own relationship. Sin has turned the harmonious system of God-ordained roles into distasteful struggles of self-will. Lifelong companions—husbands and wives—will need God’s help in getting along as a result.” Sin seeks to rule us, and the breeding ground for such a struggle is found in the context of our interpersonal relationships. This is a primary reason the couple meeting in my office could go from a caring husband and wife, with some real problems, to warring factions within a matter of seconds. Some have referred to this primal struggle as the war between the sexes. War is an appropriate term to use when describing this struggle, for it conveys the dangerous posture that two people take when vying for individual positions of power and control. Two people in the throes of such a struggle are at war.
This, then, is the first step to both understanding how we got to the point of battling and finding our way out. We must recognize our personal battle within the greater war for establishing selfish domination over others. Each person is fighting for what they desire and want, and will do whatever they believe necessary to win. The end game for each participant is to get their desires met—no matter what. This is the sad state of affairs that all relationships go through—and Christians are not exempt. Jesus’ brother James wrote of such fights in his epistle to the early Church. He stated that all such wars come from our desires that battle within us. “Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1–3) In his commentary on the book of James, Douglas Webster explains, “James’ counsel for the church goes beyond superficialities and guides the church into holiness in its internal relationships. True spiritual direction not only challenges; it comforts, and this section of the epistle is a fine example. James is faithful to confront sinful motives and evil practices, and he is equally clear about the promise of God’s grace.” Webster tells us that James identifies how we get into our messes, as well as how we get out of them. Let’s look a bit deeper into James’ blueprint for overcoming our self-centered driving desires.
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