“Tell me about your relationship,” I asked the engaged couple.
“Oh, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” the man answered. “We do everything together,” his lovely fiancée chimed in, nodding her head.
“That’s nice,” I replied. “Tell me about your fights.”
“We never fight,” the couple beamed in unison.
“Then you aren’t ready to get married,” I explained.
Please join us in our daily Bible conversation as we look at the key to healthy, lasting relationships.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Psalm 113:1-114:8. A friend of mine said this week, “The Bible is a book about God.” Elementary stuff. But then she continued, “That seems to go without saying, but all too often we come to Scripture and make it about us. We look for application and relevance when we should begin with the understanding that the Bible is about God and his glory.” Psalm 113 is a great reminder that all of life is about God. Verses 4-5 tell us, “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high.”
Proverbs 27:18-20. Verse 20 is a little difficult to understand. Here’s how The Message paraphrases it: “Hell has a voracious appetite, and lust just never quits.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
For much of my life, I believed that peace in my relationships meant the absence of conflict. My first conflict with my wife occurred the day before our wedding. By the third day of our honeymoon, we were fighting like cats and dogs. I was in shock.
Earlier in my life, when someone offended me or took advantage of me, I said nothing. Of course, the molten lava simmered inside until I eventually erupted, making a mess of everything. After the event, I felt much better, but the other person was practically a burn victim as a result of the explosion. In the end, my initial efforts at burying my feelings undermined my relationships.
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-29).
The writer uses a word that defines the Jewish faith: peace. Although the book of Hebrews is written in the Greek language, the writer was addressing Jewish people, hence the name “Hebrews.” In their minds, the readers were thinking of the Hebrew word for peace—Shalom—as well as the Hebrew understanding of the word.
Incidentally, the common greeting in the Middle East is Shalom. Arabs greet each other with the word Salom. Same meaning, different spelling.
Most people assume that peace in a relationship means the absence of conflict. Quite the contrary. The Jewish understanding of peace (then and now) means wholeness and well-being—with the possibility that conflict may be needed in order to attain it. It means pursuing what is best for the relationship, which can include conflict, being honest so you can prevent volcanic eruptions in the future.
That’s why Paul can write in Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Speaking the truth in love is prevents eruptions.
The writer begins by saying, “make every effort.” That phrase is better translated “pursue peace.” The obligation for healthy and whole relationships never resides with the other person, it resides with us. Healthy relationships thrive when both parties pursue peace.
But notice that the second part of the command in Hebrews says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What does holiness have to do with healthy relationships? Everything.
Our relationships with each other ultimately affect our relationship with God. When we’re at odds with another person, we often do things we wouldn’t do otherwise. We respond to them with passive aggression or even with aggression. We murmur and gossip. Unhealthy relationships have a tendency to spread into our other relationships. That’s why the following sentence tells us, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Ultimately, our unhealthy relationships spread to our relationship with God.
Healthy relationships don’t happen on their own. We must pursue them. We must be willing to engage in difficult conversations. We must be willing to own our issues and confess our sins.
But in the end, through our conflict, we will enjoy the fruit of shalom.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What relationships in your life resemble a simmering volcano?
- What relationships in your life resemble the Jewish understanding of shalom?
- How does God portray shalom in his relationship with you?
- What does it mean for you to live in shalom?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.