I’ve had scores of responses to yesterday’s post, Learning to Love…All Over Again. Some asked, “So how do we learn to love all over again?”
Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t believe in “five easy steps,” or “seven secrets to…” You can’t replicate relationships and you can’t shoe-horn relational growth into a one-size-fits-all scheme.
However, there are some basic principles upon which we can build and re-build our relationships. As I reflect on what Shirley and I “did,” here are some of the biblical principles we followed.
1. Change in the home starts with change in the heart (James 4:1-4).
James asks a brilliant diagnostic question. “What causes the conflicts you’re having?”
His immediately answer gets to the heart of the matter. It’s your heart relationship with Christ.” The ultimate heart issue that we all must repent of us spiritual adultery—putting anything or anyone in front of Christ in our lives.
If we want to “fix” a human relationship, we must start with tending to our spiritual relationship with Christ. When our God-relationship is holy, healthy, whole, and growing, we then have the foundation, perspective, and strength to change our relationships with one another.
2. Change takes candid, courageous, loving communication (Ephesians 4:25-32).
When I’m counseling couples, I never start with “communication skills.” If I help someone with a selfish, manipulative heart, all I’ve done is create a more effective, self-sufficient sinner.
However, once the heart is back on track toward Christ-centered and other-centered relating, then learning how to communicate is vital. That’s why Paul, in Ephesians 4:17-24, starts with issues of the heart, and then moves to communication issues.
Shirley and I engaged in some real and raw conversations about where we were as a couple. We faced the tension, spoke the truth in love, asked forgiveness, shared grace, and co-created new plans for a new and improved relationship.
3. Change takes God’s perspective on who the real enemy is (2 Corinthians 10:4-8).
When I counsel couples, I try to help them to make a major mental shift. They often come to marital counseling seeing each other as the enemy.
We explore the truth that Satan is the enemy of their marriage and that they need to unite as friends to fight together against Satan. What a difference it makes in our relationships (husband-wife, parent-child, church member-pastor, employer-employee) when we shift from fighting against each other to fighting together against Satan.
4. Change takes spiritual eyes/grace eyes (2 Corinthians 10:4-8).
When Paul talks about the weapons of our spiritual warfare, he reminds us that we tend to “look only on the surface of things” (2 Corinthians 10:7). Shirley and I had to see that our relationship growth required spiritual 20/20 vision.
Spiritual eyes include “grace eyes”—looking at one another with grace. This not only means seeing each other at our worst and forgiving one another. It also means perceiving the best in one another and nurturing those wonderful, God-given, Christ-like characteristics.
Martin Luther said that relationships are the number one spiritual discipline. In other words, if you want to grow in Christ, do it in the context of intimate, shared relationship. Marriage is God’s greenhouse for growing us into the image of Christ—if we will work together with grace eyes so we can help each other to grow together in grace.
Join the Conversation
What biblical principles do you need to apply to learn how to love…all over again?