Faith and Relationships: A Christian Counselor on Habits of Interacting, Part I
By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHC, Bellevue Christian Counseling
How does your faith affect your relationships? Perhaps it ought to, for your faith is intended to affect the way you interact with others. Just as your habits of thinking are always in the process of renewal and change (see Romans 12:2), perhaps the habits of relating that you have developed over a lifetime should be up for review and revamping. Without the influx of life and renewal, the habits of relating that you have developed are merely a composite of self-protection strategies and avoidance – fearful struggles for resources, pleasures, and recognition.
The Cross Changes Our Relational Dynamic
Billy Graham has said that if he had to do it all over again he would emphasize the Cross and the Blood of Jesus more: “The Cross – that’s where the power is.” The Cross changes everything relationally at every level. For example, the Cross tells us that there is no blame you can send my way that sticks (see Romans 8:33-4). It means that I can no longer have any kind of an interaction with you in which I need to defend myself or be defensive. I do not need to be on my guard against how I might imagine you to think I am remiss, reprehensible, lacking, inadequate, or even intentionally wrong. The Cross ends that game. It changes the dynamic between us and means that I am simply not blamable.
And knowing this, I am dead set on you not being blamed for anything either. The whole dynamic is different now and every interaction between us is an in vivo renewal of our habits of relating.
Furthermore, I no longer need to contend for resources (Matthew 6:33; 16:8-10). I don’t have to be prideful – that is, vying for recognition – because my place is fully secured. Knowing that I am known in heaven (John 14:2-3; Philippians 3:20) makes me more relaxed and generous with others. I am able to welcome them to the feast, for I am increasingly aware that that is where they are headed (see Matthew 22:2-10; Revelation 19:7-9). There is nothing to be gained in this temporal setting; we are on our way to The Great Party, so why contend for anything here? Understanding this changes the whole relational dynamic in so many ways. The more you face these realities, the more you step into these new dynamics.
The Resurrection and the Second Coming Give Hope to Our Relationships
We live in the light of an increasingly brilliant sun – the power of His Resurrection and the impending hope of His Return. Biblical “hope” is not wishful thinking, but rather the anticipation of a certainty. It is like hoping for Christmas. Christmas is indeed coming. I am not wishing that it is truly going to come, but I am waiting for it with anticipation.
What does that mean for our relationships? It may mean that you can afford to be ambitious for “another.” You can afford to applaud their gain, their success, their joy beyond what you know or have experienced. Jealousy and self-promotion is off the table for you. “Another” is someone for whom you can wade through any difficulty they may have regarding you.
Or it may mean that you know that there are potentially good outcomes on literally all fronts in your life. The Resurrection of Christ means that there are no downsides – all loss has been nullified at the Cross and inverted to gain by the Resurrection. What you have, and what you are gaining from any sufferings, far outweighs the temporal losses at the hands of another that you might worry about. When your faith is active relationally you no longer need to be self-protective and guarded. This is simply part of the dynamic that occurs.
Christian Counseling Can Strengthen Your Relationships
God is always drawing you to new vistas of spiritual reality and depth, which you can translate as authenticity and connection in your relationships and engagement with others. If you would like help to discern how these two worlds are actually woven together in your life, Christian counseling can help you unravel the tangle and usher in a marvelous new creation. Or perhaps you are aware that you relate to others simply out of habit, and that there is nothing intentional about your relational dynamic.
“Cross of Sacrifice aka War Cross,” by R/DV/RS, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Convento de Mafra, Mafra, Portugal,” by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)