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The Climate of Healthy Relationships
Part 1: Love Introduction: Every living thing needs the right environment to thrive and grow; so do your relationships. 1 John 4:19, 10 Love is ___________________________________________ for another person no matter what __________________________________________.
1. ____________________________________________________________ love. Romans 5:8 A. ___________________: communicating love by ___________________.
B. ___________________: communicating love by ___________________.
C. ___________________: communicating love by ___________________.
2. _________________________________________________ that you are loved. 1 John 4:16-18
For Life Group Discussion: Who do you most need to love and how will you communicate it to them this week? Do you believe that you are loved?
November 9, 2003
The Climate of Healthy Relationships
Part 1: Love Opening: ILL: A few years ago, my mother lived and worked in Kotzebue, Alaska. One summer, I flew up to spend some time with her there. The only way into Kotzebue is by plane, or by boat during the summer months. There are 11 miles of dirt roads in and around Kotzebue that go nowhere. At the end of one of those roads is a white picket fence that surrounds a single evergreen tree, and the sign on the fence reads, "Kotzebue National Forest". You see, Kotzebue is inside the Arctic Circle, so there are no other trees; trees don't grow well in the frozen tundra; in fact, every year, the whole Kotzebue National Forest dies and they have to import a new tree. Every living thing needs the right climate to thrive. Take a tropical fish and put it in one of our Northwest lakes, and it will die within a day. Every living thing needs the right climate to thrive; and that includes our relationships. Relationships thrive in the right climate, and die quickly in the wrong climate. For the next five weeks, I want to discuss the climate of healthy relationships. What are the elements that make a healthy climate and allow your relationships to thrive? We're going to talk about 5 of them in this series: love, respect, forgiveness, kindness, honesty. These five things are essential to any healthy relationship, whether it’s your marriage, your kids, your family, your friends, neighbors, coworkers or classmates. It is important that these 5 elements are not just things you do occasionally, but are the climate, the environment in which you relate to each other. Other people need to be able to count on your love, your respect, your forgiveness, your kindness and honesty. They should never have to wonder, "Will you love me, forgive me, respect me, be kind and honest with me?" These are the givens, the climate, the atmosphere that makes relationships grow strong. Offering and announcements: Introduction: Every living thing needs the correct climate in order to thrive; this is certainly true of our relationships. You can create an environment, a climate that allows your marriage, your family, your friendships to thrive, or one that kills them. We are going to look at five essential elements to create a climate for healthy relationships, and we’re going to start with the most essential element of all: love.
Page 2 The need to love and be loved is the most basic of all human psychological needs. People need love emotionally much like they need air to breathe physically. We perish without it. Our basic longing is to be the object of love and to be able to give love. No other need is quite so significant or essential. What is love? Many people think love is an emotion, an irresistible attraction to another person. Love certainly affects our feelings, but love is much more than an emotion; it is something you do. It is a funny thing that we speak of "falling in love", as though love were an accident, something that just happens to us without any effort or choice on our part. Actually, this is far from true. What "falling in love" describes is enchantment or infatuation, or romance; but not love. Love is not something you fall into, not an accident that happens to you, but something you choose to do. Love is commanded in the Bible, so we know that love must be more than a feeling because you cannot command emotions. ILL: if I were to tell you "Be happy...right now", or "Be sad" or "Be angry", could you? Emotions are not commanded but are responses to stimuli. But God commands love. He commands us to love our neighbor. He commands husbands to love their wives and wives their husbands. He even commands us to love our enemies, and that certainly is not a matter of emotions, but of behaviors! So love isn't something you fall into, love is more than an emotion. But what is love? Love is doing what is best for another person no matter what it costs you. Love is a matter of the will. The feelings of romance, the feelings of infatuation are wonderful; we all enjoy them! But love is more than a feeling; and long after the feelings have ebbed, it is the commitment of love, the actions of love that make a relationship last and thrive. 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because He first loved us." All human love at best is a dim reflection of the incredible love God has for us. God is love! And the more we are in touch with Him, the more authentic our relationship with Him, the more we'll be enabled to love others. The equation is simple: God is love, therefore, the more of God I have, the more love I have. God's love is not only the source of our love, but the model of our love. Augustine said, "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us." You can’t even begin to imagine how much He loves you, how absolutely committed He is to doing what is best for you. His devotion to us is absolute. His sacrifice was complete; to do what was best for us, He gave His Son, Jesus, in life and death. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10 The first and most important step you can take closer to another person is the step that takes you closer to God. Receiving His love enables and enlarges you to give love. If you want to make love the climate of your relationships, the most
Page 3 important thing I can tell you is to draw near to God. Let Him love you. Then let His love overflow to others. We love because He first loved us. So it starts with a relationship with God. When my relationship with God thrives in the climate of His love, that love overflows into other relationships. But how do we do it. Two suggestions: creating a climate of love in your relationships involves communicating love and then believing you are loved. 1. Communicating love. Romans 5:8 The first thing you must do to create a climate of love is to communicate love; you must let the other person know in many ways that you love them. Romans 5:8 says "God demonstrates (communicates) His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God communicates His love for us; as Christians we live and thrive in the climate of God's openly expressed and clearly communicated love. God has shown you how much He loves you—that’s why Jesus came. God stretched His arms out on the cross and said, “I love you this much.” Notice too that it says God expressed His love for us while we were still sinners. God loves us just as we are. Now that doesn’t mean He wants us to stay this way! He wants us to change and get better! But He knows that the best way to help someone change is to love them right now as though they were already what you want them to be. He loves me as though I were a perfect son, even though I’m far from it. He loves me even when I’m unlovable. But His love provides the climate that allows me to change. He doesn’t withhold His love from us until we deserve it; we’d never be loved. He loves us right now, and that love lets us change and grow. This is how we should love each other. You don’t have to be perfect for me to love you. I choose to love you even when you’re unlovable. I need God’s help to do that! But that’s the love we need to communicate; that’s the climate of healthy relationships. You are loved right now, in spite of your imperfections. Say that to someone near you. Communicating anything, including love can be difficult. ILL: A golden anniversary party was thrown for an elderly couple. The husband was moved by the occasion and wanted to tell his wife just how he felt about her, but she was hard of hearing and often misunderstood what he said. With many family members and friends gathered around, he toasted her: "My dear wife, after fifty years I've found you tried and true!" Everyone smiled approval, but his wife said, "What?" He repeated louder, "AFTER FIFTY YEARS I'VE FOUND YOU TRIED AND TRUE!" His wife shot back, "Well let me tell you something--after fifty years, I'm tired of you, too!" Communication isn't easy. Even genuine expressions of love can be misunderstood. ILL: Another couple who had been married for 50 years were having a snack one night. They went into the kitchen where the husband opened up a new
Page 4 loaf of bread and handed the end piece (the heel) to his wife. She exploded: "For 50 years you have been dumping the heel of the bread on me. I will not take it anymore; this lack of concern for me and what I like." On and on she went, bitterly berating her husband for offering her the heel. Her husband was astonished at her tirade. When she had finished he said to her quietly, "But it's my favorite piece." He was loving her all those years; every heel was a gift of love, but she missed his message entirely. You must communicate love in ways that the other person can receive and understand and appreciate. We talked about this earlier this year in a series entitled “Can you hear me now?” We looked at Dr. Gary Chapman’s best selling book, The Five Love Languages. Dr. Chapman says that we each have a preferred way of expressing and receiving love, a love language. And he describes five: • Words of affirmation. • Quality time. • Receiving gifts. • Acts of service. • Physical touch. If you want to create a climate of love in your relationships, you must become learn how to communicate love so the other person can receive it; you must learn to speak their love language. For the sake of time today, I’m going to combine the five love languages into three ways to communicate love. A. Telling: communicating love by word. Dr. Chapman would call this “words of affirmation.” Put your love into words. Tell the other person that you love them. Be generous with praise. How many of you like to be told that you are loved? ILL: George Eliot said, "I like not only to be loved, but to be told that I am loved; the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave." For some people, like the dad in our sketch today, saying "I love you" is like pulling teeth. It makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable. ILL: Ole and Olga lived on a farm in Iowa. Olga was starved for affection. Ole never gave her any signs of love, and Olga's need to be appreciated went unfulfilled. At her wit's end, Olga blurted out, "Ole, why don't you ever tell me that you love me?" Ole stoically responded, "Olga, when we were married I told you that I loved you, if I ever change my mind, I'll let you know." Poor Olga! Learn to be generous with your expressions of love. I doubt that you can say it too often. ILL: I hung around Laina's house a lot when she was growing up (I married a
Page 5 younger woman), and if ever there was a home with a climate of love, it was hers. Laina's father, Noel, told each of the kids several times a day that he loved them. And they would often respond nonchalantly, "Shloveya, Dad." Their nonchalance bothered me, and made me think that they were overdoing this I-love-you-stuff. But the more I was there, the more I appreciated the climate of love created by lots of verbal expressions of love. We’ve adopted this practice in our home and we say, “I love you,” lots—many times each day. I don’t want my kids to wonder if I love them. Declared love creates a climate that allows relationships to thrive. Let’s practice right now. Say, “I love you.” Again. See, it didn’t hurt! The more often you verbalize love, the more you create a climate of love. Declare your affection! Do it often! Who needs to hear some words of affirmation, words of love from you? Communicate love by what you say. B. Treating: communicating love by deed. We communicate love by what we say, and by what we do. Someone said, "Love talked about is easily turned aside, but love demonstrated is irresistible." Love is more than just words, it is action. 1 John 3:18 says "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." The talk turns hollow if it is not followed by action. We know that God didn't just tell us He loved us, He showed us; He demonstrated it by sending Jesus who died for us. Love was made visible; it was shown in action. So how do we show love? What are the deeds of love? Dr. Chapman would say acts of service, giving gifts, and quality time are three ways to show love by what you do. If someone you know really feels loved when given a gift, then love them by giving. Communicate your love with a gift. ILL: My wife has a gift for this; she notices what people like and want, and then buys them just the right thing for their birthday, or just for the fun of telling them she cares. She was shopping with my sister awhile back and heard her make one passing comment about wanting a new travel make-up case. A few weeks later, Laina found some real cute ones, all flowery and feminine, on sale real cheap and bought one and mailed it to my sister with a little note of love. My sister was moved that Laina had noticed and remembered. She does that so well! I'm afraid that's not my gift! I ask Laina what she wants for her birthday, then ask her to pick it up when she sees it on sale! Give her an A+ and give me an F! Fortunately, my wife’s way of receiving love is not by receiving gifts, or I’d be in real trouble! The act of remembering what another person likes is very powerful; you saw that in
Page 6 our sketch today. Craig’s dad couldn’t say I love you, but he did remember the black cherry soda and the onion and garlic chips! Gifts don’t have to be expensive; it really is the thought that counts. The fact that you remembered and made an effort communicates love very powerfully. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” God demonstrated His love in deed by giving just what we needed. Who needs a gift from you to feel loved? Maybe you know someone who doesn’t care about gifts, but really feels loved by acts of service. Love can be communicated very powerfully in simple acts of service. Jesus did it in John 13 when He washed the disciples’ dusty feet. ILL: Many years ago, I was working in my office at 5 one Friday afternoon, and our afternoon receptionist, Kristy, came in to say she was leaving and locking up. She asked me, "Are you going soon?" and I told her that I was staying for an evening meeting. She asked if I was getting any dinner, and I said no, that I'd just work through dinner and get a snack at home tonight. A few minutes later, there was a knock on my door, and there stood her husband Ken, with a McDonald’s bag. "Didn't want you to starve!" he said. I was touched by a very simple act of love, and I don’t even like McDonalds. But I ate it because it was an expression of love. ILL: Bill Kafflen is really good at this—showing love through acts of service. One example: last week, a mutual friend of ours had to put his dog down—if you are a dog lover, you know how hard that can be. Bill showed up—unasked—with a shovel and helped our friend bury his dog—spent over an hour working up a sweat to help out a friend at a hard time. I know our friend felt loved. Maybe it’s washing a car, mowing a lawn, helping someone move, doing the dishes, or vacuuming the floor. Whatever it is, acts of service, simply helping out, is a very powerful expression of love. Who would feel loved if you served them? Maybe you know someone who doesn’t care about gifts or acts of service, but she feels really loved when you spend quality time together. This is my wife! Like anyone, she appreciates all the other expressions of love—words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, touch—but what really makes her feel loved is when I spend quality time with her. She feels loved when we just hang out and talk. Time together makes her feel loved. Who would feel loved if you spent some quality time with them? You must find out what communicates love to the other person and do that. It is different for each person, and what says "I love you" to one, may not to another. An act of kindness or thoughtfulness; an unexpected gift or card; helping someone without being asked; making a personal sacrifice for the other person. The deeds of love are many; learn them, and do them often. Communicate love by what you do.
Page 7 C. Touching: communicating love by touch. A third way we communicate love is by touch—and this is the fifth of the love languages. I know that some people get nervous as soon as we start talking about touch. When I talk about touch, I'm not talking about sex. This is the great American hang-up about touch. Other cultures don't have this hang-up. ILL: In a normal 1 hour conversation, French or Italians will touch each other 70 or 80 times; Americans only 3 times! We are afraid that our touch will be misinterpreted as a sexual advance. It is common for American fathers to stop touching their daughters around puberty, and their sons even earlier than that, because of this unwarranted fear of misunderstanding. Lust and affection are very different and quite easy to tell apart. One common complaint among women is that the only time their husbands touch them, or express any physical affection is when they want sex. We need to get over our sex-crazed fear and learn to touch as an expression of love. In the Bible, people were encouraged to greet each other with a holy kiss. We read there about men embracing other men, and there was nothing sexual about it. ILL: I can remember the first time that another guy ever hugged me; I was a freshman in college, and one of my dorm-mates, who wasn't hung up about this, came up to me after devotions one night, and threw his arms around me and said, "I love you brother!" I stood there, rigid, like a statue, wondering what he was doing! As awkward as it was, his touch said something to me; it communicated love, and it was the beginning of my own awareness of the importance of touch in communicating love. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and is filled with nerve endings. Studies have shown that children that aren't touched lovingly don't thrive. What makes us think that adults are any different? ILL: One well-known therapist said, "Our pores are places for messages of love and physical contact. Four hugs a day are necessary for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth." Many people are literally starved for affection and their skin is starving for touch, for the warmth of human contact. Four hugs a day are necessary for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth. Start hugging! Touch communicates love, and many people are simply starving for love. ILL: A woman was suffering from depression, so her concerned husband took her to a psychiatrist. The doctor listened to the couple talk about their relationship, and then said, "The treatment I prescribe is really quite simple." With that he went over to the man's wife, gathered her up in his arms, and gave her a big kiss. He then stepped back and looked at the woman's glowing face and broad smile. Turning to the husband he said, "See! That's all she needs to
Page 8 perk her up." Expressionless, the husband said, "OK Doc, I can bring her in on Tuesdays and Thursdays." The poor guy didn't get it! I hope you will! Who needs a touch from you to know that they are loved? Communicate love by touch. To create a climate of love in our relationships, we need to communicate love in ways people can understand. Do it often! But we also need to receive and believe the expressions of love that others give us. 2. Believing that you are loved. 1 John 4:16-18 And so we know and rely on (believe) the love God has for us. God is love. whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love. John says that we know and believe in the love God has for us, and believing in God's love gives us confidence and releases us from fear. Did you know that it is just as important for you to believe you are loved by someone as it is to communicate love to them? Communicating love means we say "I love you." Believing that we are loved means we say, "I know you love me." The climate of love is both: I love you, and I know you love me. Why is this so important? Let me illustrate. ILL: When I was wooing Laina, we spent a lot of time together at church, Bible studies, and other Christian activities. There were lots of other young men who found Laina very attractive. I was often the leader at these events, and so found myself busy talking or praying with people, leaving all these other wolves free to prey upon my little lamb. I caught myself watching Laina out of the corner of my eye while I was talking to someone, and feelings of jealously would well up in me when I saw some handsome young stud over there charming her while I was stuck here praying with someone! I struggled with jealousy for awhile; then one day I was praying about it, complaining to the Lord about all these other suitors, and the Lord said, "Does Laina love you?" I thought about it and said, "Yes, she does." The Lord said, "Then what are you worried about? She loves you; she can talk to anyone she wants, and you don't need to be afraid; she loves you!" It was a simple thing, but it set me free from a crippling fear. I know she loves me. That is what John said: when we know and believe that God loves us, it takes away
Page 9 our fear and gives us confidence with God. When we know and believe that another person loves us, it takes away fear and gives us confidence in that relationship. That relationship will thrive in a climate of love. I love you, and I know that you love me. I believe in your love. Another illustration. ILL: Many years ago Laina and I went to Pendleton to visit friends. We took a young couple from our church with us to drop them off in Walla Walla at her family's home. On the way home, we picked them up again. They were in a foul mood, and before long, the tensions in the backseat overflowed into an angry argument filled with stinging accusations. "You've never liked my family or even tried to get along with them; if you loved me, you would at least try." And he responded, "If I loved you...if you loved me, you wouldn't put me through this torture!" They were screaming at each other in our back seat. I spied a rest stop up ahead, and pulled in for a rest. Car doors slammed and the two opponents marched off to their separate corners (bathrooms). The man got back to the car first, and so I asked him if they fought like this very often. "All the time," he confessed. "And do your fights usually end up questioning whether you really love each other?" I asked. "All the time," he answered. When she got back and we were underway, I began to talk with them about the climate of love and learning to believe that your spouse loves you. I asked her, "Do you love him?" "Yes I do." "Do you love her?" "Yes I do." Then I asked him, "Do you believe she loves you." "Nope." "Do you believe he loves you?" "No." Perceptively I replied, "Hmmm, we have a problem here." I knew them well enough to know that they really did love each other, but neither of them believed the other! Consequently, every time they had a disagreement, the issue became their love for each other. "You don't love me." So I told them this: "I know that Laina loves me. She has told me that, and shown me that many times, and I believe her. I know she loves me. Suppose I come home one night after work, and I walk in the door and I find that the dinner is cold and she is hot. No "Welcome home, dear", no hug, no kiss, not even a smile. Instead she greets me with, "Well look who decided to come home...the long lost husband...it's about time! Dinner isn't ready because I've had to take care of all these children by myself for the millionth night in a
Page 10 row. Here (she hands me the apron), you can fix your own stupid dinner, and take care of the kids too; I'm taking a hot bath!" Can't imagine sweet Laina saying that, can you? You're right...she never has, but we're pretending. I stand there dumbfounded! Now what do I think? "She doesn't love me. If she loved me she would never talk to me that way. That is not a loving way to talk to your husband." I don't think that at all. I know she loves me. The issue isn't our love. That is settled. She's told me she loves me and I believe her. The issue isn't our love, so what is the issue? She has had a hard day and needs some help! She needs me to get home earlier and give her a hand with the kids. That's the issue, not our love. I know that, so I am able to take the apron and say, "Honey, you need a hot bath; go relax, and I'll cook these kids for dinner...some dinner." You see, when you believe that you are loved then you are free to deal with other issues confidently and without fear. Your entire relationship isn't jeopardized by every crisis that comes along. You can say, "I know you love me; what's bothering you?" When you know you love each other, you can face any crisis side by side with confidence, as allies, rather than as adversaries. You create a climate of love in your relationships by communicating love by telling, treating, and touching; and by believing you are loved. I love you. I know you love me.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?