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COUPLES FOR CHRIST CHRISTIAN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS (Edited for Household Teaching, CFC Canada, June, 2011) TALK

No. 1: LEARNING TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER THE WORLD SITUATION TODAY Society is changing rapidly. We are moving from a slowly-changing, tradition-conscious, rural world into a high-speed, computer-equipped future. This is characterized by technological change, mobility and the individualistic ethos. These weaken the bonds that tie a person to a family, a community, a kinship network, a geographical location. The moral consensus of the past on how people are to relate is disintegrating. Society provides fewer and fewer guidelines for relationships, and leaves large areas of life open for individual decision. But society also suggests more and more possible models. As various lifestyles and value systems assert themselves, many people find difficulty in directing their lives in a consistent way. The result is a society without common values and without stable patterns of relationships. Five aspects of personal life and relationships have been affected: 1. There is an emphasis on feelings. Feelings are too often allowed to determine how people relate to one another. Traditional Christian morality is rejected as arbitrary and impersonal. Modern society tends to admire the expression of feelings. While people in the past were largely concerned with whether behavior was right or wrong, many people today are concerned with whether their behavior is "real". Guided by uncontrolled emotions and without confidence that they can handle their feelings, people drift passively in and out of depression, anger and moodiness. 2. There is fear of commitment. In an age of uncertainty, people fear commitment in personal life. People like to keep their options open, and this attitude has carried over into personal relationships (e.g., not marry, just live together) . 3. There is poverty in relationships. Many people are lonely. People have been moving away from living in relatively small, close-knit groups where relationships were strong. There is a great deal of superficial activity and sociability, but people still struggle with feelings of insecurity and find themselves unneeded and alone. 4. Relationships lack expressions of affection and personal support. Aside from erotic relationships or physical affection to small children, expressions of affection between adults are rare. 5. There is a prevalence of low self-esteem. People have a poor sense of self-worth. Society values people according to standards of physical beauty, intelligence, productivity, material success, or youthfulness. People who don't "measure up" end up troubled with a sense of failure and worthlessness. 1

RELATIONSHIPS TODAY As relationships among relatives, in neighborhoods and within the local church have weakened, a new ideal of personal relationships has come into focus. This ideal is two-fold: a sexual relationship, and a circle of close friends. These types of relationships tend to be exclusive. Within these relationships people may relate in an intimate, honest way, but with outsiders they tend to be cautious or indifferent. They are not bound by clear commitments. When feelings conflict or fade, relationships often give way. Such relationships are often not successful. THE CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE Jesus taught his disciples new ways to relate with one another. 12This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:12-13) 1 If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. 3Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, 4each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. 5Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, 6Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. 7Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:1-8) 32 The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. 33With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. 34There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, 35and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32-35) In these passages is a recognition that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The ways Christians relate to one another reveal something of the very nature of God: mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, service love, compassionate authority, loyal obedience. Characteristics of Christian personal relationships. 1. We should learn to make commitments to one another as Christians. We need to join our lives together. We need to give our relationships some stability. CFC is our family. We need to outgrow our fear of deeper commitments. We need to personally commit ourselves to love and serve one another as brethren. We need to live out our covenant in CFC. 2. We should recognize a new basis for personal relationships: that we are brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we are to serve one another. Our relationship is not founded on attraction to one another, but rather on our common desire to become what God wants us to be and our common commitment to serve Him. Our relationship as brethren should be the primary relationship in our lives. We are children of God before we are husbands and wives, parents and children, friends. Our personal relationships will then cease to be exclusive. We will be able to develop deep and important relationships with a variety of people. We are Christians with a common ideal and purpose. 2

3. We should learn how to handle our feelings in the right ways in our personal relationships. When our feelings do not impel us to act lovingly, we must learn to subordinate them to the kind of behavior that God calls us to. There is a difference between reaction and response, but this is taken up in another course on feelings in "The Christian and his Emotions". 4. We should become open and honest with one another. Do not be defensive. Be willing to let our brethren know what is going on inside us. Set aside insecurity, shame, fear. Be willing to discuss our struggles and difficulties with our brethren so that they can support and help us. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:19-21) 5. We should express affection in our relationships, both verbally and physically. We exchange personal greetings, warm smiles, edifying words, handshakes, brotherly hugs, sisterly kisses especially to those closest to us (spouse, children, household members). This is not based on our feelings, but on the other person's need to experience God's love through us. CONCLUSION The kingdom of God is not just a system of beliefs, but a new social order. We in CFC are to be a family conformed to God's ways and transformed by His love. We need to rely on the power of God so we can change. God wants to place His love within us. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom 5:5) In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, (Gal 5:22) We love because he first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19) Be faithful to our life together in CFC. We are a body of brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are in a support environment with resources of teaching, formation and pastoral care. This is a place where new patterns of relationships can develop. Let us obey Jesus' command. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. (Jn 15:12) Let us love one another, because love is of God. (1 Jn 4:7) Prayer: Father we thank you for your pure and immeasurable love for us. Thank you for loving us first and allowing us to share the power of this great love with one another. Lord God, in times where personal feelings and affections lead us to act in a not-so-loving way, we ask for your mercy and give us the grace to be patient and steadfast in our commitment to you and with one another as brothers and sisters. Thank you for our community, Couples for Christ, for providing us with a support environment where we exercise and experience the redemptive power of your love. Amen.

Points for Reflection: 1. In community, do you find it hard to express your emotions to your brothers and sisters? If so, what is it that is difficult for you? Are your struggles caused by the following: a. Fear of rejection b. Poor family relationships and interpersonal skills c. Negative experiences in community life 2. Since you made a commitment and a decision to love your brethren in the community, where do you see yourself now in terms of growth and personal demonstrations? 3. What have you learned in community life that helps you become effective in reaching out to others outside of community?