As we draw closer to the end of all things, it is essential to build strong face-to-face relationships. Strong relationships will give us an opportunity to minister to others by assessing their real needs by moving past the pleasantries and the initial greetings. Strong relationships will allow them to observe God’s love flowing unhindered through us. We are ambassadors for Christ (II Corinthians 5:20). Unfortunately, social media has greatly limited our ability to build real relationships in the flesh. They have raised up an entire generation that no longer understands the responsibility and dynamics of building strong relationships with people they come face to face with, in the real world. As God’s children, we have a responsibility to build strong relationships through agape love. First, however, let’s look at the dynamics of building a strong relationship, then we will return to agape love. The dynamics are multifaceted that can only be learned through practice and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us in both our conversation and actions (Romans 8:14). We can practice all we want, but without the Holy Spirit to guide us we will be highly ineffective. You may learn the art of selling yourself, but you will never arrive at what God desires in God-centered relationships. So, let’s look closely at the dynamics.
Every relationship must begin with seeking God’s direction and His help. It always starts with a little silent prayer, “God help me to build a God-centered relationship” with such and such person. We must enter every prospective relationship with sincerity. Smiling, pleasantries, words spoken, and our actions must be sincere with no hidden motives. Believe me, hidden motives and insincerity will be spotted ending any potential relationship before we ever get started. Whatever you do, do it with a sincere heart (II Corinthians 8:8). It always begins with sincere caring for the other person motivated by true agape or self-giving love. The next two dynamics are learning how to listen and how to make good eye contact. Listening is much more than just hearing words. Making eye contact is much more than just looking into their eyes. How a person talks and where they look with their eyes will tell you volumes about the person you are attempting to build a relationship with. How much we really care about building a relationship with someone will greatly help us to better observe their speech and eye movements. We must learn to interpret their body language. I hope you are beginning to see how difficult this would be on social media.
Now, for a word of caution, never judge the other person as you begin to discover things through close examination of their body language discovered in their words used and their eye movements (John 7:24). If they look down or away it could be a number of different things such as trust issues, lack of confidence, or attempting to explain a perceived personal injury. These should not negate our ability to connect if we demonstrate a sincere loving and caring attitude by listening intently before responding. On the other hand, their continued unwillingness to make eye contact may demonstrate their unwillingness to build a relationship at the moment, but that too should not diminish our kindness and willingness to depart amicably. If they have good eye contact, then chances are you have their undivided attention. So, be prepared to present yourself with clear and precise communication, getting to the point as quickly as possible, and being careful to allow them to speak by interjecting their comments and questions along the way (I Peter 3:15). In your communication, it is essential to smile when applicable and show deep-seated concern when necessary. Remember, it is essential to be sincere letting your facial expressions match your caring heart. Remember, we are not robots or artificial intelligence with canned speeches, who can only respond to prompts. We are living, breathing, human beings who know how to listen to both voices and body language.
Listening is perhaps one of the most important skills in building a relationship (James 1:19, Proverbs 18:13, ESV). When others are speaking this is not a time to be thinking about our response or what we plan on doing later. Listening is a full-time job that takes a great deal of concentration. It may even be necessary to decode or interpret their words. You may need to repeat back what they have said, without their heightened emotions and vulgarity, to ensure that you have heard them correctly. Speaking without listening first causes misunderstandings and arguments (Proverbs 18:2, 13, ESV). We must have a desire to truly hear what they are saying, or our response will have little meaning. Listening to what they are actually saying, along with their voice inflections, and their moments of pause, are very important to understand both their real needs and their felt needs. It may also be necessary to pause before answering so that you can think about what they said and present it before the Lord in a short, silent prayer. Also, remember that we have already hidden God’s word in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, not ever to be used as a blunt instrument, but only to be used in love and encouragement (Psalm 119:11, Ephesians 4:29). Also, remember everything we say back must fit the occasion or it does not need to be said (Proverbs 25:11).
We must allow God to speak through us by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I cannot over-emphasize this, for this alone will help us build strong relationships. Remember, God loves the entire world and seeks to love others through us, both in our conversations and in our actions (I John 4:7,12). When God reveals a need, then we must trust Him to provide. This can only happen if we get out of the way and allow God to do His work through us. His love must flow unhindered through us. If it’s an emotional or psychological problem, then God has the answers (II Peter 1:3). If it’s a physical need, then God can provide, either direct healing or teach them how to trust in His loving providence. If it’s a financial need, again God has the ability and resources to answer every need according to His divine will. Why should we limit God? If someone is struggling with demons or a Satanic attack, then God will always lead us to intervene according to His will. Again, all this needs practice only as God leads. He will not heal every person. He will not meet every financial need. He will not cast out every demon. Dear children, everything must be done according to God’s will to realize His great power on high. There is great amazement to realize His great power working through us to the glory of God.
There is also great amazement to recognize God’s abounding love flowing through us to others. True agape love recognizes the real need, not the felt need. This is very important because many want us to fulfill their felt needs while they hide their real needs. People’s greatest real need is learning how to overcome their old sin nature (Ephesians 4:17-32). Most with any kind of ethical upbringing struggle against it daily, some even hourly. Others struggle against the powers of darkness even if they cannot tell what it is that’s tearing their lives apart. Others just struggle against what they call bad luck or bad decisions. Unfortunately, none of these people recognize that they could be reaping the consequences of their own sins (Galatians 6:7-9). They have not learned how to put off the old life and put on the new life in Christ. Let me be very clear, it’s nearly impossible to help these people on social media. It’s nearly impossible to understand their true struggles just by reading their post on social media. We must confront them face-to-face to read their body language with a sincere and forgiving heart. We must allow God’s love to flow through us leading us to minister to them in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
Finally, the proof of a strong relationship is your willingness to stop whatever you are doing for yourself and immediately tend to the needs of others no matter how less important you feel it is. Strong relationships are developed by making their needs more important than your own needs. In God-centered relationships, we always live to serve others (I Peter 4:10). Can you imagine a world where this was as natural as taking your next breath? There would be no crime, there would be no lawlessness, just pure self-giving love. Although this is exactly how the new heavens and new earth will be, God’s children should still strive for this now in our present relationships. As we come closer to the end, we must build strong face-to-face relationships with others so that we can help them to be ready when Christ comes in judgment to judge the world. The Bible says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Galatians 5:13-14, ESV).” As we fast approach the end, let us imagine the whole world as our neighbors. Let us go forth building strong relationships to the glory of God. What’s coming on the horizon, we will all need strong God-centered relationships.
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