Building healthy relationships is hard work. The Bible is full of stories about people like us–people who sometimes got things right and sometimes got things very, very wrong. There are stories of jealousy and deceit, bitterness and gossip, malice and slander. And there are stories of relationships that model kindness, generosity, love, patience, and forgiveness.
Let’s take a look at these four Bible stories to learn how to develop healthy relationships with the people in our lives.
Ruth Shows Loyalty to Naomi
Read: Ruth 1
The Story: The story of Ruth starts with some pretty devastating news. We find out Ruth and Naomi have both lost their husbands. Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law, and she decides to move back to her hometown of Bethlehem because there’s a famine, and she knows people will care for her if she moves home.
Naomi encourages Ruth to go back to her own homeland and find a new husband to care for her. But Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law. She says the famous words, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Ruth decides to stick with her family no matter what.
It would have been easier for Ruth to abandon Naomi and go home. She would’ve been able to find a new husband who would provide for her and protect her.
But Ruth chooses loyalty over convenience. It may have been easier for her to go home, but Ruth refuses to abandon Naomi.
The Point: A highlight of the relationship between Ruth and Naomi is their loyalty to one another. They have each other’s backs and only want what’s best for each other. Ruth leaves all of the familiar things of her past to stick with Naomi in the midst of troubling times. She believes God will provide for them, and she’s willing to risk everything to stay loyal to her mother-in-law.
Your Next Step: Which family members need your loyalty? Who can you show up for today? Send them a text and express your love and loyalty.
Jesus Washed the Disciples’ Feet
Read: John 13:1-17
The Story: Jesus and his disciples were sitting around the table, preparing to eat the Last Supper meal. It was customary for the lowest ranking servant to wash everyone’s feet. But in an unexpected turn of events, Jesus was the one who grabbed a basin and rag and began to wash his friends’ tired and dirty feet. He modeled what it means to be a servant leader.
In fact, Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him a few hours later, and yet Jesus washed Judas’s feet with humility. He modeled how to serve others with a pure heart.
The Point: Jesus urged his friends to serve one another in love. He didn’t see washing their feet as something that was “below him”. He did it because he loved them. Too often we put our own pride above serving others. Instead of showing honor to others, we want to honor ourselves. But Jesus doesn’t let pride get in the way of serving people, and neither should we.
Your Next Step: Who can you serve today? How can you show humility by doing a task that is “beneath” your skill and rank?
Jesus Sets Boundaries
Read: Matthew: 14:22-23
Jesus had spent all day teaching thousands of people and performing miracles, while he was simultaneously grieving the loss of his friend and cousin, John. It’s safe to say, Jesus had a lot on his mind. After dismissing the crowds and disciples for the evening, Jesus retreated up to a hill to pray and spend time with God, alone.
While both fully God and fully human, Jesus understood the limitations of human existence. He got hungry, he got thirsty, and he needed rest. Jesus was like us–he only had 24 hours each day to do everything that needed to be done. And when people pressed him to do more, he set up boundaries. He went away from the crowds to rest and spend time with God.
He modeled that we cannot do everything people expect us to do. He retreated from the crowd to spend time with God because he knew how important it was. People would have preferred if he had spent every waking second healing, teaching, and performing miracles. But Jesus knew his limits. He needed rest and space, just like we do. We cannot do everything people want or expect us to do.
The Point: Boundaries are an important part of healthy relationships. They allow us time and space to be our best selves in preparation for healthy interactions. If we’re always saying “yes” to everyone who asks us for help, chances are high we’ll become tired and resentful before too long. Healthy boundaries allow us to rest, recharge, process our emotions, spend time with God, and do the work He has actually called us to do. Healthy relationships have healthy boundaries.
Your Next Step: Ask God where you need to set boundaries. Communicate those boundaries to the people who need to hear them. Then ask God for strength to stick to them.
The Story of the Prodigal Son
Read: Luke 15:11-32
The Story: Jesus tells a story about a man who had two sons. One day, the younger son asked his father for his share of his inheritance. It’s a pretty bold move to ask for an inheritance when your father is still living. But the son took the money and spent it on what the Bible calls “wild living”.
After he wasted the money, a famine hit the area, and the son had no means to survive. While hustling a job at a farm, taking care of pigs, he realized he’d rather work as a lowly servant at his father’s house than starve to death on a pig farm. The son was filled with guilt and shame as he made the trek back to his father’s house.
While he was headed home, his dad saw him in the distance and came running. He hugged him, gave him gifts, and threw him a party. Can you imagine? You completely wasted a bunch of money, disrespected your family in the process, and yet your dad is excited to see you. The father’s love is shocking.
The Point: No matter how far you are from God, He forgives you and loves you unconditionally. He will always welcome you back with open arms. We can show that same grace and forgiveness to our kids, neighbors, friends, and coworkers. If you’re tempted to cut people off and live with anger and bitterness, you are the one who will feel the weight of that pain and grief. Instead, you can show them the same grace and forgiveness God has shown you.
Your Next Step: Who do you need to forgive today? Who needs to be shown grace in your life? Reach out and extend the same grace and forgiveness God has shown you.
If you’re looking for additional resources on building healthy relationships, check out our sermon series Winning At Relationships.