At its core, Christianity is about relationships.
We believe in one God in three persons, all in perfect relationship. This same God sent one of his persons to die in order to repair the broken relationship between himself and all of humanity. Not only does he care about having a relationship with humanity as a whole, but he also craves a relationship with each of us as individuals.
You, me, your next-door neighbor, people halfway across the world— everyone.
As Christ followers, we are called to be united as one body, “so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:5).
What I’m trying to say is this: anyone who believes he can live a life of social isolation and still call himself a sincere Christ follower is seriously missing the point. While we can do all things through Christ, our relationship with God requires authentic relationships with others in order to flourish. For, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” In short, we need authentic relationships with others to grow.
So what does an authentic relationship look like? Authentic relationships are friendships with people who will help you get through whatever you are going through, and whom you will help in return. There is a natural give and take to authentic friendships. This requires, among other things, the sacrifice of time and energy on both sides; a sincere interest in each other’s well-being; and above all else, mutual honesty.
Honesty, like everything else in an authentic friendship, has to go both ways. On the one hand, you must be willing to admit your faults to your friend, and be willing to listen with patience and empathy when they confess their own shortcomings. As it says in James 5:16, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Authentic friendships are some of the safest and most beneficial places to confess your sins to a brother or sister in Christ.
On the other hand, in authentic friendships, you must be able to give—and receive—loving, honest corrections. In other words, if you have a log in your own eye, you must be willing to humbly listen when a friend points it out.
As Chris Hodges, pastor of Church of the Highlands, explains it, there are four aspects of a relationship: arenas, masks, blind spots, and potential. Arenas are when you know something about yourself and the other person knows this about you as well; masks are things you know about yourself, but the other person doesn’t; blind spots are when they know something about you that you haven’t yet realized, or can’t bring yourself to admit; and potentials are things neither you nor the other person have realized yet.
Having an authentic friendship rooted in trust and honesty can positively affect all four of these areas. As you learn to confess your sins and accept loving corrections, you feel safe enough with this person to take off your masks, and they feel secure enough to alert you to your blind spots. Your growing understanding of each other allows you to realize and maximize each of your potential. The more you learn to share, trust, and speak honestly with each other, the more your relationship will move into the arena, where you can know each other openly and feel known in return. And really, who doesn’t want to feel known and understood?
It is friendships like this that can help us get right side up in conflict by pointing out our logs. They can help us recognize and deal with internal conflicts so that we can see our external conflicts with clarity.
Do you feel you have authentic friendships in your life?
If you do, do you confess your sins to these friends? Do you accept corrections offered by them?
If you don’t, what is keeping you from forming authentic friendships within your current relationships? What do you feel is the next step for you in forming authentic relationships?
If you already have authentic friendships in your life, find a safe setting with one of these friends where you can share some of your masks. Ask them if they feel there are any blind spots in your life (after you’ve prepared yourself for their answer; we all have faults in ourselves that we’d rather not see).
If you don’t already have authentic friendships, identify several people with whom you feel you could form an open, honest relationship. Ask yourself what the next step is for you in deepening this friendship. Identify any fears or concerns that are keeping you from being authentic with this person.
Heavenly Father, you designed us for relationships, both with you and with other people. Thank you for friendship, and for the people in our lives who know and understand us. I pray you would give us the courage to be honest with each other and the empathy to be compassionate toward each other. May our authentic relationships mirror the understanding, compassion, and forgiveness that you have shown us. Amen.
This post was written by Payton Lechner, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.
Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?
We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!