Principles for Healthy Relationships …

Biblical principles provide a practical way to cultivate and strengthen relationships. Friendships are not preserved by sincerity and love alone, but by keeping clearly defined agreements that individuals make with God and one another. Living ethically invites God’s favor and proves that real friends love at all times (Proverbs 17:17).

1.  The Forgiveness Principle – Christians choose to live a lifestyle of forgiveness and not be easily offended.

The Scripture: Acts 24:16 – “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”

Christians must forgive.  The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6) is clear on this subject. God delights in his children portraying his character by forgiving others just like they have been forgiven.  Life is filled with choices. Disciples choose to not be offended, and they forgive hurtful words or actions. Proverbs 19:11 states that “it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

The Question: Are you committed to forgiveness?

2.  The First Word Principle – When irritations or offenses occur, Christians speak directly to the responsible party before talking to anyone else.

The Scripture: Matthew 18:15 – “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend.”

When people get hurt or offended, instead of forgiving and moving on, they often choose to get other people involved in their painful situation.  Instead of obeying the simple instruction of Jesus to go first to the person who offended, they often talk with others about the offender.  This only complicates the matter by further alienating the offender and possibly creating secondary offenses in the other people brought into the situation. God gives grace to forgive to the one who was wronged, not to his or her friends. Loose lips sink great ships, create breaches, and alienate people.

The Question: Have you spoken to anyone else about this offense?  Will you commit to go first to the person who has hurt or offended you?

3.  The Faithfulness Principle – Faithfulness to a relationship outweighs the importance of any offense.  Problems must not override principles.

The Scripture: Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Misunderstandings and differences of opinions will arise and can divide close friends.  It is important to determine beforehand that the relationship is more important than any problems.  It is vital to strengthen relationships by regularly affirming their value.

The Question: Is your concern a threat to our relationship?  Will you value the relationship above the non-essentials in order to walk together in unity?

4.  The Friendship Principle – It is the responsibility of the one in need to reach out for help.  It is not fair to expect friends to interpret actions or moods.

The Scripture: Proverbs 18:24 – “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”

No human is a mind reader. Only God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.  If a person needs help, it is his or her responsibility to ask for it.  Most individuals eventually find themselves in a place of needing a friend to assist them in some way. If this doesn’t happen, they often take offense and accuse the other party of not being sensitive or caring.  The friendship principle requires personal responsibility to communicate need.

The Question: Are you offended that I did not recognize you were troubled? Are you willing to assume the responsibility of letting others know if or when you need help?

5.  The Four-day Principle – I will not allow any problem to go unresolved for more than four days.

Scripture: Proverbs 28:13 – “You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.”

Someone may ask, “How did you come up with four days?”  Would it not be better to immediately approach the other person?  Sometimes that is best, but often people need time to cool down and to process what has transpired.  When a few days have passed, Christians generally give the problem to God and are at peace, or they are in a different frame of mind and are willing to talk without being emotional.  Why four days?  When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Jesus was four days in getting to Lazarus’ home. When they approached his tomb, Lazarus’ sister stated, “He has been dead four days, by now he will have a foul odor.”  When things are not handled within a few days, they produce a foul odor.  Problems need to be dealt with in order to preserve friendship. Holding on to unresolved issues for months or even years only damages relationships.

Question: How long have you been troubled about this problem? Are you willing to confront in a gentle and peaceable way before the end of four days?

6.  The Final Word Principle – Friends believe the last words spoken concerning the relationship.

Scripture: Philippians 4:8 – “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on …the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

When friends haven’t communicated at a deep level for a while, it is easy to think that something has gone wrong in the relationship.  All people are prone to vain imaginations and can begin to think they did something wrong or that the other party has changed his or her mind.  To live according to this principle, people must choose to believe the other person was sincere and honest with the last words spoken.  It is incumbent upon the person with uncertainty to notify the other person if he or she is unclear about what was last spoken or if he or she needs an update as to what is presently believed.

Question: Did you forget or disregard what we last spoke to one another concerning our relationship? Are you willing to believe what was last spoken to you?

7.  The Flexibility Principle – Friends must be flexible in making adjustments in how they relate.

Scripture: Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord….” Malachi 3:16 – “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it.”

Good and sincere people usually change over time.  If the relationship is not working as it once did, friends should approach one another and talk about the need to make adjustments.  Mature believers are flexible and accept the inevitable changes in life.  Amiable people are a joy to be around, but rigid people are an emotional drain (James 3:17-18).

Question: Are there adjustments in our relationship that need to be made because of changes in our personal lives or circumstances?  Are you a flexible person?

8.  The Frustration Principle – When all efforts to apply these principles have failed to the point of frustration, disciples commit themselves to appeal to a person with higher authority for the sake of the relationship.

Scripture: Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God.”

Who doesn’t get frustrated at times?  The frustration principle simply states that once all the other principles are diligently practiced, if someone is still frustrated, he will inform the other person that he will seek help from a third person who has authority to help resolve the conflicts. There is no perfect system of how to relate, but God values relationships and desires for people to live together in unity with those he has brought into their lives.

Question: Have you followed through with all the other principles? Do you have a leader or a person of higher authority in your life to whom you can appeal if needed?  Are you committed to make such an appeal?

© 2012 Christian Fellowship International

Ron Corzine

Fort Worth, Texas


About Ron

Ron and Anne founded the first Christian Fellowship Church in Harlingen, Texas in 1982. Ron presently serves as its apostolic overseer. He travels nationally and internationally motivating and challenging people to be effective in their call and ministry to their local church, their community, and the marketplace.

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