Treasure Your Relationships

by Dan Peters, Pastor, Center Baptist Church

“Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.” While this may seem like a shocking story line found attached to a social media fake news article, this statement was made by the Chief Medical Officer for Behavior Health for Cigna. In May of 2018, health insurer Cigna released a study which found that social media is a poor replacement for meaningful relationships. Dr. Douglas Nemecek, and Cigna are not alone, former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy stated, “During my years of caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease, or diabetes, it was loneliness.” In a cover story of the Harvard Business Review, he went on to say “Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980’s”
I always enjoy seeing science catch up with the Bible. In Genesis 2:18, God looked at Adam’s situation and concluded “It is not good for man to be alone.” These past few weeks has renewed my appreciation for relationships. The lack of normal sports and activities has provided the opportunity for our family to connect in different ways giving me a deeper appreciation for each of them, especially my wife. The lack of contact with friends has created a longing to simply sit, visit and catch up on things we have missed in each other’s lives. As a pastor, the connection with my church family is vital in my life. I long for the day when we can laugh, love, and lift each other up. I want to share some truths concerning relationships that I pray will help you, whether it’s too much quality time with certain friends and family, or those you long to see, even though they may live just down the road.
Relationships are not about what you get, but what you give. In John 15:12-13, Jesus tells us “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Have you had a friend who you struggled to find a gift for because they already have everything? Imagine if that friend was Jesus? He’s God in the flesh, the creator of the Universe! Clearly, his friendships were not based on what others had to offer, but what He had to give. His love for them, and us, was demonstrated through the greatest level of sacrifice, the giving of his own life for us. Too often, the value of relationships is based on what we receive, not what we give. This is especially sad when it comes to marriage relationships. Like most, I stood at the alter with my bride, I thinking more about what I was receiving when my focus should have been on what I was bringing to the relationship for her. As opportunities to reconnect arise, my challenge for us is to give more, and expect to receive less.
Secondly, your necessity to be right will necessitate your loneliness. We use social media to blast our opinion and then we are offended when others do not share our sentiments. When we truly value people, we care more about them than we do our, or their opinion. I have learned, the power of influence through service is much stronger than the power of words, especially those spoken in anger. Romans 3:12 says “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” The Apostle Paul shares this truth just before he begins to detail the importance of working together in the body of Christ. The key to valuing others more than ourselves is humility. Paul also tells us in Ephesians Chapter 4, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” In his book, “The Purpose Driven Life”, pastor Rick Warren wrote “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” At Ralls County Elementary, students are challenged daily to be a leader by practicing 7 habits. All 7 are worth application, but one I would challenge us with is this, “Seek first to understand before being understood.” Or, as my grandma would have said, “The good Lord gave you have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk.” It is still great advice!

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