What are the vital ingredients in a strong, loving relationship? What makes strong homes, friendships, churches and communities?
The Apostle Paul provides the answer in Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.” –NIV
A strong community is marked by devotion.
One study of 3,000 strong families from various parts of the world identified six primary characteristics that contributed to a high level of satisfaction in both husband-wife and parent-child relationships.
Commitment. In successful families, the members loyally support one another. The foundation for this high degree of commitment is the husband and wife seeing marriage as a lifelong relationship “for better or for worse.” So too a strong church and community are built upon a strong commitment to one another.
This type of love in Romans 12:10 is referred to several times in the Bible. The Greek word is “Philadelphia,” which refers not to the city, or to the cream cheese, but to brotherly love. Jesus calls us into this brotherly love with Him and with each other as His family.
Time together. Strong families spend a lot of hours together. Judging by the happy memories people have of their growing up years, these family times need not be expensive or elaborate to have a positive impact. Likewise, a church or community is bonded when they spend both quality and quantity time together.
Communication. Good listening skills and the willingness to openly express thoughts and feelings to each other are typical of strong families. This doesn’t happen automatically; families must work at communicating effectively. My prayer is that we would be known as good communicators—people who express themselves assertively and who listen actively.
Appreciation. Expressing gratitude, paying sincere compliments and giving praise are ways that members of strong families build each other up. Look around you. Who can you build up today by a word of appreciation and encouragement?
Problem-solving. Strong relationships are not immune to crises; you deliberately determine that you will work together as a team to overcome them. This means helping each other through times of stress rather than letting the problems drive you apart. If you are mad about something, don’t stomp away without sincerely trying to work it out.
Spirituality. Even secular research points to the fact that strong families often exhibit a high level of religious commitment. Such families often express the idea that God has a purpose for their lives and rely on Him as a source of strength. This characteristic is the foundation for other positive qualities in families.
If you were to die tomorrow, would it be said at your funeral that you were a person of devotion to Jesus Christ and people? Begin today by asking the Lord to help you be strongly devoted to loving others.
A strong community is marked by honour.
What a pleasure to esteem others as better than yourself and to be glad when someone else is honoured! God wants you and me to inspire the best in one another.
Will Rogers advised, “Get someone else to blow your horn, and the sound will carry twice as far.”
When was the last time you caught yourself reaching for the best-looking piece of meat at the dinner table? When have you rushed to the cash register at the supermarket to get there before someone else?
When have you despised someone who stole your parking spot?
The way of Jesus is to honour others before ourselves.
When we see others as people made in the image of God and people for whom Christ died, we can see the reflection of God in them. As we see their value through the eyes of our Heavenly Father, we will find ourselves instinctively treating others with honour.
What should we honour in others?
We should honour people’s will. We must recognize that others have the right to choose what is right and wrong and to choose whether or not to go God’s way. We can warn and encourage, but we cannot control what another chooses to think, say or do.
We should honour people’s time. I try to be sensitive to people’s valuable time by being punctual and to be grateful when they grant me a piece of their lives.
We should honour people’s money. How others spend their money is their business. Priorities are reflected by a person’s bank statement. The best service I can provide for others is to inspire them to heavenly priorities by the way I handle my money.
We should honour people’s dignity. No one—including a politician or salesperson—deserves to be abused physically or verbally. We are called to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their age, skin colour, cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, job, social standing or bank account.
How do we treat people in our families? In our workplaces? In our schools? In our church? In our communities? Do they know that we believe they are important and that we place their interests before our own? Lord help us to live and to love in this manner.
A strong community is marked by devotion and honour. You and I need heaven’s glue to bond with one another.