To encourage believers to build and embrace wholesome relationships with each other in the community.
By the end of the lesson the participant should:
Understand the importance of healthy relationships in the community
Appreciate the role and blessing of different social strata in the community
Commit to form and embrace healthy bonds in the community
A community is a group of people living in the same place or having particular characteristics in common.
Though salvation is a ‘personal relationship’ with Christ, it is not a ‘private relationship’. The Christian faith finds its authenticity when expressed in daily interactions within the larger community.
In the Great Commission, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ sent out and expected his disciples to continue living within their communities, interacting with the people, and influencing them through the expression of their faith.
What are some of the hindrances to forming wholesome relationships in your community?
Why are healthy relationships important in the community?
Relationships among the community members make or break the community.
To avoid the danger s of selfish lifestyles
2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
God has called believers to be his representatives in the society.
We are called to be salt and light!
iii. There is a heightened need for positive role models in the community today. We are therefore called to set up a godly example for others to follow in the community and society.
1 Timothy 4:12-16
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Norms and values which are the core in the community are passed down through established relationships.
Realizing that everyone is an important member of the community gives comfort to attend to the challenges that face the community together, as they celebrate the joys and victories of the community.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,”
How do we relate with different people in the community?
The Bible acknowledges that the community will always have different categories of people. So how can we build relationships and conduct ourselves in a community with such diversity?
i. Follow biblical principles of building relationships.
a) Relationships according to age
The older men are charged to earn their respect in the community through their good and disciplined behaviour.
Paul also appeals to the younger people to relate with older men as one would with one’s own father, not with rough rebukes but with gentle exhortations.
1 Timothy 5:1
“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father…”
Young men are called upon to live self-controlled lives. Apostle Paul here seems to acknowledge the fact that the most difficult thing for a youth is to control their emotions and passions.
“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
God’s word gives great responsibility to older women to take care of widowsand teach what is good and train younger women probably because women are naturally nurturers.
Older women, if they are humble, definitely attract much honour and respect and are to be treated as one would treat their mother.
Younger women are likewise to be treated by the church leaders respectfully, with the absolute purity as one would treat his own sister. In society and sadly even in church, there seems to be a culture of men getting involved in impure sexual relations with the younger unmarried women.
Living in all purity with the younger sisters in the fellowship would safeguard believers from reproach and position them to be good examples for others to follow in the community. In many instances, young women never experience loving, caring and respectful relationships in their own families. Accordingly, the church should provide for them the setting of an ideal family.
1 Timothy 4:12
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
b) Relationships according to social-economic status
God gives us riches to enjoy and share with other people in our communities who are in need.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
God identifies with the poor. We also should do so by identifying them and standing with them in their circumstances.
“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.”
Our relationships with those who serve us and under us is a test of whether or not we know that God treats all impartially.
“Remember that God will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them; remember, you both have the same master in heaven, and He has no favourites.”
Service to others in the community is an act of attitude and choice. It is not just meant for the lowly in status but for all who are in Christ.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, jut as you would obey Christ.”
c) Relationships according to religious status
Believers and unbelievers
Believers set an example to the rest of the community members through their love for one another. Those who see their good works give glory to God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
d) Relationships according to age and with those in authority
Parents and children
Children are commanded to obey their parents in the Lord as the right behaviour in the community. This brings longevity of the children in the community.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy a long life on the earth.”
Parents are reminded to bring their children up in such a way that they become useful community members.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Older and younger
Leaders and followers are encouraged to be intentional in choosing the attitude of humility towards one another.
1 Peter 5: 1-7
“…serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing… in the same way, be submissive to those who are older…all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”
Remember everyone has a role to play in building relationships in the community.
Each person has a significant role to play for enriching relationships in the community. The “one another” or “each other” phrases in the Bible are descriptive of our mutual obligations in the community.
i. Love one another as God has loved you
The greatest obligation we have towards other members of the church community and indeed the entire society is to exhibit the love that Christ has loved us with.
1 John 4:7; 11-12
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
ii. Reach out to help one another
God has put us in the community so that we can encourage and build each other.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’’
iii. Be devoted to love and honour one another
Implication: The idea of community gives everyone the opportunity to engage, to be involved and to connect with others.
What hinders the building of healthy relationships in the Community?
Dealing with barriers in our relationships helps build lasting community bonds that everybody could draw from.
i. Unforgiveness could hinder the building of and lead to the destruction of relationships in the Forgiveness is the principal decision to give up one’s justified right for revenge.
i. It requires the forgiver to recognize that the offender is human like him or herself. If one harbours unforgiveness, it hinders relationships due to anger, resentment, etc.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears”
Oppression and exploitation of others in the community. This also entails taking advantage of one another especially because of one’s social status. Soon people give up hope of life and become destructive to one another.
The Bible calls us to live differently with one another. Taking advantage of others leads to overstretching of community systems thereby hindering the fostering of healthy relationships. For example, firstborns are always expected to take care of everyone’s needs in the family before or at the expense of their own.
Note: Many firstborns in the African family context always end up carrying the weight of the whole family even when others are well able. Unfortunately, some parents encourage this kind of exploitation.
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.“
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”
iii. Disrespecting and being unappreciative of others.
A number of people in the community get where they are with the help of others.
Corollarily, when we find ourselves in positions of leadership that allows us to interact with older people, peers, and those who are younger than us, we ought to remember and acknowledge the role others played in our lives.
Jesus gives us an example to follow:
“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” 33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” was four thousand, besides women and children.”
Not being subject and respectful to rulers and those in authority.
The community holds together because of its leaders. Those who govern the community do so under God’s delegated authority. They must therefore be respected.
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Intolerance of others and failure to embrace cultural diversity
We see cases of nepotism, tribalism, and racism being upheld as opposed to the realization that any one community that does not uphold recognition of others will soon find itself in conflict and factions among its members.
Implication: Like Solomon advised in Song of Solomon 2:15, for healthy community relationships to remain, we must, “take up the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”
What is the role of the Christian in promoting lasting and healthy relationships in the community?
Many factors contribute to healthy relations in the community. Some are easy to achieve in short term while others are difficult and take a life time. If Christians hold to the Kingdom values, they hold the key to lasting bonds in the communities they come from.
i. Practice the true biblical
Love is the greatest gift in the community and the glue that can make relationships stick.
Love makes any relationship thrive. Any family that is founded on the love for God and for each other has a strong foundation whatever the challenges that may face.
Unless God‘s love that He has poured abroad into our hearts is allowed to flow, it is hard for natural hearts to love others in the family unit. Human weakness emphasizes the differences and what separates them than what makes them one.
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Respect and honour for one another.
This will naturally lead to wholesome and stable communal relationships and bonds.
Different members are called upon to treat others in specific ways in order for the relationships to thrive. Love and humility oils healthy family relationships.
Christians know that God is the owner of all they own and that they are only managers. Therefore, sharing of available resources with equity goes a long way into establishing desired community relationships.
Christians know that God is the owner of all they 1 Timothy 5:3-8
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.
iii. Making intentional and bold steps towards reconciliation and conflict management in the community.
The old saying that “time heals wounds” is not completely true. It takes courage on one hand and humility on the other to initiate healing among hurting family members.
Confronting, forgiving and moving on is also a great recipe for strong community relationships and bonds.
READ: Genesis 13:1-13
Upholding God’s Word gives the utmost wisdom in establishing healthy community relationships.
God has a good purpose for every person. He also puts people in the community for their greater good and profitability of the society.
“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Any behaviour that promotes the communal unity also becomes a catalyst for healing and renewing the Christian love in the community.
In serving and embracing community relationships, our greatest ability is our availability. This means taking deliberate efforts in building a strong community. However little our action towards a community member is, never give up stepping the forward gear of hope. In doing this, our community will be transformed and won into God’s Kingdom, one person at a time, one family at a time, one institution at a time.