Relationships are tricky. Each one is different. They’re messy and complicated and painful, yet we can’t flourish without them.
Relationship is at the center of exchange. It’s at the center of the universe, really, and always has been.
God models relationship for us in the Trinity – being completely who he is only while in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to steward relationships with others? “Steward” can often elicit ideas of profit maximization and what’s in it for me?
Biblically, to “steward” means to apply our God-given resources to the best of our ability, for his purpose, and to his glory. The currency of relationships, as Christ tells us, is love. In applying stewardship to relationships, we should seek to invest, grow, and maximize love.
We want to cultivate our love for others, staying true to our original job description to cultivate the earth and all that is in it.
Ownership is a key principle of biblical stewardship. God ultimately owns everything (Psalm 24), so to understand relationships and our role in them, we must first examine God’s purpose.
God’s Design for Relationships
1. Made in God’s image, we are created for relationship. We are distinct persons with equal, eternal value. The Trinity, one God as three distinct persons, models for us unity and relationship. We cannot be true to who God intended us to be while living in isolation (Genesis 1:26-27).
2. Relationship is God’s design for man. God created Adam and Eve to be together in communion, to serve one another. In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” Relationship was created before the Fall and existed untouched by sin. God’s people are a vehicle for him to teach and grow us.
3. In living life with others, we are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Our relationships are a way of proclaiming the gospel and God’s glory. As Christians, loving others well should propel us to share our faith with them. Tim Keller says,
We don’t love people in order to share our faith with them. Rather, we share our faith and ourselves with them in order to love them.
4. God will restore what is broken. Revelation 21 paints a picture of the new heaven and new earth, when God will dwell with man. We know God is making all things new, redeeming broken relationships and one day wiping away every tear and hurt and pain.
Relationships are a good but broken aspect of God’s creation. We are called into the messiness of living life with other sinners and in doing so, shining the light of Christ to the glory of God.
Practicing Stewardship, Maximizing God’s Love
Scattered throughout the Bible are hundreds of verses encouraging and exhorting us to love and love well (1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4, Col 3:14, 1 Peter 4:8, Romans 13:8-10, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18 to name a few). There’s a lot to say, even debate, about what it means to love.
Ultimately, loving others is born out God’s love for us (1 John 4).
To maximize love in stewarding your relationships, consider these points:
1. Invest: Responsible investment requires knowledge. Make the time and spend the energy to get to know the people you do life with – neighbors, coworkers, family, friends. We cannot maximize our love for others if we don’t make an initial investment.
2. Know Yourself: You cannot give what you don’t have. Loving others well means being aware of what you have to give. God has gifted you uniquely. What are your gifts and how can you use them to serve and love others well? Perhaps this means using your gift of hospitality to open your home, or your gift of teaching to get involved in a ministry at your church.
3. Pursue Jesus to Pursue Others: Follow the example of Christ. Christ loved when it was hard, inconvenient, and unpopular. He loved with tenderness and fierceness. It’s easy to love others we like. What would it look like to love those we don’t like?
4. Pray: Pray for your relationships. They’re hard and complicated and broken. Pray for the Lord’s grace, wisdom, and courage to love bravely and boldly and in a way that glorifies him.
This list is not exhaustive in explaining how to love. Understanding our relationship with others is also integrally tied to our relationship with ourselves. Next, we’ll explore how to apply stewardship to our relationship with ourselves.
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