Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Steps to Building Relationships

Bible teaching about building relationships speaks to the heart of daily life. Good relationships are hard to form, harder to maintain, and easy to destroy. Do you find this statement true? Can you think of a time you would like to turn back the clock and treat differently a relationship that was broken? 

I cringe at some of the boneheaded things I have done that made a good relationship with good people turn bad. Let me share with you some things from the Bible I have learned.

Bad Relationships: A Common Problem

The New Testament directs intense attention to rectifying relationships gone sour – among Christians! 

I give one example by Paul to the church at Corinth, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ…for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3).

While it is true that Paul dealt with many theological problems, and outside persecution, he suffered much grief and spent enormous amounts of time dealing with people problems – tense and riled relationships among Christians. Solving relationship problems consumed a big part of his time.

In this lesson, I suggest seven building blocks to building relationships. 

Building Block 1: Love

I have created another Bible study about love elsewhere. Love is the starting point. We must have the genuine interest at heart of the people we relate to, plus express friendship. 

Many problems in conflicted relationships involve power struggles, people feeling excluded, and the absent of brotherly affection. These problems are remedied by the expression of both agape and phileo love. 

Paul described both concepts, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for you own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).

Building Block 2: Encouragement

A major problem that retards positive relationships is criticism. Research indicates that in good relationships there is a five to one ratio in favor of positive encouragement over negative criticism. 

Paul emphasized the importance of this next building block: encourage, don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. He wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29; cf. Colossians 4:5, 6). 

Make people feel important. Use their name, be friendly, and smile. Learn to listen and understand their interests and point of view. Talk about what interests them. This will take you far in building positive relationships.

Building Block 3: Respect

If I constantly criticize you, it will eventually descend into contempt – on both our parts. The opposite is to express respect, which is part of the process of building positive relationships. I think Paul had this concept in mind when he wrote, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). 

To me, Paul describes contempt. The opposite is to show respect. Perhaps that is why Paul instructs wives to, “respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). 

Building Block 4: Accept Responsibility

The Bible shows that defensiveness and blaming others for things that go wrong will clog a good relationship. It is the refusal to properly evaluate our own contribution to conflict. 

Again, Paul was right on top of this principle of building relationships. In the context of the Lord’s Supper, he wrote, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). 

Finger pointing and fault finding only magnify problems. Accepting responsibility does not mean taking all the blame for everything. It means to sit down, and with an open attitude examine the issues. It is to accept personal responsibility for, and work to change, those things that hinder building relationships. 

Building Block 5: Breaking Deadlock

When conflict escalates to a certain level, people stop talking to each other. They quit church, move out of the house, become silently sullen, or hide in their cubby hole in the office – they avoid each other. Have you noticed this tendency?

Bible teaching about building relationships urges people to move from deadlock to dialogue. There is always the potential for more conflict, but good people with good motives need to talk. But, you head first for common ground, not fighting ground. Sometimes, to maintain the relationship, people must agree to disagree about a particular area of disagreement. Learn to work around things you cannot change. 

Paul speaks of this principle of building relationships in his letter to the Philippians, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed true comrade, I ask you also to help these women” (Philippians 4:2, 3a; cf. Ephesians 4:15, 25). Paul was requesting a mediator to intervene in this troubled relationship, and to begin the process of building positive relationships. The process involves talking and dialogue. 

Building Block 6: Manage Emotions

Bible teaching about building relationships requires that we manage our emotions (cf. Ephesians 4:31, 32; Galatians 5:17-26). I refer you to my studies on anger and worry and managing our thoughts (links) for helpful information on managing emotions.

Basically, managing our emotions is by managing our thinking. But, you can turn to those recommended essays for more detail.

Building Block 7: Prayer

The Bible teaching about building relationships emphasizes prayer. Paul sets the example, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Jesus said to, “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

Persevering prayer is powerful, and should take the place of getting even with those we think have wronged us (Romans 12:14; cf. verses 9-21).

With this Bible teaching about building relationships, Esmie and I pray for your continued success in all your relationships. Keep up the good work, and your devotion to learning more about the Lord, Jesus Christ. All the best. 

Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman

BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS

1. Regarding building relationships, what is God’s desire for Christians (Romans 12:18)?

2. Describe in your own words what Paul means in Ephesians 4:29. 

3. In light of Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 4:5, 6, explain three ways to apply the verses to building relationships in the important relationships in your life. 

Focus on what you can do to improve the situation, not what the other person should be doing.

4. Explain Paul’s prayer to the Philippians (Philippians 1:9-11).

5. How important do you think it is to manage emotions in relationships? Explain. 

How do emotions relate to building positive relationships?

6. In a recent relationship problem, can you describe two things you might have accepted responsibility for? Explain.

7. For wives: how would you explain and express “respect” as described in Ephesians 5:33? How does it relate to building positive relationships?

8. Husbands: list and explain two ways to express love toward your wives. How do you think love affects building positive relationships?

9. List and explain ways you can encourage the other person in your relationship with your spouse (if you have one), co-worker, children, boss or employee.

10. What in this Bible study stands out the most to you? Explain.<br>

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