by Dharius Daniels
One of the greatest gifts God has given us, as human beings in the twenty-first century, is the gift of education. Information can be accessed in multiple ways—through formal training in school or higher education, or through informal research—via searching on the world wide web for tutorials on just about anything. As an educator, researcher and communicator, I believe these are the best of times and the worst of times. By that I mean, we are given access to information, but very often, that information has the potential to lead us or mislead us.
Take, for example, high school curricula. Whoever is responsible for creating our essential content, has been sure to include the basics of mathematics, science, history, and English. No doubt, each of those areas is essential. But if we are honest, many of us graduated from high school or college wishing we had learned how to balance a checkbook, how to create a budget, and how to better understand our credit score. Because of our lack of education in these areas, most of us have had to learn the hard way. This leads us to an unquestionable truth that many people know intrinsically, but few will admit publicly—it is possible to spend a great deal of your life learning through experience all because you did not have the tools to learn through education.
This is why it is critically important for us to think more seriously about our relationships. Just because we belong to a family does not mean we know how to behave as family. And just because we have 5,000 followers on social media doesn’t mean we know how to manage our friendships. For Christians all around the world, I want to submit to you that if we don’t learn how to properly align and define our relationships, we will develop an unintentional practice of getting along with God and nobody else.
Relationship management is a crucial yet overemphasized area that many of us could afford to strengthen. With that in mind, I would like to give you three lessons that, I believe, Jesus teaches about relationships:
- Everybody is not your friend. I know this statement may come as a surprise to you because you may have won the “most popular person in high school,” or perhaps you are the co-worker whom everyone looks for when you call out, but everybody is not your friend. And that’s OK! Jesus teaches us, in a world committed to more followers, more likes, and more of everything, that less is more. Friends are individuals who are relational assets, not liabilities. Jesus says this about friends in John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” In other words, friends are on the same page with you. Friends are people for whom you would lay down your life. In modern terms, those are people to whom you would give the last French fry. Those are people you would leave work early to be by their side during loss or sickness. Friends are God’s greatest gift walking on two legs, and most us would be blessed to have three of them in life. Jesus had James, Peter and John.
- Everybody is not your assignment. As a pastor of a local church and an itinerant speaker, I have a unique responsibility to manage on a weekly basis. When requests come in to speak, I have to pray about how my “yes” in one area will impact and affect another area. I’ve learned this over time: every time you say “yes” to this, you automatically say no to that. With that in mind, we must learn to appreciate the beauty of a singular word with two letters: “no.” No is a complete sentence. No protects you from overcommitment. No is God’s way of creating boundaries to protect your priorities from the diversion of non-essentials. Jesus could’ve healed everywhere but He only went to places where faith was stronger than familiarity. In this chapter of your life, protect your priorities by accepting that everybody is not your assignment.
- Everybody should be loved equally but treated differently. I know that these words may come across as counter-cultural, but let me help you here: they are! Culture says to love everybody equally and treat everyone the same. Jesus says to be truthful with all, but transparent with a few. Think about this. Jesus fed everyone who was hungry. But Jesus only fell asleep around disciples He could trust. And when it came time to face His imminent persecution on the cross, He chose a selected few within the crew. In the same way, I love everyone. That is what Christ has called me to do. But there are sacrifices I will make for my wife and children that I will not make for my neighbor down the street. This is why we must practice regularly the discipline of defining and aligning our relationships. When we learn to define and align them in a way that honors God’s purpose in our lives and the people-gifts He has entrusted to us, then we are able to live, love and lead more efficiently, like Jesus.
Dharius Daniels is the founder and lead pastor of Change Church, a vibrant, diverse congregation. With a doctorate in ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Daniels speaks to national audiences and sits on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals. He lives with his wife, Shameka, and their two sons in New Jersey, and you can follow him at www.dhariusdaniels.com
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.