Many of you know that I have spent a good part of this summer traveling around Europe, connecting with HIM churches and developing new friendships and connections with other ministers of the Gospel. I’ve spoken quite a bit about remaining unified with other believers in Christ in the last few posts, but I now want to address one foundational principle of unity: godly relationships.
Godly relationships with your family, friends, neighbors and other believers are absolutely essential to maintaining a fruitful walk with the Lord. Here are three practical keys, gleaned from both Scripture and my own experiences, that will help you to bear good fruit in your relationships.
1. Forgive one another
When we know our own sins have been forgiven through the blood of Jesus, we do not have an excuse not to forgive others. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus said:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
When we forgive one another, no matter how great or small the grievance, a transaction takes place that bears great fruit.
While visiting the Toronto Christian Fellowship in 1994 during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I was deeply convicted of areas of bitterness I held in my heart towards my father, and how these hurts had affected my marriage to my wife. I realized I needed to talk to my father, although I was not sure how I could communicate to him the wounds I had carried for 24 years. When I finally had the opportunity to speak to him in person, I told him that I loved and honored him, but that I was still hurting over the rejection I felt when he had physically punished me as a child. He was surprised I still felt hurt, but we had a good talk and he explained to me how his own mother had abused him as a child. I had communicated forgiveness towards him by confronting the issue, and after dropping him off at his hotel, I received a phone call from my mother who asked for my forgiveness for not defending me. What happened next is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. My father got on the phone and said to me, “Son, what I did to you as you were growing up was wrong. Will you ever forgive me?”
I was completely stunned. And the best part was yet to come. He then said “Son, you know how proud I am of you. And I love you very much”. I had never heard these words from my father. I was completely elated, as a spirit of rejection was lifted off of me forever. I am still experiencing the fruit of this reconciliation today, the result of my initial decision to confront my father lovingly and express my forgiveness towards him.
Bitterness and unforgiveness prevent us from experiencing the fullness of personal freedom that God has for us and it destroys our relationships. Ultimately, my marriage was also healed (Read more about our story in my blog post about marriage). The blood of Jesus empowers us to forgive offenses and past hurts. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal hurts and offenses that you may have against family members, friends, and those you work with, seek forgiveness for them, and see what the Lord does in your relationships and in your own heart.
2. Encourage one another
One of the ways we demonstrate love to one another are through words of encouragement. Speaking to one another kindly, communicating honor and acknowledging the gifts and positive traits of others help to build each other up in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Colossians 3:12,14 says:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience….And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity.
The apostle Paul exhorts the church of Colossae to choose specific virtues, specifically those we associate with our treatment of others.
As I referenced above, when I visited Toronto in 1994, I was deeply convicted of the way that I had been treating my wife. Of course I loved her, but I had been speaking to her harshly, even using Scripture to justify my criticisms and judgments of her. The result was that our marriage was suffering and Sue had withdrawn from me emotionally. When I returned home, I did not say anything outright but simply changed my behavior and began to treat her with kindness and loving words. As a result, our marriage was restored, and now we are more in love and have a greater depth of emotional intimacy than ever before.
I have learned that encouragement bears much greater fruit than criticism. If you want to give a corrective word to someone, be sure to give them twice the encouragement.
3. Serve one another
Miraculously, the Lord of this universe came to the earth not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, sacrificed His time, His energy, and ultimately His very life for those He loved. When we consider the nature of Jesus, there is no excuse not to serve one another in love, no matter how far above the task we consider ourselves to be. Galatians 5:13 says:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
I have been walking in covenant friendship with Lou Engle for over 30 years now. We joined in ministry in 1983, when Lou and his wife Therese moved to Los Angeles with us to help plant HRock church (then Harvest Rock). In 1997, Lou received a vision of a massive gathering of youth at the National Mall in Washington D.C. to pray for America. Lou received a financial blessing to initiate the operation, but he needed an apostolic partner to handle the details. My first thought was “impossible”—I told Lou I would support him in prayer, but with all that was on my plate as senior pastor of Harvest Rock Church, with HIM internationally and with conferences and other ministry obligations, I could not conceive of having the extra responsibility.
The Lord knew better. One of my children said, “Dad, Uncle Lou has served you all these years; of course you should help him.” With the blessing of my family and pastors at Harvest Rock Church, I told Lou and his wife we would partner with them for the first gathering of TheCall. It was the greatest ministry challenge I had ever encountered, and it was also the most rewarding ministry experience.
On September 2, 2000, we gathered with over 270,000 people to worship, repent, and pray for the nation. Thousands upon thousands sat or stood side by side in the hot sun for hours conjoined by the presence of the Spirit without measure. Today, TheCall is a ministry that has impacted multiple countries, cultures and generations with its commitment to prayer and fasting for revival and transformation of our nation.
This man and I have been running together for over 30 years. This is what covenant looks like. He has been my brother and my prophet since Day 1 when we moved to Los Angeles for a “Great Revival!” And although we have yet to see the fulfillment of that dream, we are still contending and not giving up! Join us on April 9th for The Call Azusa to pray for the Revival that’s here and the one that’s coming!!! #azusanow
A photo posted by Che Ahn (@cheahn) on
Lou and I have a friendship built on Christ and on mutual service. In serving one another, we do sacrifice our time, energy and resources, even in times when it seems we have nothing left to give. But the fruit of service exceeds the sacrifice. Jesus came to serve us; in seeking to imitate Him, we will find abundant life in serving others.
Relationship with God is the Foundation
We cannot pour into others without being poured into. Healthy relationships with your family, friends, and neighbors begin with a healthy relationship to the Lord. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the presence of His Holy Spirit in us, we are able to walk in continual unity with the Creator of the universe. God has done all to reconcile us to Himself, to the point of sending His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins. It is up to us by actively pursuing an intimate relationship with Him. And when we walk in oneness with God, we can pursue healthier relationships with others.
Here are some resources to help you grow and develop your relationships with others.
- Danny Silk’s book Keep Your Love On!
- Gary Chapman’s bestseller The 5 Love Languages. Very practical guide on how to love others according to their own love languages.
- Join us via live-stream at HRock Church (Sundays 9:30 & 11:30am) as we continue our message series on Family at HRock.tv