Relationships are a huge struggle in our culture. We’re not just talking about marriages. We’re also talking about friendships, and family.
A majority of our population is living life without real relationships. We have a bunch of surface stuff going on, and a ton of social media interactions, but very few of us have people in our lives that we’re willing to get real with.
In other words, real relationships – Biblical relationships – are uncommon. Hence why this series is called “Uncommon Relationships”. But just because they’re uncommon doesn’t mean they’re unreachable.
This series is dedicated to helping you possess these uncommon relationships. You’re going to gain wisdom from the Bible as well as practical ways you can implement this wisdom to bring uncommon relationships into your life.
Our theme verse for this series is found in Romans. It gives us the uncommon way to have uncommon relationships. You are about to see that the way to incredible relationships is probably not what you thought. Take a look:
Romans 12:1-2 MSG – So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
Take a moment to really let this sink in. You can take your ordinary life and place it before God as an offering. Wait a minute, I thought only pretty things – perfect things – could be given as an offering.
Nope. All that mundane, ordinary stuff that you do every day can be given to God as an offering. Now, that is freeing. I don’t have to be at church to honor God. I can honor God with my 8 to 5 Monday through Friday.
Romans 12:1-2 MSG – Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
We get so caught up in what we do for God. We try to impress Him. We try to undo all the bad things we’ve done. But that’s not what God is looking for. He’s looking for you to embrace what He’s done for you.
We’re already starting to get some insight into how relationships should really work. Our focus should be on serving others. And our own joy and fulfillment comes when they embrace what we’ve done for them.
Are you guys seeing it? This is good. Let’s keep reading:
Romans 12:1-2 MSG – Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.
Ah… You mean that I stepped into culture’s idea of marriage and didn’t even realize what I’ve done? I never took time to think, “Wait a minute, is this God’s idea of marriage? Is this what He designed it to look like?”
Have I done this in my other relationships as well? I mean, culture teaches us to use those around us for personal gain. We live in a time where we celebrate individuality and in the process, relationships are ruined.
How did we fall into this? Because we didn’t take time to think. We just did what everyone else is doing. The solution is clear:
Romans 12:1-2 MSG – Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
The solution to this problem starts on the inside of you. Before your marriage gets better, you have to get better. And you get better by fixing your attention on God, not what your spouse is doing wrong.
Here’s what it looks like to fix your attention on God:
Romans 12:1-2 MSG – Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
If you take what you learn from this series and quickly respond to it, God is going to bring out the best in you. He’s going to bring out the best in your relationships. He’s going to heal your marriage.
But you can’t wait for the other person to change. We all want to blame the other person. That’s what the world teaches us to do. But let’s change direction and let God change us from the inside out.
Let’s all make this commitment during this series:
I will quickly respond to God’s direction.
I want to read the lyrics to a love song that most of you have probably heard before. The song is so romantic that many guys in the room have been tempted to use it to woo their ladies. But, I don’t think you’ve actually listened to the lyrics…
When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else
He’d trade the world for a good thing he’s found
Aw, how sweet. Look at all the ladies smiling in the room. All the guys are smiling at this point too because you’re lady is happy with this. But let’s keep going:
If she is bad, he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
Hm. You know, this is true when you’re dating. But about a week into marriage your eyes are opened to a whole new world. Oh, you can see it now. She may think she can do no wrong, but… Well, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.
When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime trying to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be
I might spend my very last dime, but I’m not sleeping out in the rain. I be paying this mortgage and I’m going to sleep in the house. It might be on the couch after this conversation, but it’s in the house.
This song is pretty funny, but the writer was actually on to something. Uncommon love – God’s kind of love – actually sounds a lot like this song. It’s unconditional. It’s sacrificial.
God’s love song is found in a scripture most people have heard before:
John 3:16 NKJV – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Love was not our idea. We didn’t come up with love. God did. God is love and He is our example of love. So, if we’re looking for a definition of love, we need to look to the origin of love, God.
The world is confused. They interchange the words love and lust as if they’re the same thing or as if they go together. They’ve turned love into something you’re on a mission to get instead of something to give.
When we get our definition of love from TV or movies or romance novels or the LGBTQ movement or anything the world has to offer, it’s going to fail. It’s going to fall apart. It will hinder your life and those around you.
But if you look to God’s definition of love, you’ll live a rich and satisfying life. Your marriage won’t be perfect, but it will be whole and it will last a lifetime. You’ll be surrounded with relationships that add to your life instead of take away.
So, what is God’s definition of love? Well the first thing to notice from this scripture is that God so loved that He gave. Love wasn’t the verb. Give is the verb. God loved us, therefore He gave us something.
God wasn’t looking to get love. Love wasn’t some feeling He held on the inside that no one could decipher. No, God’s love was expressed. He loved, therefore He gave. And He didn’t just give a little, He gave everything. His one and only.
This is something that is hard for us to grasp, so I want to break it out into four bite-sized pieces.
God’s love is unconditional.
It can’t be earned. You don’t have to do something to get it. Actually, there is nothing you can do to get God’s love because it’s a gift. He already gave it to you. You just have to embrace it to experience it.
In God’s eyes, there’s nothing you can do wrong that will make Him love you less. There’s nothing you can do right to make Him love you more. God’s love is unconditional. There’s not one condition.
It’s yours to experience if you’ll simply embrace it.
God’s love is sacrificial.
God’s love cost Him something. He expressed His love by giving us the most valuable thing – He gave His only son. He watched His son suffer to restore a relationship with us.
This is a hard thing to understand until you’re a parent. This past week, I was taking my three daughters out for a walk after dinner. I loaded the younger two in the double stroller, turned around to shut the garage door and in a split second they were both screaming.
I turned around and the stroller had collapsed and my two-year-old’s legs were folded under and being smashed by the stroller. I fixed the stroller, got her out and held her as she cried because she was hurt and scared.
I inflicted that pain on her by failing to make sure the stroller was completely latched before putting her in. It’s hard to see your child hurt themselves, but it’s really hard whenever you’re the one that caused them to get hurt.
Now, this was unintentional. I didn’t mean to hurt my child. But God, when He gave us His son, that was intentional. God sent His son to die a terrible death so He could restore a relationship with us.
Can you imagine what God must have felt when His son was suffering? He made that sacrifice for us. He loved us, therefore He gave. Not something that was easy, but something that was sacrificial.
If we want to experience true love in our relationships here on earth, then we have to be willing to sacrifice. Thankfully, you don’t have to die. But your selfish ambitions do have to die. Individuality has to die.
This isn’t about me. It’s about you. I come to church not for me. I come to church to serve you and be with you. I don’t pursue intimacy with my spouse to fulfill my needs, I pursue intimacy to fulfill her needs and bring us closer together.
I used the word intimacy instead of sex because I didn’t want to make you too uncomfortable. But I was just talking about sex for those of you who were wondering.
Here’s the next one:
God’s love is tangible.
It’s not this idea that we can never grab ahold of. It’s not some feeling that no one can explain. No, God’s love was expressed through a person. The person of Jesus Christ.
If we want to know what love looks like, then we can examine the life of Jesus by reading the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You can read how Jesus treated all people with kindness and dignity. You’ll find out that Jesus was never in a hurry. He was always willing to leave the task to help someone else.
God’s love is tangible. We don’t have to guess at how to love like God. We just need to examine the life of Jesus and as He would say, “Follow me.” In other words, do what Jesus did and you’ll be in good shape.
God’s love is accessible.
It’s right there just waiting for you to embrace it. All you have to do to experience God’s love is to invite it into your life. You simply say, “God, I welcome your love into my life. Help me to experience it and understand it.”
Maybe you believe you’re unlovable. Maybe you’ve been in so many failed relationships that you think love is a lost cause. Maybe your mom or dad, the person who was supposed to love you the most, abused you.
Regardless of what’s happened, regardless of how broken you are, God’s love is still accessible for you. He wants you to experience His love, but He won’t force it on you. You have to say, “Yes, God. I want to experience your love.”
If this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to focus on one thing this year. Dive in and read every scripture you can, buy books, listen to messages online about God’s love until you get it.
I went on this journey several years ago and it took me about a year to get to a point where I really got it. I finally got to a point to where, when I messed up, I knew I could take it to God immediately and He wouldn’t scold me. No, His love would nurture me back to wholeness.
God’s love is unconditional, sacrificial, tangible and accessible. I think we all can understand how God, the origin of love Himself, is able to display these qualities. But how in the world are we supposed to love others like He loves us?
I mean, I can probably do this for people who are well behaved. But, the people who make me mad? The people who take advantage of me? The people who are just down right hard to get along with?
How does God expect me to do this?!
We find the answer in the Bible:
1 John 4:9-11 NLT – God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
So, there it is again. You’ll find this truth all throughout the Bible. God put action to His love. He loves us, so He gave. He wasn’t looking to receive our love. No, He was looking to give His love.
So awesome. But, we’re still stuck with the question, “How do I love others with this same kind of love?” Here comes the answer:
1 John 4:9-11 NLT – Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
Oh. My one motivation to love others is because God loves me. I don’t have to muster this up on my own. I simply need to grasp how much God loves me and the overflow of that will be loving others with the same love.
1 John 4:16 NLT – We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
I think we get this backwards. We think we have to figure out how to love others before God can live in us. Living in love towards others is definitely the indicator that God is living in you, but it’s not a requirement for God to live in you.
First, you must know how much God loves you. We’re not talking about a mental type of know. We’re talking about when the love of God drops down deep inside and you experience what it really means to be forgiven and to be loved not because of what you do, but loved unconditionally.
Let’s make this real simple. If you struggle to love others, it’s because you don’t know, really know, how much God loves you. It’s not a personality flaw. It’s not something that you’re incapable of. It’s a symptom of not knowing God’s love for you.
And the only way to correct it is for you to go on your own journey of discovering God’s love for you. Seriously, spend the entire year reading and rereading every scripture about God’s love. Keep at it until it drops down.
John sums it up for us just a few verses down:
1 John 4:19 NLT – We love each other because he loved us first.
Let me put it to you this way:
The secret of love is being loved by God.
Want your marriage to thrive? Put in the effort to understand how much God loves you. Want your relationship with your kids to last? Dedicate yourself to finding out how much God loves you.
You cannot truly love others if you don’t understand how much God loves you. Until then, you’ll be aggravated with people, you’ll be mad at people, you’ll take advantage of people for your own benefit, you’ll make fun of people.
But, as soon as you know, really know, God’s love for you, all of that ugliness disappears and see people in a whole new light.
Seriously. I’m even talking about those crazy people in your life. You know, the ones who show up to the Birthday party and you start planning your escape or try to figure out how to ignore them without it being obvious.
Come on. You don’t have to pretend here. Well, unless they’re here. Are they here? Don’t look at them, they’ll figure it out.
We all have these people in our lives that drive us crazy. And some of them are even part of the family so we can’t even get away from them if we tried.
We’re talking about the people who give you advice when you don’t ask for it. The people who only want to talk about themselves. The people that are kind to your face and then gossip about you when you’re not looking.
Could it be that our first step towards loving these people is not to change them, but to spend time with Him? To do what it takes to truly understand how much God loves you?
When you have a deep revelation of God’s love for you, you start to see people in a whole new light. This is when you start walking out the love chapter in the Bible:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT – Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Take a minute to imagine this kind of life, where literally no one aggravates you. You’re able to look past all the flaws and see who they can become. And you remain patient when it takes 20 years for them to change.
This is a peaceful life. This is a life that has an eternal impact on everyone you encounter. Not because you preached at them, but because you walk around with uncommon love. You walk around with God’s love.
You have God’s love because you took time to understand how much God loves you. And because you’re full of His love, you’re able to love others with the same love. It comes out of an overflow of what God has put inside of you.
Here’s what I’m getting at:
Being loved by God empowers me to love others.
Let me give you some practical ways that you can show God’s love to others. Because it’s easy to make excuses. It’s not my personality. I’m not outgoing. Or, whatever excuse you’re coming up with in your head.
I am going to give you five ways to give others the gift of uncommon love.
1. Say it.
I love you. I appreciate you. You matter to me. You’re important to me. I’m so thankful to know you. I love you.
It seems simple and repetitive, but we all need to hear it. Tell your kids you love them. Tell your spouse you love them. Tell your parents you love them. Tell your friends how important they are to you.
There was a couple who had been married for 20 years and they were struggling. They decided to go to marriage counseling and one of the first things out of the wife’s mouth was, “He never tells me he loves me!”
The counselor asked, “Why do you not tell her you love her?” He responded, “I told her once and haven’t changed my mind. Didn’t figure I needed to tell her again.”
I don’t know why but there seems to be a muzzle on our mouths when it comes to telling people how much we love them. This is especially true for guys. But, take the muzzle off, open your mouth and say “I love you.”
2. Write it.
This one is so good. When we write notes or cards, they can be cherished for a lifetime. I actually have a note on my desk from Beth so I can read it from time to time. Here’s what it says:
“Babe, you’re amazing. You work hard to prioritize your family, your church, but yet you are so successful in business. I believe God is going to continue to richly bless you abundantly more than you might ask or think! Get ready for overflow of joy, love, peace and goodness. The seeds you’re sowing will reap a mighty harvest! Love you!”
I cherish this note. The thing that impacts me the most is that she has realized that I make it a point to prioritize my family in the midst of everything else going on in my life.
We read in scripture earlier that “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Well here’s a great example of that. Having Beth embrace what I do for her is the best thing she can do for me.
Even if you suck at writing, do it anyways. Write notes to your spouse. Write notes to you kids. Send spontaneous text messages to let your friends or coworkers know how much you appreciate them.
Another great example of this is the birthday cards you receive from the church. I’ll let the cat out of the bag and let you know that Gayla is the one who writes these. And wow, she has an incredible gift.
She takes time to write a heartfelt note and I’ve heard from several people how much it has meant to them. Writing has the potential to encourage others not just the first time they read the note, but over and over again.
On a side note, if you are not getting a birthday card from the church, it’s only because we don’t know your birthday or address. Write that information on an offering envelope and we’ll make sure you get a card. Trust me, you’ll love it.
3. Give it.
We’re not talking about extravagant gifts here. We’re talking about the small things that make a big impact. The most meaningful gifts aren’t the most expensive, they’re the most thoughtful.
Pick up coffee for a coworker. Bring your spouse’s favorite snack home. When you do these things, it shows that in the middle of your busy day, you were thinking about someone other than yourself.
It’s funny. The more financially stable Beth and I get, the less expensive gifts we give each other. This past Christmas I got Beth two t-shirts and two pieces of paper. Sounds insignificant, but I didn’t tell you what was on them.
First, a little backstory. Beth is going to homeschool our kids. This is something she feels called to do, she wants to do it and she’s gifted at it as well. Makes total sense. However, our culture looks down on those who homeschool.
Let me confess. I pretty much dislike any kind of school. Public school, private school, homeschool… It all sounds terrible to me. I was an A-student in school. Not because I was a good student, but because I mastered the art of test taking.
You study right before the test. And then you take the test, trust your gut, and most of the time you’ll make an A. Then you just forget everything within the next hour, but hey, mom was happy.
So when Beth starts geeking out on homeschool stuff, I just stare at her with wide eyes and look for an opportunity to change the subject. Who would have known that this communicates that I don’t support her.
In her eyes, culture isn’t supporting her and I’m not either. So it makes it really tough to embrace her calling to be a homeschool mom. Thankfully, I recognized this, so for Christmas I got here a t-shirt that says Homeschool Mom.
The two pieces of paper were $5 designs I purchased on Etsy. One has a list of homeschool rules, the other says “Home Sweet Homeschool”. I framed both and put them up in the room where she homeschools.
I gave her t-shirts and paper, didn’t cost much, but it meant a lot. It showed that I supported her calling as a homeschool mom. I also explained that I will probably never be excited about school like she is, but I am glad she is.
4. Forgive it.
We are never more like Jesus than when we forgive.
Do they deserve it? Probably not. But if we are going to follow the example of Jesus, then we forgive especially when people don’t deserve it. Because we sure didn’t deserve the forgiveness God extends to us through Jesus.
Don’t waste time in unforgiveness towards your family, your spouse, your friends. This life is too short to live at odds with those around you. Forgive and forget. Move on. Cut them some slack. You ain’t perfect either.
5. Live it.
Every day we’re given opportunities to practice uncommon love. With the person who cuts you off on the highway. With the person blocking the aisle at the store. And the person who cuts in line at Chick-Fil-A.
Every day we have opportunities to choose patience and kindness instead of frustration and annoyance. Every day we have opportunities to forgive the small stuff and the big stuff. Every day we can practice uncommon love.
This is why I love small groups here at church. In your group will be people you love and people who are challenging to get along with. But all of this is an opportunity to experience uncommon love and give uncommon love.
Small groups aren’t just a good idea, they’re a Biblical mandate for living the life God wants you to live – the life you want to live. Building real relationships with other believers is the only way to live your life fulfilled.
Do yourself a favor and join a small group. Move around your schedule if you have to. Do whatever it takes to prioritize your small group because you need these relationships. I need these relationships.
In case you still need to be convinced that uncommon love – the God kind of love – is worth pursuing, take a look at one more scripture:
1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT – Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Love doesn’t just exist here, it exists in eternity. It’s more important than faith. It’s more important than hope.
Digging in to really find out how much God loves you is worth the effort. Showing God’s love to others is worth the effort. Because in the end, love is the only thing that matters.
Maybe today you experienced God’s love for the first time. You felt something today that you’ve never felt before and you sense God tugging at your heart.
God is inviting you to say yes to His love. He is inviting you into His family so you can spend eternity with Him. And all you have to do is believe that His son Jesus paid for everything you’ve done wrong. Say yes to His sacrifice and embrace His love.
I’m going to lead you in a prayer that we’ll all say together. There’s nothing magical about the prayer, it is simply us putting words to the commitment we’re making in our hearts.
Pray this out loud:
God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for showing me love by sacrificing your son. I admit, I’ve done some things wrong. But today I put my faith in Jesus. I receive your forgiveness. I embrace your love. I choose to follow you from this day forward.
Congratulations on making the best decision in your life! Giving your life to Jesus is a personal decision. But there is a time to take it public. The way you do that is through water baptism.
Learn more about water baptism on our Next Steps page.