In the later part of 2014, LifeWay Research conducted a poll of an ethnically and religiously diverse sampling of Americans. The research gauged each participant’s perspective on his or her relationships through a series of questions. The responses from Evangelical Christians polled during the survey were surprising.
- Evangelicals were 14-21% more likely to strongly agree with this statement: “I am currently growing apart from someone I had been close to.” To decode the survey language a bit, Evangelicals indicated they were growing apart from someone close to them more than non-Evangelicals.
- Evangelical Christians were 16% more likely to say they were worried about their closest relationship than non-Evangelicals. In other words, these Evangelicals articulated more volatility in the security of their relationships than non-Evangelicals.
Just from these two stats alone, we can glean that countless Christians are experiencing either a decline in the quality of their relationships or are living in constant insecurity over those relationships. This is far from God’s design, as He desires His people to “carry one another’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.” He has wired us to benefit from Christian encouragement and to “encourage one another as long as it called today so that none of you will be hardened by sin’s deceit.”
In John 15:12-13, Jesus says, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” This reminds us that Christ proved His love for us through His death for us. When our hearts are overwhelmed with His grace, we love one another. And this compels us to sacrifice ourselves for one another. We may not die physical deaths for our friends, but we must die to ourselves for our friends. In the first part of his Bible Studies for Life study Like Glue, Ben Mandrell writes this passage:
The little things we do matter in our relationships with others. We probably won’t have the opportunities to actually die for others, but a willingness to sacrifice for those we love often translates into the daily need to stifle our own self-importance.
Viewing this research in light of Ben’s words, I wonder if the decline of (and insecurity over) our relationships is the result of complacency, a posture that allows selfishness and self-importance to grow in even our most important relationships. Community is strong when we lay down ourselves, when we die to our self-importance and our selfishness. We can recalibrate our relationships when we remember to love sacrificially just as Christ loved us.
If you are looking for a great group study on community and God’s heart for relationships, check out Ben Mandrell’s study called Like Glue: Making Relationships Stick.