I recently read an article about Tracey Jewel, a contestant in the TV series Married At First Sight. The man she was initially paired with cheated on her. So she left him and partnered with another man who’d been paired with someone else. But that relationship didn't work out either so she left him and is now back with an ex-boyfriend. This is called reality TV, but it seems to me there is nothing real about it.
By a real relationship I mean one in which we invest ourselves, our time, our emotions, our hearts and our minds. Typically, we care, respect and honour the other. In genuine and authentic relationships, we are mindful of the interests of others. A real relationship will also have a spiritual element, including a relationship with God.
The Bible teaches, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) It is not good to be alone because we are not complete by ourselves. Being alone is not good because we suffer if we are alone. Research shows health benefits that come from being in relationships with others and how health suffers if we are alone. As the teacher wrote “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12)
It is not only our breadth of relationships - the number of people we know - which is important, but the depth of relationships that counts. Some people may have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, but only a handful of these are truly friends who have a relationship with us. We need people we can sit with and talk to, people we can connect with, who will take the time to listen to us, as we take time to listen to them.
One of the most important relationships in society is marriage, which provides a sound basis for community life. Marriage, given by God as a way of joining a man and a woman in a relationship, is always under pressure, seemingly more so in recent generations, and certainly in this current liberal environment. The extremely low value given to marriage in our society is clearly revealed when it is turned into entertainment on TV’s Married at First Sight. A reality TV relationship isn’t real! It is to be expected that, as a society loses relationship with God, we lose real relationships with each other.
The Christian approach to marriage is that of a couple who make vows to each other in the presence of God. God is involved in this relationship, joining them together (Mark 10.9). The relationship between wife and husband is lifted by the teaching of Christianity to love … as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25). The model for human love is that shown by Jesus giving his life for the church. God’s intention is that the …man and woman can live together, can become “one flesh” without absorbing each other, destroying each other, de-valuing each other, or victimising each other (E Fuchs). It is to be a relationship of encouragement, enrichment, respect for each other, allowing each other to shine and flourish.
If God has created us in his image, part of which means we are created for a real relationship with him and for real relationships with others, then we need to look to God for help and direction with this. We recognise that humanity has been created as relational beings and that the human heart longs for real relationships. We need to take care we are not swept along by the strong current of society away from godly foundations, from godly relationships into the darkness of sin and moral decay. We should do all we can to support godly relationships, including marriage.
Have you ever felt alone and longed for a real relationship?
What part, if any, do you think God plays in creating or sustaining real relationships with friends, family or husband and wife?
Rev John Malcolm