Tidbits and Blessings Blog
by Jeanie Malone
I’d love for you to join the conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments section under each entry.
Relationship habits determine the health of any relationship.
Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Your neighbor is anyone you have contact with, whether it’s once or an ongoing relationship. In a relationship, that love is expressed through devotion and a seeking to improve or secure the wellbeing of the other person. This love is seen in all healthy relationships including parent-child, grandparent-grandchild, romantic, friendship, and more. This love is usually expressed through devotion and compassion, two common threads of true love throughout countless relationships in the Bible.
From the beginning of David and Jonathan’s friendship, they show love for one another as oneself. When David and Jonathan first met after David slew Goliath, 1 Samuel 18:1 shows, “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Jonathan offered his clothes, armor, and weaponry to David, not asking for anything in return. (1 Sam 18:4)
After Saul became jealous of David and wanted him killed, Jonathan convinced his father that he had no right to order David’s death because David had only done good to and for Saul. (1 Samuel 19:1-7) Saul was not an honest man, so he sought many times after to kill David, but David’s and Jonathan’s hearts remained knit together as kindred spirits.
After the death of Saul and Jonathan on the battlefield, David mourned for them and never forgot his love for Jonathan. He had Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son brought to him and had compassion for him: “I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (2 Samuel 9:7).
David and Jonathan’s devotion to and compassion for one another and their extended families is one example of the continual give and take we see in healthy relationships today. The bible says they made a covenant and Jonathan loved David as his own soul, so it is likely that they gave unselfishly, not thinking about the themselves. Regardless of the type of relationship, a deep love for the other person is essential for a healthy relationship.
Another account of sincere devotion and compassion is in the story of Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, and Obed. During a famine in Bethlehen-Judah, many Israelites moved to Moab. Elimelech and Naomi were one of the families to move to Moab. Ten years after her husband died, still living in Moab, Naomi lost both her sons. She urged her daughters-in-law to return to their homes as Naomi chose to journey home to Bethlehem. Orpah kissed Naomi and departed to her family, but Ruth insisted to stay with Ruth.
Ruth was impressed by all she had learned about the God of the Israelites and replied to Naomi, “whither thou goest, I will go…and thy God my God…the LORD do so to me, and more also” (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth had spent the latter half of her life with Naomi, learning about her God, and she felt a strong devotion and desire to continue in this family, though no longer legally bound. Ruth chose to remain devoted instead of switching paths.
Once Naomi and Ruth were in Bethlehem for barley and wheat reaping season, Ruth went hard at work to provide a means for her and Naomi, who would likely not be able to work or secure employment because of her age and status. Hard-working Ruth caught the eye of Boaz who owned the field where Ruth was working. Her devotion, kindness, and virtue won his heart. (Ruth 3:10-11)
After Boaz and Ruth married and had a child, Naomi continued to be an important part of their family, supporting the care of their child Obed. “And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it” (Ruth 4:16). The word used for nurse is translated from Hebrew as “aman” and means to “confirm, support,” according to Strong’s Concordance. We also see God’s love for Israel through Obed’s continuing lineage, which two generations later brings King David.
Another story of deep devotion and compassion is the account of Hosea and Gomer. Gomer was not a loving nor faithful wife. In fact, their marriage began as God told Hosea the prophet to “go, take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2). Even after they married, Gomer often took lovers who lavished her with expensive gifts. After years of continuing her whoredom, she found herself in desperate trouble which she couldn’t connive her way out, and Hosea compassionately came to her rescue and bought her, though she was already his wife. He was devoted to his marriage and his wife, though for a long time she was not committed to him.
We see devotion in the relationship between Joseph and Mary when common sense didn’t fit their unique situation. We see in Matthew 1:20 that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him that Mary’s child was conceived of the Holy Ghost. He trusted love over common sense. He had compassion and showed devotion.
We could spend hours and pages listing more examples of true love in God’s Word in all kinds of contexts such as romantic, friendship, family commitment, and we would continue to see the common threads of devotion and compassion.
We clearly see that these two relationship habits of compassion and devotion, which stem from true love for others as if for ourselves, is the glue that holds a relationship strong during stormy seasons. Every relationship will experience times of more and less growth, but what gives strength in all times is the continuance of devotion and compassion.
Sometimes we don’t feel loved, or we don’t feel like loving others. We have to remember the big picture of what love really is. It’s not an emotion. It fosters a myriad of emotions that span the full spectrum from hate to desire. Love is a decision we make and either keep or change. To stay committed to a relationship, we must understand and agree within ourselves to be devoted, no matter what, and we must understand and agree within ourselves to show compassion, no matter what.
Sometimes the devotion and compassion look different than what we may expect or what others expect. This has to do with healthy boundaries, which we will discuss in more detail next week.
We all need relationships. We were born for relationships. It’s a give and take. If we only learn to take and not fully grasp the joy of giving continually, we miss the point entirely and live as miserable, unfulfilled creatures.
This week, I challenge you to love others as yourself. For at least three relationships, focus on putting the needs of others above your own wants. Pray for yourself, the other person, and the relationship, asking God to help you see and love the other person as He sees and loves this person. Ask God to help you say and do things that will foster the other person’s walk with Him. Give grace, then give more grace, and see how this affects not only the other person, but more importantly, your perspective and expectations for the relationship.