Category Archives: Relationships

Why did God Give our Pets Such Short Life Spans?

Although land tortoises can live over 150 years and parrots sometimes live as long as people, most pets have short life spans Perhaps the Lord gave our pets short life spans to keep us from getting more attached to them than to our fellow human beings. Since the love of some intelligent pets for their human masters is remarkably unconditional, they often establish a deep emotional connection with us. In fact, we sometimes find it easier to love them unconditionally than each other.

The emotional impact of the death of a family’s pet is like the loss of any family member, though on a lesser scale. It offers opportunities for learning important lessons in preparation for future losses that will be worse. The grief at a pet’s death can bring an awareness of our need for deeper relationships with the people in our lives.

 

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How Can We Love our Neighbor as Our Self, as Jesus Commanded?

Loving other people as oneself is a difficult goal. But Jesus clearly made it fundamental to Christian living. On one occasion, an expert in the Jewish law challenged Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).

Although the goal of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is difficult, it isn’t impossible.  In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus gives some basic principles that help us understand what it involves:

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (NKJV).

This passage contains two principles. One principle is that our expectations of our neighbors are directly related to the expectations that will be placed on us. As Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The expectations we have of others will be required by them (and God) of us. But even subjectively, we already love—or hate—our neighbors as ourselves. We subconsciously project our own attitudes and values upon other people, expecting them to perceive us as we perceive them. If we are impatient and judgmental towards others, we assume others will be impatient and judgmental towards us. If we are compassionate and patient towards others, we won’t have to deal with the pressures that come from assuming that others view us with hostility and impatience. Love or hatred directed outwards is always matched by love or hatred directed inwards.

The second principle is that love for one’s neighbor should never be confused with indulgence. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. If we love our neighbor as our self, we must be as careful in setting standards and goals for him as we do for ourselves. If God were a genie in a lamp who gave us anything we wanted, would we ever be satisfied? Of course not! Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. While love always seeks to promote the other person’s well-being, at times it is manifested in acts of charity and at other times in firm confrontation.

Our neighbor is just like us. At times he needs mercy, at times he needs correction, but he always needs our love.

 

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If a Christian Believer is Already Saved, Why is Ongoing Repentance Necessary?

Jesus linked repentance with salvation (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3; 17:3).

In Acts 2:38, the term repentance includes the element of faith. Paul in Ephesus preached turning “to God in repentance” and “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Repentance is an ingredient of faith. It is a change of mind that involves both a negative aspect (a turning from sin) and a positive one (a turning to God). On Mars Hill, Paul declared that God “commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV).

Even the most mature Christian harbors unconscious sin (Proverbs 20:9; Isaiah 53:6; 1 John 1:8) and will be corrected by the Holy Spirit as hidden sin is brought to the surface. When Christians come to the realization that they have been committing serious sins, there are two reasons they should repent. The first is to express the genuineness of their faith. (A person who is unwilling to renounce continuing, conscious, serious sin may not be a genuine believer.) The second reason is to maintain a close relationship with their Father in heaven.

As Judge, God declared us pardoned and accepted into His family when we put our trust in Jesus. But as God’s children, we can remain in close fellowship to Him only when we daily acknowledge our sins and ask His help in overcoming them. Jesus said that a person who has been bathed doesn’t need another bath; his only need is to have his feet washed.

Jesus . . . rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean” (John 13:3-11 NKJV).

The bath of which Jesus spoke is that once-for-all, complete cleansing received at salvation. Foot washing symbolizes the family forgiveness maintained by daily repentance and confession.

First John 1:9 declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV). By practicing the words of this verse, we enjoy our relationship with our heavenly Father and we grow in likeness to Him. The daily cleansing we receive through repentance and confession will also make us less vulnerable to temptation and readier to do His will.

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Does the Bible Assure We Will Reunite with Loved Ones Who Preceded Us in Death?

The Bible doesn’t offer any details about relationships in heaven. Based on the words of Jesus and the New Testament writers, we can be confident that heaven will be a far better place than anything we have experienced in this life and will include reunion with people we love.

The rich man recognized Lazarus even though they were in different places and separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:19-31). The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, though the two great prophets lived many centuries earlier (Matthew 17:1-5). Jesus told the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (nkjv). The apostle Paul said that we will someday have more knowledge than we have now, implying that we will have greater knowledge of other people than now (1 Corinthians 13:12). He also said that it is “far better” to depart and to be with Christ than to remain on earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:22-23).

Christ will be the heavenly Bridegroom and believers will fellowship with Him as His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7-9). There will be no marriage or reproduction in heaven (Matthew 22:23-33), but the fact that God will resurrect us as individuals (See the ATQ article, Does God Value Individuality?) implies we will recognize each other as individuals and remember earthly relationships.

We will no longer need the exclusive relationships that protect us from loneliness and despair in this fallen world, but since heaven is a place of greater and fuller experience than our current life, we will still know and cherish our earthly loved ones. The joys and ecstasy of marital and family love will be far surpassed by perfect intimacy and trust. Perfected bodies and minds will find fulfillment in perfected relationships and a full sense of heavenly joy and gratitude to God.

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Why Should I Pray When it Doesn’t Seem that God Hears My Prayers?

It is part of the human condition to struggle with a sense of God’s silence—or absence. The disciples and the prophets had moments of weakness and distrust that are recorded in Scripture for all of us to read.

The silence that causes us such anxiety is not only essential to growth in faith, but needed for our expression of genuine trust in prayer. Prayer and faith are the result of a process of trusting. This process involves wonder, doubt, and worry. It enables us to grow in our ability to trust God in small ways that in time make it possible for us to trust Him through the great crises of life.

Genuine prayer isn’t mere ritual, nor is it just a productive mental habit. Prayer in the midst of doubt and feelings of abandonment is essential to realizing our need for God’s help. It isn’t that faith and hope can’t grow without prayer. They can, but without it they grow only slowly and haphazardly. This is because without prayer, faith and hope grow without our conscious support and participation.

In Luke 11:9, Jesus says: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you” (NKJV).

The order Jesus describes here is simple. We first must ask, and then it is given. We first must knock, and then the door is opened to us. If we don’t pray, we’re like people who expect to receive without asking or to have doors opened without knocking. Prayer is important because it acknowledges both our need for God’s help and our willingness to look to Him for direction. When we don’t pray, it is apparent that we consider God irrelevant and we take life, with all of its opportunities and blessings, for granted.

If we don’t consciously ask God for direction, we’ll usually lack the vision to see opportunities when they appear. Prayer nurtures vision, and vision sustains patient endurance. No wonder that Isaiah spoke of the importance of “hoping in the Lord.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (40:28-31 NIV).

Ask the Lord to show you what and how to pray and what to expect when you do. He will respond.

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Can Someone Be Forgiven if They Commit the Same Sin Again After Confessing and Repenting it?

No one who asks God for forgiveness can be confident that they won’t commit the same sin again. In fact, our natures are so contaminated by sin that we often do. When Peter asked Jesus whether we are obligated to forgive a person who sins against us seven times (Peter’s “seven times” more than doubled the rabbinic prescription), Jesus said: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22 NKJV).

Jesus made it clear that God’s primary concern is not mere outward behavior, but the condition of the heart Matthew 23:25-26; Mark 7:5-9; Luke 11:42-44; Luke 11:42-44. Therefore the sincerity of the confession is what counts.

Unfortunately, we can be sincere in our repentance and confession and still fall into sin again. Because believers continue to be influenced by the “flesh”—the fallen aspect of their personalities—in this world they are incapable of perfect sincerity. At times they are more vulnerable to temptation than at other times. With the passage of time, the strong awareness of evil and the ugliness of sin that brought us to repentence often fades.

Sincere confession of sin is a heartfelt acknowledgment that our sin is wrong, that we don’t want to continue in it, and that we are ready to exert ourselves—under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—to resist it. God doesn’t expect perfection, because none of us are capable of achieving it, but He does expect sincerity.

Sin is highly addictive, and when we’re not on our guard we can easily succumb to the false sense of relief we experience when we surrender to our compulsions. We need to be aware of sin’s addictive nature. Like someone who is attempting to quit smoking or drinking, the worst thing we can do is to give up on our desire to change or believe we can never change, even though we relapse in moments of weakness.

As we experience increasing freedom from sin, we will experience an increasing awareness of evil and understand more deeply how sin carries its own penalty. Each time genuine believers relapse into sin, they will experience more conviction and a more painful awareness of sin’s destructiveness. Each time they repent and confess their sins, they will be purer, stronger, and less likely to relapse.

Of course, some sins are so serious that even sincere repentance can’t erase their earthly consequences. Sins like murder and adultery can be forgiven by God in the ultimate sense and by fellow Christians in the sense of hoping for a sinner’s restoration, but the damage such sins inflict usually cannot be undone in this life, and consequences such as imprisonment or divorce may be unavoidable.

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Will We Still be Married in Heaven?

Jesus made it clear that no one will be married in heaven: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30 NIV).

But this doesn’t mean that we won’t know each other or will cease cherishing our earthly relationship. The rich man recognized Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, even though he was in a different place and separated by a “great gulf” (Luke 16:19-31 NKJV). The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, even though these two men had lived many centuries before (Matthew 17:1-5). Finally, we recall the striking promise made by our Lord to the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise” (NIV).

The apostle Paul said we will have more knowledge in heaven than we have now (1 Corinthians 13:12). This implies that we will know and recognize people more fully in heaven than here on earth. He also said it was “far better” to depart and to be with Christ than to remain in the body on earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:22-23).

In all of these passages, heaven is depicted as a place of greater experience than we now know on earth and a place where we will have more knowledge and understanding. This would lead us to believe that we will recognize other members of our family, even though we will not live in family units. Instead, all believers in this age will be united in the bride of Christ and in fellowship with our Savior as the heavenly Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7,9).

Scripture leads us to believe that we will enjoy such a state of wonderful intimacy with our glorified brothers and sisters that there will no longer be a need for the exclusive relationships that protect us from loneliness and despair in a fallen world. This does not mean, of course, that we will not know and share a perfect love with those with whom we have been especially intimate in our earthly lives. However, all of the joys and ecstasy of marital and family love will be far surpassed by the joys of perfect intimacy and trust in heaven.

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Does Teaching the Doctrine of Eternal Security Encourage People to Believe They are Saved?

It’s true that some people are self-satisfied and insensitive about the sin in their lives. Such persons may misuse the doctrine of eternal security to justify a false sense of security. On the other hand, there are those who are oppressed by an overly active conscience, sincerely wondering whether sin in their lives reveals a lack of saving faith. These persons can be rightly comforted knowing that salvation depends entirely on our acceptance of what Christ has done for us, rather than on what we have done for him.

Many Bible passages underline the reality of our security as believers in Jesus Christ: John 10:28-30; Romans 8:29-39; 1 Corinthians 3:15; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:20; Jude 24.There must be a reason.

The doctrine of eternal security is taught in Scripture, but it should only comfort true Christians who are earnestly concerned with living faithfully for Jesus Christ. Professing Christians living sinfully without remorse shouldn’t assume that their profession of faith guarantees their salvation. Banking on a past “decision” can be dangerous. They need to be reminded that if their present lifestyle is out of keeping with their profession, they are either not true children of God or are living in a manner inconsistent with who they are and with what God has done for them. If they are genuinely saved and continue in sin, God will bring corrective influences into their lives (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19).

Professing Christians need to seriously consider the consequences of living in a manner that is inconsistent with their commitment. Even if they believe in eternal security, their continuing sin could be an indication that they never were truly converted. If they are children of God, continuing to sin will result in correction that according to the Scriptures can result in either physical death or a painful condition designed to lovingly bring them to their senses (Psalm 89:31-32; 1 Corinthians 11:29-30; Hebrews 12:5-11).

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Is It a Serious Mistake to Marry Someone of Another Faith?

In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the apostle Paul wrote:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Imagine being in a relationship with someone you love and care for deeply. You take long walks together, talk till dawn, share many of the same interests. Your companion seems to be the one you have been searching for all your life. There’s only one problem — that person doesn’t share your faith. What should you do?

When Paul says that Christians shouldn’t be “yoked” together with unbelievers, he uses the image of two draft animals pulling a load. An ox and a donkey fastened to the same yoke won’t work well together. They are “unequally yoked,” with serious differences in height, size, and gait. Struggling to compensate for their differences, they squander their strength.

Paul’s example is a good metaphor. In some ways, a “team” of two people is better equipped to handle life’s load of stress and responsibility. But unless a husband and wife are working together as a team, their union becomes a liability rather than an asset.

When Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about avoiding an “unequal yoke,” paganism and Christianity stood in sharp contrast. Corinthian paganism involved sacrifices to idols and flagrant sexual immorality. Today, 2,000 years of Christian influence on Western culture has softened the distinction between “pagans” and “Christians” in some ways. Modern “pagans” have often adopted enough Christian values to be decent, moral people by Christian standards, and there are many nominal Christians who don’t understand the meaning of Christ’s words, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” ( John 3:3 ).

Even so, being unequally yoked is never a minor matter. In Ephesians 2:1-5 the apostle Paul vividly described the difference between Christians and non-Christians. No matter how decent, moral, or likeable a modern pagan may be, he is spiritually dead, at odds with his Creator. Without God, his goals are irrational and unsatisfying, and he is drifting on a downward arc toward absurdity, chaos, and — ultimately — hell. Like a sleepwalker, a person who hasn’t been supernaturally awakened by the Spirit of God may seem conscious, but actually he is unaware of the most important things around him ( Ephesians 5:8-15 ).

How can someone who is supernaturally alive through the miracle of God’s grace live in harmony with someone who is dead? How can someone who is awake communicate with someone who is asleep? How will the two of them set priorities, rear their children, select their major relationships?

Christians should take the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 with the utmost seriousness. Of course, God’s grace still is at work in the lives of people who are unequally yoked, and apart from the grace of God we would all be lost ( Ephesians 2:8-10 ). Unbelieving spouses sometimes do become Christians through the influence of their mates ( 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 ). But a believer should never presume upon God’s grace ( Romans 6:1 ). There are consequences for disobedience, and the risks are much too high.

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Is It Loving to Stop Financially Supporting Young Adult Children Living Sinful Lifestyles?

Giving our children greater freedom to make their own choices can be one of the hardest tasks a parent must face. As parents, we want to protect our children from poor decisions. Yet we know that as children grow into their late teens and early twenties they must learn to make and live with decisions for themselves. Letting them do this is a part of the process of growing up.

Parents find this task more perplexing when a blossoming adult child begins to make extreme lifestyle choices that are clearly rebellious and destructive. All young adults will make some poor choices. Many will have moments of rebellion. But loving parents may need to consider withdrawing financial support when the rebellion is extreme and out of control. No parent would enjoy doing this, but a mom and dad can offer tough love by cutting off financial assistance to a son or daughter who is abusing drugs or living with and engaging in sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend or refusing to work.

Parents facing this situation will struggle with their own frustration and anger, but these feelings shouldn’t be what motivates them to pull the plug on financial support. What should motivate them is the realization that it’s not loving to support someone’s sin. It is the realization that their children won’t grow up if they don’t learn to take responsibility for themselves.

For example, enabling a 20-year-old daughter to live with her boyfriend by paying for some of her bills is not in her best interest. Therefore, it’s not love. At the same time, a loving response also says,Even though we won’t support your sin, we will not pull away from you. We will continue to care about you, see you, and long for you to come to home and submit yourself to our rules. And we will be open to discuss anything we’ve done wrong that has hurt you.

Parents can go a long way in helping their adult child by attempting to understand any way in which they may have contributed to the problems in the relationship. Sometimes a part of the reason a young adult child chooses to rebel is to make a parent pay for hurting or disappointing him or her. The sin of parents never excuses the choice of a young adult child, but parents would do well by remaining open to how they may have knowingly or unknowingly provoked their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4).

Parents who aren’t willing to see if there is a log in their own eye (Matthew 7:3-5) are in danger of pushing their late teenager or an early twenty year old farther away from them and God. Those, however, who unite tough love with a willingness to take responsibility for any wrongs they committed can begin to know the sweet taste of reconciliation when both sides own up to their sin and forgive one another.

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