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The Problem with Relationships: Understanding Our Design

For the Word that God speaks … strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart. (Hebrews 4:12, Phillips Paraphrase)

Relationships and making them right is big business! There are hundreds of web sites devoted to creating compatible and lasting relationships. “Unscripted” reality shows allow daily access to the dysfunctional way people treat each other while garnering record ratings. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter supposedly bring us closer together while other sites like eHarmony flourish as people still desperately seek to connect in meaningful relationships.

With all these people connecting in so many ways the question then arises: “Are people’s relationships really any better as a result?”

One need only look at trends among teenagers and young adults to know the answer is a resounding no! Consider these realities:

  • 22 percent of teen girls say they have sent or posted sexually explicit images of themselves.
  • Even though most teens (75 percent) believe sending sexually suggestive content “can have serious negative consequences,” nearly four in ten have sent or posted sexually suggestive emails or text messages.
  • Something that seemed innocent fun will never really die. College recruiters, teachers, coaches, parents, friends, enemies, and even total strangers may all be able to find those posts long after they were believed to be deleted.

Adults are no better in the relationship department. The smaller our planet gets and the more of us there are, the less we seem to really know anything about each other or how to get along. And the more we study ourselves, invent therapies to repair our psyches, and write how-to books on being a better me, the less we really seem to understand anything about what makes us tick.

Back to the Beginning

Hebrews 4:12 states a fact we all should already know. Man (and woman) is a very complex creature. So complex, in fact, that only the scalpel of God’s wonder can successfully unveil the innermost intimacies of a man’s being.

There is no better place to start in understanding why we have so much trouble relating to each other than at the beginning of humanity. In the next few installments we will consider a number of factors involved in human relationships. We need to take a look at man’s basic plan design.

Genesis 1:26-31

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image,     in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)

Since good relationships depend on a good understanding of who and what we are, it is essential to look at God’s original design for mankind. This passage reveals four aspects of personhood:

Self-Awareness – What did God mean when he was said, Let us make man in our image? Of course, this does not mean that we physically look like God, because God has no physical body. It seems more reasonable that God is telling us we are, at the base of things, a spiritual being like Him. And the very foundation of God’s spiritual being is that He is self-aware. He has been aware of Himself and His nature for eternity.

We were designed to self-aware just as our Creator is. We are unique creatures above all other creation with the ability to interact with God and other human beings on a level that transcends animals. Ultimately we are able to be aware of life beyond this world. Scripture is plain that man is born with an innate sense of something more than this.

He has put eternity into man’s heart. – Eccl 3:11

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world. – Rom 1:19-20

Complexity – After God said He intended to make man in His image, He added that we would also be made after His likeness. The word translated “likeness” carries the idea of form or manner. God is a complex being, three and yet one. By being made after his likeness, we were created with complexity of personhood. Just as God is a triune, being so are we (body, soul, spirit). There is no doubt we are more than a bunch of neurons and molecules. We have a mind, will, emotions, and ultimately are spiritual beings.

Authority – We were designed to do something! God is a creative God who designed us to manage His creation. Human beings were created to have dominion over the earth. We are hard wired to create, to build, to explore, to nurture, to hunt, to be active.

Relationship – We were created to be in relationship with other people. Though Genesis 2:18-25 deals specifically with marriage, Adam and Eve were God’s prototype for all subsequent relationships.  God ordained marriage as a picture of our relationship to God and His design for all relationships.

Perfect Design – Imperfect World

Such complex beings would need to live in a perfect environment to maintain proper relationships. The problem is we no longer live in a perfect world. However, a good starting point is to simply realize how complex we all are and that only Divine intervention can fully mend what we have corrupted in our design.

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