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Saturday, December 29, 2012

God's Plan for Human Relationships

Fellowship, Communion, and Intimacy

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18)

From the beginning God said that it was not good that the man should be alone. God never intended for the human race to consist of only one man and one woman, but from the beginning He intended for them to multiply and fill the earth. Since there were to be many people God made man with a need for companionship. By God's design we are social creatures and we need other people. This is basic to God's plan for the human race and to our God-given nature. Time alone is important and profitable to our soul and spirit, but not as a way of life.

The need for companionship is much more defined than just general socializing and mingling with other people. There are at least three basic levels in human relationships. There is fellowship, communion, and intimacy. They are like stairs, with fellowship being the first and lowest step, communion the second step, and intimacy at the top of the stairs.

All human relationships begin with fellowship, and usually never go beyond this level. These are casual acquaintances, people at work, neighbors, most relatives, and sadly, most of the people we go to church with. Some relationships progress from casual fellowship to the next level, which is communion. These are the few people in our life with whom we become good friends. We include them in the important and cherished events of our life. They are the ones we seek out and whose company we prefer. These are the people whose prayers we especially value. We feel comfortable sharing our heart and our problems with them. All of the relationships we have on the levels of fellowship and communion are non-committal. They are not bound by vows or promises, but rather are more dependent upon convenience. Those we fellowship with and become good friends with are always changing throughout our lives. Almost always they fade away with time and circumstances which separate us. Sometimes we encounter problems or conflicts, which break the bonds of fellowship, even with very good and close friends.

Then there is the intimate relationship where two souls are knit together in complete trust and commitment and there are no secrets. It is possible to have a somewhat intimate friend of the same gender, but the very best friend we could possibly have does not come close to what God has in mind for man and wife. The marriage relationship between a man and a woman is the ultimate intimate relationship, and it is forever. It is the crown of human relationships. It is the one relationship where true intimacy can find its completion and fulfillment in the physical, spiritual, and emotional realms, and the element of unconditional commitment is what makes all that possible. While it is obvious that most marriages do not measure up to these criteria we must recognize the fact that it is because of sin and selfishness, and not because of a flaw in God's design and plan.

Man needs more than casual fellowship with others. He even needs more than a pal or a very close friend. He needs someone with whom he can share his very soul. He needs someone with whom he can become one on the level of the soul. When God created the man He left some places empty in him so there would be room for another. The soul of man was created by his Maker with needs, and God created a woman to fulfill those needs. Not only that, but when God created the woman, He created her soul with needs that could only be fulfilled by her husband. The relationship between husband and wife goes far beyond the shallow waters of fellowship and companionship. It goes beyond physical intimacy, also. It is a union of their souls and spirits, their minds and their wills, their affections and desires. We may have fellowship and companionship with many people, but we cannot experience what God has in mind for husband and wife except in a garden enclosed by the fence of commitment where only the two are allowed admittance. By God's design it is meant to last a lifetime, with death as the only means of separation.
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:5-6)

This special, intimate, ultimate human relationship is not something that happens instantly or even quickly, but it develops in a certain order, and over a period of time and experience. It is Genesis 4:1, after sin has entered into the world and they have been driven from the garden, before the Bible tells us that Adam "knew" his wife. The word "knew" has much more meaning here than most people think. To consider it to merely mean carnal knowledge is to make a terrible error and miss some of the most important knowledge and understanding. Although the marriage bed is part of God's design of male and female, God did not create a woman solely for the carnal pleasure of a man. God's purposes encompass far more than that. This is the definition of the word "know" as used in the Scripture. Look at all the words and ideas expressed by this word God chose to use.

To know: (properly, to ascertain by seeing); (including observation, care, recognition; and instruction) be aware, comprehend, consider, be diligent, discern, discover, familiar friend, feel, instruct, have knowledge, make self known, + be learned, + lie by man, mark, perceive, privy to, prognosticator, regard, have respect, be sure, teach, understand.

Many people live with their spouse for a lifetime and find out that they never really knew them. They might have known each other intimately in a physical sense for years, but kept a curtain drawn around their heart. To find out that your spouse is not the person you have thought them to be at all is very sad and most devastating. To truly know one another takes a lot of time and earnest effort and cannot happen quickly. It takes more than physical intimacy. It takes a truly honest heart and an openness and willingness to bare your most intimate soul to your spouse. There is a progression in the development of this relationship, and we are going to look at the three distinct aspects of it. These truths should be our guides and way marks for courtship and marriage.

Be sure to check back next week for the next part.

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Straight Paths Bible Church

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