Building Healthy Relationships
with Christ-like Love
Relationships are powerful. You may have plenty of good, healthy relationships, but it only takes one toxic person to poison your life. As we discussed in the previous post, the expression of love in our culture often does not reflect the true nature of love. Therefore, love can be quite a dangerous thing. Emotional trauma is incredibly common, and I think that a lot of it comes from what we accept and believe about relationships. For example, entertainment—books, movies, songs, magazines—very often suggests that if you truly love someone you love them no matter what. The concept of unconditional love isn’t bad in theory, but the practice of it becomes treacherous when the perception of love is distorted.
I had a first-hand experience with a life-wrecking relationship during college. I had a handsome, foreign boyfriend whom I found fascinating, and it took me a long time to realize his abusive nature. He was manipulative, unkind, and self-serving. I had this awful idea that love is hard and if I really loved him I would love him no matter what. My idea of love had been distorted, so I didn’t even realize that my tortured romance with him was unhealthy and destructive in every way. I even misinterpreted the Scripture below, thinking that God wanted me to endure the abuse in the name of love.
So what does make a good relationship? I think that the famous love chapter in 1 Corinthians lays a suitable foundation for a healthy relationship, romantic or platonic.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
These qualities of love build a relationship that is positive and Christ-like. And if you find that the opposite qualities are existing in any of your relationships, it’s time for you to make a change. When you heal a relationship, or even have to end one, your whole life benefits. A relationship that is Christ-like will be life-giving and affirming and will leave no room for abuse.
What changes can you make today to strengthen your relationships and adjust them to emulate the true love of God?