When I was in graduate school studying interpersonal communications, I took a class called “Relationships.” The course was a study of romantic relationships with significant others. When you think about this course, it is easy to think that it might be fun as we often focus on the beginnings of relationships: attraction, increase of knowledge of the other, positive feelings toward another, increase of time having fun with shared joint activities. This continues until a couple is ready to make a long-term commitment to one another.
Most of us don’t focus on the deterioration of relationships, withdrawal, decline in self disclosure, deception and an increase in negative messages, but we had to study that too. Relationships turn sour and end, sometimes in a manner that can be truly hurtful.
Pastor John Bevere* begins Chapter 8 of his book discussing one of the most damaging things that can happen in a relationship, an affair. He details the steps from meeting and getting acquainted and the spark that can occur as one finds another human being physically and emotionally desirable. Connection begins through increased phone calls, texts and emails. For many, this leads to meetings over coffee, lunch or even private meetings in secluded places. This continues to the point where the couple longs to be with each other, even if this is unspoken. Their relationship has gone much further than simple friendship. The people involved no longer think of their spouses; they are totally absorbed with their new relationship.
When did this affair begin to spiral out of control?
Bevere says it began in the meeting and getting acquainted stage: once a person’s affections swing toward another person.
Why does Bevere use this example in his Chapter entitled “Friendship?” Because many Christians fall “out of love” with God and fall “in love” with the world. I have had days when I have been lost, my relationship with God has grown dry and dull. To quote the classic B.B.King song, “The Thrill is Gone.” At those times, Bevere says we are in danger of finding our interests drawn toward the world. It may be something humorous, pleasurable, comfortable, exciting, intriguing, or something promising worldly success. Anything that we find appealing when we are struggling with life and God does not seem to be around.
Bevere states that the whole situation is comparable to a setting on a thermostat.
Did I just say thermostat? Yes I did.
Years earlier a person’s mind is set. Using relationships as our reference point, a person desires to be with another. Their mind is set on another person like a thermostat is set to a certain temperature. What happens when a door is left open in the winter and frigid air comes into the house? The temperature is reduced and the thermostat clicks on to bring heat into a home. The thermostat reverts to its default setting, the temperature you desire in your home.
How does this relate to the believer? When we are saved, we think about Jesus a lot, when we wake up, eat breakfast, drive the car, on the job, during lunch, after work, when alone and especially lying in bed at night. We long for fellowship with God. Is your new relationship with God where your mind is set or is it just a time when a change in temperature has occurred and you will revert to a preset default after the “door is closed.” Time passes with God just like time passes with a spouse. We are physically in church but mentally we may be somewhere else, watching our favorite football team, hitting a beautiful golf shot, saving money at a sale in a department store or even a big business deal in the future.
What has happened?
You have drifted away from God. Have you drifted away due to some temporary weakness in your relationship or have you drifted away to where your mind is set, to what you are really passionate about? You are not really passionate about God.
“For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” [Romans 8: 5-7].
Let me close with a definition of enmity. The word means “hostility…a reason for opposition.” Hostility toward God is not a good thing.
In relationship deterioration, hostility is one of the key signs of relationship trouble.
The big question is, is the hostility a sign that the relationship is terminating or is it just a symptom of your mental system trying to return to a default status? You are riding out the tough times and you will return to your love of God eventually.
It all comes down to a single choice for many Christians: you have to choose the world or you have to choose God.
*author of Good or God?