Biblical Foundations for Building Positive Relationships


Image: Jewish family walking through Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem. Israel. January, 2023. 

By Samantha Patrick – Founder CEO

In my reading of Genesis 1 recently, the Lord had me focusing on a specific part of the text. It states that we are made in His image. God then follows this by stating that we will rule. Rule over what? “The fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals, and over all the earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the earth.”
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves; and let them rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals, and over all the earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the earth.” So God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. God blessed them: God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.” Gen 1:26‭-‬28 CJB
Is the image of God in us therefore our ‘rulership’ over these things? It would make sense, as God is the supreme ruler, so our resemblance of Him is to rule with Him, but in a subordinate role. Did Adam and Eve walk in the image of God by walking out that rulership? No. The serpent would have known Adam and Eve’s position as rulers over him, so he came through deception.
“Remember, I [Jesus] have given you authority; so you can trample down snakes and scorpions, indeed, all the Enemy’s forces; and you will remain completely unharmed. Nevertheless, don’t be glad that the spirits submit to you; be glad that your names have been recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:19‭-‬20 CJB
Could it be that God’s positioning of Adam as having rulership over Eve is actually a demonstration of God’s provision and favour toward us to succeed? Unless God steps in, we have no hope. Eve had not exerted her authority over the serpent and therefore fell into sin. Has Adam’s rulership actually been repositioned, as more highly ranked above Eve, to ensure that Eve does not fall into sin, and also that he does not fall into sin, for Eve gave him the fruit? Does the man’s role as ruler above the wife actually look like that of a ‘spiritual guide’, someone who feeds, teaches and exhorts? Does not God himself, as ruler over all, feed, teach and exhort us to walk in His ordinances? Our rulership would therefore reflect His. In the case of Eve and the serpent, her rulership over the serpent did not implement God’s ordinances and therefore was not a reflection of God.
Is this role, as a ruler, actually God’s image reflected through Adam? Does this transform our perception of the consequence and of the word ‘rule’, that it is actually in God’s mercy after the fall that not only are we ruled by God and must follow His ordinances, but we are also given another governing body in a subordinate rulership position who is in human form and is positioned as head over the household to ensure the family remains in order. God’s order. That is a huge responsibility. That is also such an incredible demonstration of God’s love, that after the fall in the Garden of Eden, God set up a new structure to guard the family unit.
The woman’s role as ‘helper’ (Genesis 2:18) plays a huge part in ensuring that the man fulfils his role well. Resisting him and fighting against him only makes his role harder. Resisting and fighting is the opposite of helping. But also, in union with the image of God, the man must love his wife as Christ loves the Church, to lay down his life for her to walk in righteousness. The way the man communicates, matters. It should be a reflection of how Christ communicated when he walked among us, even in the case when people came against his authority. We want to submit to God’s authority when we have experienced His love personally. If we know God as an angry dictator who forces us into submission, then we are unlikely going to follow Him. All who have given their life to Christ have done so upon their own free will. With the millions of people who follow Christ, there must be something in Him worth following.
Husbands, if your wife is not following you, maybe this is an opportunity to reflect on how you are communicating with her. Is your communication consistent with how Jesus would communicate with her, even if she is yelling at you? Even Jesus loved those who were against Him. His love leads to their repentance. Is this love ‘rulership in action’ and exactly what God positioned you to do? Your love could lead to her repentance. Your love could lead her to trust you and follow you and therefore be walking in her God-ordained role of helper.
Both men and women must know that no-one is perfect other than God, and God’s image must be reflected through the act of mercy. For through the forgiveness of God demonstrated in Christ’s death and resurrection, and our receiving of this forgiveness, we become reunited in relationship with Him. Therefore, when we forgive one another, and truly receive that forgiveness without holding a grudge, we are reunited with one another and beautiful relationships are formed. God desires for us to experience a united marriage relationship and He set up a way for that to happen.
In all communications with one another in the marriage relationship, “Wives should submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord; because the husband is head of the wife, just as the Messiah, as head of the Messianic Community, is himself the one who keeps the body safe. Just as the Messianic Community submits to the Messiah, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22‭-‬24 CJB
“As for husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave himself up on its behalf, in order to set it apart for God, making it clean through immersion in the mikveh [Jewish ritual bath], so to speak, in order to present the Messianic Community to himself as a bride to be proud of, without a spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without defect. This is how husbands ought to love their wives — like their own bodies; for the man who loves his wife is loving himself. Why, no one ever hated his own flesh! On the contrary, he feeds it well and takes care of it, just as the Messiah does the Messianic Community, because we are parts of his Body. Ephesians 5:25-‬30 CJB
Children are significantly affected when marriage relationships are broken. Fighting and separation can take a toll on a child’s emotional wellbeing which can have a direct impact on their behaviour. How we feel can determine how we act, whether the behaviour is conscious or subconscious. A person’s behaviour is a form of communication that, if given the time to listen and decipher, can reveal much about a person’s life experiences. It impacts educational outcomes. Even as adults, we know how difficult it can be to focus on a task when we are sad. This sadness can lead to such behaviours as reclusiveness and outbursts of anger. For those children who struggle with anger due to these emotional difficulties, subsequent behaviours can lead to eventual suspension, and for some, expulsion. There are many, varying reasons for children’s behaviour, with the impact of parental fighting being one of them.
But there is hope. No-one is perfect and I have seen the incredible power of forgiveness in rebuilding relationships between parents and their children. When there is forgiveness, children’s physical aggression can turn into a desire to be close to their parents. It comes through the act of saying sorry. Not only the child, but the parents too. When parents say sorry to their children for their yelling at one another and their yelling at or hitting (spanking) the child, this becomes a beautiful model of humility that the child is then able to reflect themselves. With an apology comes a promise to the child. It is a promise to make a change. This is repentance. Where the child is hitting, there should be a ‘no tolerance’ approach to hitting. If you are allowed to hit (spank) your child but your child is not allowed to hit you, then I personally believe that this is abusing your power over the child. Again, this goes for yelling. No-one deserves to be hit or yelled at, regardless of age. I’ve never read an account in the Bible of Jesus using an implement or his hand, or yelling at someone to lead them to repentance. It is God’s kindness that leads us to turn from our sins (Romans 2:4).  What I have read though is how He was treated and how He forgave when it was within His power to punish.
Just like God created us in His image to reflect His image, children reflect the image of parents. If you hit, they will hit. If you yell, they will yell. Children are great imitators. Children also respond out of hurt. If they witness their parents hurting one another, whether it be physically or verbally, it can affect their relationship toward their parents, and this can be seen in their behaviour toward them. It is important to address parental fighting not just for the sake of the marital relationship, but for the sake of the children.
There is incredible value and blessing in establishing positive relationships in the home built upon biblical principles so that all can thrive. Where children are struggling with unfruitful behaviours, consider looking in. The Bible teaches to, “First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!” Matthew 7:5CJB. It is much easier to make changes in your own life than it is to try to change someone else. You may realise that a change in how you speak and act toward your spouse and children may indirectly lead to a change in how your spouse or child interacts with you.
God has given a model for positive marital relationships. It is worth pursuing. I have personally observed how walking according to God’s ways brings blessing to family relationships. God speaks this promise to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy, “The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deut 30:9-10 NKJV
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