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Five Ways to Grow, Part 3: Grow Relationally

One of the most unusual verses of the Bible is Luke 2:52: “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” It makes sense that Jesus Christ, as a 12-year-old, grew in stature because physical growth is simply what happens. But how could it be that He grew in wisdom, or in favor with God? How could it be that He increased in favor with His neighbors in Nazareth? Was He imperfect in some way when He was younger?

Of course we would affirm that the Lord Jesus was never imperfect in any moral sense. Further, as a 12-year-old He had already engaged in profound conversations about the Scriptures with the teachers of the Law of Moses. Yet somehow, from a human standpoint, He experienced the same type of progressive increase in wisdom, spiritual progress, and social relationships that any of us might have during our teens and 20s.

Growth in our social awareness and relationships is important. Otherwise the Spirit of God would not have taken the space to include it in this amazing verse about the personal growth of Jesus in His adolescent and young-adult years. Here are a few more thoughts about this important aspect of personal development.

Grow relationally

One of the most significant skills for relationship-building is the ability to talk with anyone. Learn to make conversation in a relaxed yet genuine manner. “Small talk” often leads to much bigger, deeper discussions. The apostle Paul could talk with the educated and the simple, with men and women, with people of his own culture and those of completely different cultures, and with paupers and kings. 

Develop the habit of asking others about their lives. Talk less about yourself; avoid the temptation to insert your own story into someone else’s. If you do mention your own experiences, learn to send the conversation back to others by asking them questions. Keep conversations going by asking, “What was that like?” 

If people trust you with their personal griefs and struggles in their conversations, you have been granted a great gift. Treat their confidence in you as a holy thing that must never be betrayed. Don’t tell even one other person, not even by using the infamous phrase, “Don’t tell anyone else, but ….”

Be kind. Be careful with sarcasm. Words spoken in jest can cause the same kind of damage as flaming arrows since “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 26:18-19; 18:21).

Every relationship of any depth will have to face conflict. Learn to address it head-on instead of avoiding it, for conflict unaddressed will fester like an infected sore. As far as it depends on you, always seek resolution. Conflicts are opportunities for growth! It’s your big chance to apply biblical principles of conflict resolution.

Don’t rush romance

Don’t rush romantic relationships. It’s not wise to expend emotional energy on someone you would never consider marrying. But if you develop an interest in someone, be real about it! Prove by your actions that you’re interested, and stay the course if an initial response of interest seems to cool off a little. 

Make sure the person you’re interested in shares your priorities, spiritual and otherwise, before marriage. It is most unwise to believe you will change that person later. Someone else gave me this good advice as a teenager: “If you marry the wrong person, you will be lonelier than you ever might have felt when you were single.”

Honor the sanctity of physical intimacy. Sex affects relationships because that’s what God intended it to do (Prov. 6:27-28). And if you are confident that God has brought the two of you together, don’t wait too long to get married! The Bible very realistically counsels that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).

Once married, be determined to remain together. Marriage is always work. If God has brought you together, He will also be able to keep you together even when your marriage encounters very rough waters.

Made for relationships

Relationships are one of the highest aspects of human experience since God has formed us for social interaction and community. There are many challenges in our days to maintain all relationships with dignity, respect, and equality. This is true regarding any other human being, and it is even more meaningful in the Church. Reject partisan attitudes while making every effort to guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

When it comes to heavenly rewards, the crown of rejoicing is reserved for those who use their gifts and relationships for the spiritual benefit and progress of others (1 Th. 2:19). As you grow relationally, you are fulfilling part of the purpose God always had in mind for you.

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