As we travel the road of life, we are required to relate to many other people. These relationships may begin when I am but a child and diversify as I move through life. Some of them are rewarding and some of them I try avoiding. What makes a good relationship? Why am I drawn to some people and feel refreshed after meeting them? On other occasions, I will cross the street to avoid someone I do not enjoy.

I have asked myself what kept the Apostle Paul and Timothy together and so close? When Paul was in prison at the end of his life, he wrote to Timothy, and his love is expressed when he says, “…please come before winter…”. Of all of Paul’s friends and associates, he only names Timothy as his son. No one else earned that title. Why did Paul and Barnabas spiit up? They were both good men but could not do ministry together. Why were Peter James and John closer to Jesus that any of the other Apostle? They were the only ones on the Mount of Transfiguration. Was there something special in their relationship? Moses had a hard time relating to his sister. Saul found it impossible to relate to David. Lot had a hard time relating to his uncle, Abraham. And the list could go on.

I have found Paul’s writings challenging when he says, “Let no unwholesome conversation proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those that hear; and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God for whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you” [Ephesians 4:29-32]
That is the starting point for all good relationships.

Gordon MacDonald, in his book “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion”, addresses this subject of relationships. He groups all of our relationships into five categories. I’m sure all of us have been with people who have a different effect on us. This becomes important because it either builds my spiritual/emotional energy or robs me, and I feel depleted. It is important that we build a fence around our emotional lives and only certain people have the privilege of entering our personal space. I think this is what Paul meant when he told Timothy to be careful around certain people  “…for they did me much harm…”.

MacDonald’s first category of people is “Very resourceful people”. These are people who ignite our passion. There have been a very few people in my life who have done this. They have ignited a fire inside me. They are the mentors of my life. Paul certainly did this for Timothy, and others who became a part of his life. The first of these in my life that became significant, was a college teacher who ignited my passion for the study of history. The fire he started still burns today.  One hour spent with these people can become life a changer.

“Very Important People” is the second group of people we will meet. These are people who share my passion. We become like minded and our similar passion binds us together. These are people that I can share my problems with and they, in their journey, are able to help me. Together, we become vulnerable, and I am not fearful of them looking into my life and helping me to see what I could not see myself.

The third category of people I meet as I journey through life are “Very Trainable People”. These are people who catch my vision. They observe where I am going and want to get on my team because they want to go to the same place that I am going. They are very trainable, like a good horse who can be trained and seem to understand me. Could we put Elijah and Elisha in this category? Elisha wanted what Elijah had. He threw Elijah’s cloak on the Jordan river exclaiming, “Where is the God of Elijah”? Elisha wanted what Elijah had, and he received it, in fact he received it in a double portion.
“Very Nice people” is a fourth group of people we will meet as we go through life. These are people who enjoy our passion. These are people who like to be around us because we add fuel to their fire. They do not add anything to my life, but they enjoy being around me because they enjoy my passion. We enjoy being around these people because they enjoy being around us. Jesus’s life was full of these people. He fed them, He healed them, and He taught them the way of life. However, He was not swayed by their enthusiasm when they wanted to make Him King. These nice people can add helium to our balloon, and if we are not careful, our ego will overtake our balance and we will end up falling. Our world is filled with these people

There is a fifth group of people we will meet in our journey through life. They are called, “Very Draining People”. Have you ever met them? Hopefully you are not married to one of them. These are people who sap our passion. They put their straw into my life and suck the very life out of me. I must be careful, because Jesus loved these people, and I need to love them. I do not ignore them but must seek to help them to find their way through life. However, if I spend all my time with them, I will not find the very trainable people that can become tomorrow’s leader.

We will become like people we associate with. All of these people will at some time, find entry into our lives. Paul makes a very significant statement to Timothy in his letter to Timothy when he says, “beware of Alexander the coppersmith, for he did me much harm…”. Have you ever met an Alexander?

Our goal is to grow into people who reflect the image of Jesus. There are some people who will help us on that journey. They become models for us to follow. The Apostle Paul says repeatedly in his letters, “follow me, as I follow Christ”. We seek those who  will help us attain that goal. However, on the way, we will meet others who have different goals. At this point we must determine who to follow.

Is there someone in your relational world that you would like to imitate?

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