What’s Love Got to Do with It When My Relationships are Complicated?

Pastor Jon Brohn

1 John 1:1–2:2 (NIV) 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

My dear friends in Christ,

Last week we asked the question, “What’s love got to do with it when I feel like a failure?” Do you remember our answer to the question? We fail, but we are not failures because we are covered with Jesus’ agape love! Our question for today is, “What’s love got to do with it when my relationships are complicated?”

Since we did a little song based quiz last week, here’s the quiz for this week. Which of these song titles hits home when it comes to relationships? Complicated? Avril Lavigne’s song agrees! The Righteous Brothers lamented a broken relationship with their song, “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’.” We know it’s all over when we hear Travis Tritt’s song playing on the jukebox, “Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares,” followed by Taylor Swift emphatically singing, “Never Ever Getting Back Together Again.” No broken relationship would be complete without Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive.”

Songs like these may describe complicated relationships, but they don’t change the fact that we all have to deal with them. Just ask a teen who is starting to date. It’s complicated. “I like her. Does she like me?” “That person asked him to the dance, but I really wanted to ask him!” When the big date finally happens, fear goes hand in hand. “What if they don’t call me again?” That’s just the beginning of a complicated relationship. “What happens when we argue and fight? What do I do if we break up?” It’s complicated.

We don’t have to ask husbands and wives if relationships are complicated. It’s a fact. It takes work to communicate. We can’t read each other’s thoughts, even though sometimes we act like we can. We need to express what we want from our relationship without worry or fear, instead of shutting down and silently hiding what we need from our spouse. We make it complicated. We learn to live together in the same space but don’t always appreciate each other’s quirks and strange habits. We debate whether the dirty clothes go on the floor or in the laundry basket, and whether the toilet seat should be up or down. It’s complicated!

Family relationships are complicated. Children struggle with parents’ rules and assume that we are their jailers, or that we’re simply Amish. Parents’ sometimes see children’s quest for independence as straight up rebellion and give them zero freedom. As we grow older, the parent/child relationship grows even more complicated. Do I need to respect my parents’ wishes when I’m out on my own? Do my children have a say in what happens with my health and my property? It’s complicated!

Friendships can be complicated too. It doesn’t matter how old we are. First graders have a best friend one day, only to switch allegiance to their “new best friend” the next. Middle school students leave others out at lunch time or when it they pick teams at recess. Teens have their group, and it’s hard to break into the circle of friends to build a new relationship. It’s no different when we’re adults. We like the comfort of familiar faces. If someone new steps into the conversation, we stammer and wonder, “Why are they barging in?” It’s complicated.

What’s wrong with all these relationships? No matter what age, no matter what kind of relationship it is, we struggle because our sinful nature isn’t about building a working relationship with others. It’s only about SELF. Me. I’m the most important person in this world, and compared to me, no one else really matters. That complicates every relationship, including our relationship with God. John wrote, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship [a relationship] with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:5–6 NIV). The word John uses for fellowship is κοινωνία (koinonia). It describes a close, personal relationship with someone. Back in verse 3, we heard that we have a close, personal relationship with God the Father and with Jesus, his Son. It’s the treasure we heard about last week—being born of God through baptism. God called us to be closer to him than we are with anyone else.

Sin has complicated that relationship and strains it to the breaking point. We claim to have a close, personal relationship with God, and yet we walk in the darkness of our sin. We like to hide our sinful thoughts and actions in the darkness, and not live in the light. We try to excuse the ways we complicate our relationships. “It’s not my fault...” and “They never...” If we are blaming everyone else for the ways we mess up relationships, who is to blame for a messed up relationship with God? We try to blame him in the same way: “It’s not my fault...” “He never...” We can’t sidestep the reality that if we claim to believe God’s Word and continue to live in darkness, “We lie and do not live out the truth.” Our relationship with God worse than complicated. We’ve lost that loving feeling—God hasn’t. Unless we recognize that we are living in darkness and stop believing our lies, we truly will never ever get back together again. There’s no quarter, no phone call for any of us to call someone who cares. When we have rejected that relationship, there’s no one who can rescue us from the punishment that awaits us.

When a relationship goes bad, how can we mend a broken heart? It takes more than a song and drowning our sorrows with a spoon and a bucket of ice cream. We need someone to step in and help. Is there anyone who can repair our relationship with God? “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1 NIV). John’s heart goes out to us. He understood how complicated relationships could be with sinful people involved. “If anybody does sin.” Have we? Have we sinned in our relationships with each other? More than we want to admit. We have someone to repair the broken hearts we have left in our wake. Jesus is our Advocate. He speaks to the Father on our behalf. Jesus is the only one who can fix our most important relationship—the one we have with our heavenly Father and him.

Jesus fixed every relationship by being “The Righteous One.” Jesus had a perfect relationship with his Father—he never sinned. Jesus had a perfect relationship with his disciples. Here comes that word agape again! “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1 NIV). Jesus loved them with an unconditional, undeserved, self-sacrificing love! Jesus loved them to the end—the end of his life. He loves us exactly the same! That’s why John could write these priceless words: “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 NIV). There’s another one of those big Bible words: “atoning.” It takes us back to the temple where the high priest would sacrifice for his sins and for all of Israel’s sins. He took blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant. The blood was a symbol that the people’s sins were covered. They were “at one” with God. Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice. His blood covers the sins of the whole world. That includes us! We are all “at one” with God through faith in Jesus as our Savior! Our relationship with God is repaired! Jesus reminds the Father of that perfect relationship every day!

Jesus’ perfect sacrifice restored that relationship, but what about all the complicated relationships we still struggle with? We have messed things up with our spouse, our family, our friends, and our co-workers. We have said hurtful things, or said nothing at all. We have treated individuals as objects instead of God’s unique, beloved creations. We have excluded others from our circle of friends. The list goes on and on. When we acknowledge we have done these things and admit our sin, Jesus transfers his relationship with the Father to us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV). Jesus has washed us clean. He enables us to work on all of these messed up relationships. That’s not complicated. That’s Jesus’ promise. That’s what his love will accomplish. That’s why John could say, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NIV). We will survive all these complicated, sin stained relationships—thanks to Jesus!

Our beautiful relationship with the Father and the Son helps us work with each other. John said, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship [a relationship] with one another... My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin” (1 John 2:1; 1:7 NIV). Walking with Jesus and living in the light of his love gives us everything we need to have a strong fellowship, a vibrant relationship with each other. Teens, when you’re dating, look for someone who walks in the light, who lives in Jesus’ agape love too. Let the light of Jesus’ love direct your relationship, not your emotions or your desires. Spouses, spend time together in the light of Jesus’ love—spend time together in his Word and prayer. A strong relationship with Jesus will strengthen your relationship with each other. Families, walk in the light of Jesus’ love and let that direct all the important decisions you need to make. He will guide and bless whatever happens! Friends, walk in the light of Jesus’ love and see the person who needs a friend, who needs someone to talk to, someone to laugh with, and be that friend. Don’t forget, we can’t neglect our most important relationship. Solomon spoke this proverb, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV). Jesus is our perfect friend who sticks closer than a brother. He has repaired our relationship with our Father. He has forgiven all the sins we have committed in every one of our relationships. Spend some one on one time with him. Listen to his promises. He has called us his “Friends” (John 15:15 NIV)!

What’s love got to do with it when my relationships are complicated? Everything! Jesus’ agape love gives us a perfect relationship with him. Jesus’ love helps us repair and strengthen our relationships. That is not complicated! Amen!