In my Christian walk, I have been hurt by more pastors and my brothers and sisters in Christ than anyone else. This is hard to believe because anyone who calls themselves Christians should never take advantage of the kindness or love of their sibling in Christ because they are supposed to share the same Spirit. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes people are people and they will tell you what you want to hear to get their desired result, whatever that result may be. It could be financial assistance, assistance with work, or even a position of authority within the church. Regardless of what their desired results are, their intentions are far from holy. It is due to people like this that so many people run from churches today! So what do we do about developing a healthy relationship with someone without being cynical? How can we focus on being Christ-like without being taken advantage of? I would like to answer these questions by sharing a biblical account of someone who told God’s people what they wanted to hear to get a peace treaty with them. Then, I will share with you the two main issues that allowed God’s people to be taken advantage of, and lastly, I would like to give some practical/biblical ways to ensure you are having healthy relationships with others. To begin this message, I must first share some biblical history to show a circumstance where God’s people were taken advantage of.
In the ninth chapter of the book of Joshua, Joshua and the armies of Israel were destroying their enemies just like God commanded them to do when they entered the promised land. Many people started to talk about their victories and the power of their God. People knew how God freed the people from Egypt and how they walked on dry land into safety from their past oppressors. God’s people conquered Sihon and Og (Numbers 21:21-25; Deuteronomy 2:26-3:11) and at this point had victories over Jericho and Ai. The fear of God and His people started to spread around all the cities and their surrounding regions. So what happened in Joshua 9? The Gibeonites were convinced that they could not defeat Israel’s armies so they sent emissaries to Joshua and his people. They disguised themselves as weary and worn travels who have been traveling from a far off distance to meet them. They went above and beyond to show that they have traveled from a far off land, even though it was a complete lie. They arrived with old and patched wineskins, sandals worn thin, and had dry and moldy bread (Joshua 9:4-6).
When confronted, they gave untruthful answers. They told Joshua that they came from a far off land to make a treaty with them. They heavily emphasized that they were from a far off country to try and fool him. The Gibeonites had become aware of the provisions of the Mosaic Law permitting Israel to make peace with cities that were from a far distance, however, they were to destroy all the nearby cities. So, in fear of their lives, they lied to get what they needed from God’s people, and they did. At first, Joshua and his staff were hesitant and not altogether convinced but they did not seem evil. Joshua asked probing questions to try to get the truth of their story and motives but they were great liars. So they got their treaty because they failed to do one thing.
It is written, “So the [Israelite] men partook of their food and did not consult the Lord. Joshua made peace with them, covenanting with them to let them live, and the assembly’s leaders swore to them,” (Joshua 9:14-15, AMP).
There are many lessons that we can learn from this biblical account of deception, however, I would like to focus on two of them. First, evil people (people with selfish motives) seldomly look evil. They are friendly and will tell you what they want to get the desired outcome from a relationship with you. Evil people often try to take advantage of the righteous, because they know that the righteous people of God will always give them the benefit of the doubt or forgive them for a trespass that they have committed (or will commit). This is something to be careful about because there are many great liars in this world. From the biblical account that I shared with you, notice that the Gibeonites did not mention Israel’s victories over Jericho or Ai. If they did, Joshua and his counsel would know that they were from a nearby city. They told God’s people enough to make their story believable.
With this misdirection and their credentials (dry moldy bread and their appearance), they got what they wanted from God’s people. Where they deserved death, they received mercy from their deception. They got what they wanted and God’s people could not do what God originally commanded them to do because of it. They were compromised and this compromise leads to idolatry down the line in many generations. This teaches us that if we are not careful of developing a friendship or relationship with someone that is not healthy for us. We never know how it will impact us or our families down the line. We must be careful who we let into our lives and who we extend ourselves to. This does not mean that we should not help people, what I mean is to properly investigate the motives of the people who want something from you, to begin with.
The second lesson that we learn from this biblical account is that God’s people did not seek direction from God, to begin with. Did Joshua think the evidence that the people brought to him was beyond question or that he did not want to bother God with a trivial matter? We will never know that answer. However, we do know the negative outcome that came from their failure to bring the issue to God. It is written, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that,” (James 4:13-15, NASB). I share this Scripture with everyone here today because it is a reminder that every single thing, big or little, must be brought to God first. We must focus on what God’s will is for all situations and things in our lives. The moment that we take it upon ourselves to decide without first praying for discernment, it can cause us to be put in a very difficult situation that will only bring further hardships for us in the future.
Now as a Christian how can we develop healthy relationships with people instead of becoming cynical for being hurt by past experiences? From God’s Word, I have come up with seven things to identify if you are in a healthy relationship or not. Regardless if they are Christian or not.
(1) Proverbs 4:23 teaches us that we must guard our hearts. This is because our hearts are deceptive and we are easily confused by someone telling us something that we want to hear. Since our hearts are our moral compasses, we must ensure that we protect it first and foremost. If not, ur hearts will fool us to make unwise decisions in life.
(2) 1 Corinthians 13:7 teaches us that true love always protects the purity of all things. A person who truly loves someone else will always strive to focus on their spiritual, physical, and emotional well being. This is true in any healthy relationship. Are those around you trying to help you be a better person or are they holding you back in life? You must inspect and reflect on all your relationships to identify this.
(3) 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 teaches us to measure ourselves with the very definition of love. Since love is patient, kind, does not envy does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, always protects, always hopes, always perseveres, etc. These are then benchmarks that a healthy relationship is built upon.
(4) Romans 14:13 teaches us to never become a stumbling block for a fellow brother or sister. Even though we cannot control people’s actions, we must be considerate of their shortcomings and their struggles. We must be careful not to tempt them to sin or condone sin in their lives.
(5) Joshua 9:14-15 teaches us to consult God for everything. If you feel that something is off in a person or relationship, bring it to God for counsel. Pray and dig into His Word for illumination. God cares about the big and the little things in our lives. This is especially true for healthy relationships. God will never have His children in a negative relationship, just like a parent, you want the best for your child.
(6) Proverbs 13:20 teaches us to ensure the people we surround ourselves with are wise and healthy, if not, we can suffer from their foolishness.
(7) John 15:13 teaches us that there is no greater love than someone willing to lay their life down for another. If you are not a priority in a relationship, then it is not a healthy relationship, to begin with. There must be a compromise of each party’s interests and wellbeing. A healthy relationship is never one-sided and this is normally the main marker of an unhealthy relationship.
Ultimately, in this message, I have shared with you a biblical account of people taking advantage of the righteousness of God’s people, two main lessons from that biblical account, and seven ways to identify if a relationship is healthy or not. As Christians, we must expect to be hurt. We are called to carry our cross, forgive our brothers and sisters, to extend mercy and grace to all, to turn the other cheek, and to be the best ambassadors for Christ that we can be. However, we are never called to be victims or to allow ourselves to be compromised by negative or toxic people. It is OK to forgive someone and never let them back into your life again. If not, you are not protecting your heart. How can we develop a solid inner circle that prays, encourages one another, and pushes for greatness if we are not wise in who we allow into our lives? We can’t.
So regardless of who the person is or the circumstance you find yourself in, remember the story of Joshua and the seven Scriptures that I shared with you today. If you are in a healthy relationship, develop it! If you are in an unhealthy relationship, have them bounce and keep on rolling. This is also true for any circumstance or situation that you may find yourself in. If it is healthy and godly, continue moving forward. If not, give it to God and move on. At the end of the day, people with evil intentions will only want until they are satisfied, however, God calls us to learn from past deceptions in our lives and in His Word so we can make wise decisions in life. If we fail to do this, we are choosing to live in bondage and slavery. I do not know about you, but I am called to be free in Christ. I will never run back to unhealthy relationships and neither should you. Amen!