PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (Song 2:15 NKJV).
Nobody can make it in life without quality relationships. Your degree of success will be determined by the quality of your relationships. But there are little foxes that destroy relationships. They constitute threats to relationships, and it’s the responsibility of those in relationships – friendship, courtship, marriage, business, ministry, etc – to disallow any threat against the success of their relationships. “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes” (Song 2:15 NKJV). The New Living Translation says, “Quick! Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love, for the grapevines are all in blossom.”
Some of the threats to relationships I want to share with you are interwoven. You need to take care that they don’t creep into your relationships through you or others. If they’re already present, you need to deal with them for the survival of your relationships and for your own safety.
Sometimes, talking it over with the guilty party to remedy the situation may work if the relationship is important to the person. Sometimes prayer needs to be added to help the person overcome. However, sometimes the guilty party may react negatively or may make no effort to change, and the only alternative will be to minimize your investment into that relationship to minimize your loss if the relationship eventually collapses. In some relationships, it may just be right to quit. But if you’re the guilty party, repent for the sake of your relationships.
The Ten Threats
1. Unfaithfulness. Faithfulness is crucial in relationships. Faithfulness talks about dependability. In Numbers 12:7, God testified about Moses, “Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house” (NKJV). Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” (NKJV) Faithfulness is still a rare commodity today.
Can the person you have a relationship with depend on you or are you a fair-weather friend, unreliable? Can you stand with your friend in a moment of crisis or trouble? “Never abandon a friend — either yours or your father’s…” (Proverbs 27:10 NLT). Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (NLT). That is the normal thing to expect but sadly Proverbs 18:24 notes, “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (NLT). With such friends, you don’t need enemies! They are enemies and not friends – wolves in sheep’s clothing. Prophet Micah lamented: “The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net” (Micah 7:2 NKJV).
Unfaithfulness kills relationships, and can even kill those in relationships even if not all the parties. 1 Chronicles 10:13 says, “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance” (NKJV). Unfaithfulness to God killed Saul.
Unfaithfulness to God was also the reason the Israelites were carried into captivity. “So all Israel was recorded by genealogies, and indeed, they were inscribed in the book of the kings of Israel. But Judah was carried away captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness” (1Chronicles 9:1 NKJV). If they had stayed faithful to God, they would have remained in the land God had given them by covenant. But generation upon generation proved unfaithful until they were handed over to their enemies. “Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, And did not keep His testimonies, But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers; They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.” (Psalm 78:56-57 NKJV)
In relationships among humans, unfaithfulness is rampant. It is destroying relationships and causing serious pain including psychological trauma especially to the faithful partners in the affected relationships. Job lamented, “My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook, like the streams of the brooks that pass away” (Job 6:15 15 NKJV).
2. Distrust or mistrust. Distrust and mistrust are essentially the same. Distrust is “a feeling that somebody or something is dishonest or unreliable.” Mistrust refers to “suspicion about or lack of confidence in somebody or something.” Relationships will collapse if the trust is eroded. I have deliberately chosen to see trust as different from faithfulness. I view trust as flowing from faithfulness. There must be mutual trust for any relationship to be healthy and to continue to be robust. You don’t demand trust, you earn it.
Do you have a feeling that your partners in your relationships are dishonest or unreliable? Or is that the feeling they have about you? Do you trust each other or one another? Do they have a feeling that you’re dishonest or you have such a feeling towards them or him/her? Is there suspicion about you or you’re suspicious of them? You must deal with the root cause of distrust or mistrust or else it will destroy your relationship.
In Numbers 20:12, God indicted Moses and Aaron for not demonstrating trust in Him at Kadesh which cost them entry into the Promised Land. “Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (NKJV). The word “believe”, in this scripture, is talking about trust.
The children of Israel were also guilty of a lack of trust in God. Deuteronomy 1:31-32 says, “And in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God” (NKJV). Again, the word “believe” there talks about trust.
Still talking about the Israelites and their lack of trust in God, Deuteronomy 9:23 says, “Likewise, when the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and you did not believe Him nor obey His voice” (NKJV). The Israelites didn’t trust God, so they acted contrary to his word. Out of that adult generation, only Caleb and Joshua entered the Promised Land. The rest excluding children and the children of the rebellious adults died in forty years of wearisome journey in a circle in the wilderness.
Trust includes confidentiality – keeping his secret as a secret; no betrayal. “A gossip tells secrets, so don’t hang around with someone who talks too much” (Proverbs 20:19 NLT).
3. Hypocrisy. The word “hypocrisy” is from the Greek word hupokrisis meaning “acting a part” In the Greek drama, a hypocrite was someone who would wear a mask and played a part on the stage, mimicking the speech, body language, and behavior of the character portrayed in a play. He was an imitator, not a real person. Play-acting is detrimental to any relationship. Authenticity is vital in relationships. There is no way someone who is hypocritical can be trusted or one can continue to trust him because he cannot be faithful. People who are in relationships must be real and sincere to each other or one another. They must be genuine, not hypocritical.
Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites because of their duplicity and insincerity (Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). For example, Jesus said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:13-15 NKJV). Jesus didn’t spare them! In verses 23-30, he went further to highlight their insincerity which was clearly revealed in their teachings that didn’t face the reality but was like chasing the shadow. They left the fundamental issues but wasted their time on the non-essentials.
The psalmist expressed his abhorrence of hypocrites saying, “I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, nor will I go in with hypocrites” (Psalm 26:4 NKJV). Hypocrites are not people anyone will enjoy having a relationship with; they lack credibility. “He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself; When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart” (Proverbs 26:24-25 NKJV).
4. Lack of Understanding and intolerance. You need to show understanding and tolerance in your relationship with others. You need to understand where they’re coming from, what they’ve been through, etc. This will enable you to appreciate why they behave or talk the way they do and accommodate them. You need to be considerate and tolerate aspects of others that may be different from yours. Romans 15:1 says, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (NKJV).
Paul wrote about two of the women who worked with him but had issues with each other. They seemed not to be able to work harmoniously. It was such a concern to Paul that he wanted the church to intervene to resolve their differences. He said in Philippians 4:2-3 “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life” (NKJV).
5. Pride. Pride destroys relationships; humility will strengthen it. A feeling that you’re better than others is unhealthy for any relationship. Pride often causes quarrels or strife in relationships whether it is marriage, friendship, or business relationship. You must get off your high horse to relate with others you may be above in age, education, social status, etc. Proverbs 13:10 says, “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom” (NKJV). Titus 3:2 tells us to show true humility to everyone. 1 Peter 5:5-6 tells us to be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
One of the things the Bible tells us to put on in Colossians 3:12 is humility. Beware of pride. It will do your relationship no good, and it will do you personally no good. The Book of Proverbs talks a lot about pride and humility. Every child of God should listen to the word of wisdom contained therein. For instance, Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (NKJV). Proverbs 15:33 warns “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility” (NKJV). Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility” (NKJV). The aftermath of pride is always negative so avoid it. “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” (Proverbs 29:23 NKJV).
6. Lack of mutual respect. Pride can result in contempt for someone you’re in a relationship with. This will ultimately kill the relationship because everybody wants to be appreciated. We must honour each other.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “When Timothy comes, treat him with respect. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 16:10 NLT). He said further in verses 15-16: “You know that Stephanas and his household were the first to become Christians in Greece, and they are spending their lives in service to other Christians. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to respect them fully and others like them who serve with such real devotion” (NLT).
Paul later wrote about how Titus remembered the way the Corinthian church listened to him when he visited them and welcomed him with such respect and deep concern which was a confirmation of Paul’s earlier boast to him about them. (2 Corinthians 7:14-15)
Ephesians 5:33 says the wife must respect her husband, and 1 Peter 3:7 talks about the husband giving honour to the wife. Everybody is to be honoured – the elders are to be honoured; the masters should respect their servants; the bosses should respect their subordinates; the leaders and the followers should respect each other, etc.
There is no reason to despise anyone not even the person you have a relationship with. Job 36:5 says, “Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding” (NKJV).
7. Selfishness. Another word for selfishness is self-centredness. That is thinking about your own interest alone. Selfish people, with regard to discussion, food, space, etc, are usually concerned about three persons – me, I, and myself – just one person actually, themselves. Selfishness is a threat against any relationship. Philippians 2:3 says, “Don’t be selfish…” (NLT).
For any relationship to thrive, the parties must be unselfish. Don’t think of yourself alone and what you can get from the relationship. Don’t be a cheat, an exploiter, a gold digger. Be interested in the wellbeing and welfare of the others you have a relationship with. 1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (NKJV). James 3:15 says jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.
8. Unforgiveness. Are you quick to forgive or you keep records of offences? Be quick to forgive. “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4 NKJV). Jesus even raised the bar by saying that before you can stop forgiving someone, he must have sinned against you seventy times seven – 490 times! (Matthew 18: 21-22). That was another way of saying there’s no limit to forgiveness. Be quick to forgive. Colossians 3:13 talks about bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.
In any relationship, it is impossible that parties will not offend each other or one another. It is the ability to overlook wrongs that keeps relationships going. Proverbs 19:11 says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (NKJV). The New Living Translation renders it thus: “People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.”
9. Inadequate time for fellowship or communication. Fellowship or communication is pivotal to the success of any relationship. When open, sincere sharing or communication is reduced, life is going out of that relationship. Spend time together, communicate freely, interact sincerely.
Regarding relationship in the early church, the Bible says the new believers continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
Fellowship – communication, sharing – is vital to any relationship. Apostle John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NKJV). He says in verse 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (NKJV). Did you see the mention of fellowship in the two verses? The Greek word for fellowship is koinoonia, which means fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, contact. Any relationship without these will be sick, and may ultimately die. What is the quality of fellowship or communication in your relationship? Is it open and sincere? Or is it empty, cautious, and plastic (fake)?
10. Lack of love: If you think the threats I’ve discussed are too many, let me show you the shortcut. It is one that covers all, and that is LOVE. “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10 NKJV).
Mark 12:31 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (NKJV). I believe the golden rule – do to others as you want them to do to you – flows from this scripture. It can also be said the other way round – do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. Non-adherence to Mark 12:31 is the reason many relationships are sick or have even died. If you don’t love the person you’re in a relationship with as much as you love yourself you’ll be guilty of the other nine things I have discussed earlier in marriage, friendship, business partnership, or any other relationship.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us the attributes of love which is the foundation of any healthy and enduring relationship: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT). Also, Ephesians 4:2 tells believers to bear with one another in love.
Love is the weapon that will defeat and destroy threats against any relationship. “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18 NLT). Love will cover a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8). Love will overlook and forgive any wrong (Proverbs 19:11).
Conclusion: As it has been said, “Relationships are worth fighting for but you can’t be the only one fighting.” It takes all the parties involved in a relationship to make it work. Do your part but understand that not all relationships will work and not all relationships are worth fighting for. “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (Romans 12:18 NLT). Also, Hebrews 12:14 says, “Try to live in peace with everyone, and seek to live a clean and holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (NLT). Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love – your relationships.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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