In this series of relationship principles, this post is going to deal with the very basic rule of “moving toward” those that we love in relationship as it applies to conflict, intimacy, and everyday life.
The relationship principle of moving toward
This entire topic may seem like an overly basic principle of relationship building, but the act of moving toward does not come naturally to most people. In fact, if (like most people) you have ever experienced conflict, rejection, or isolation in a relationship, this principle actually requres intentionally moving in a direction that is in opposition to your nature.
My husband and I struggled with this quite a bit in the early days of our marriage and family life and had to learn that this is a better way- a more Christ-like, God-honoring way to live in good fellowship with one another. However, it can feel really vulnerable to love someone without the promise of a return on your investment. It’s scary seeking intimacy with someone who has wounded you. It’s hard pursuing difficult but neccessary conversations and initiating honest dialogue with a holy objective. But this practice promises to bear fruit because it images the love and relationship of Christ to His bride. It may not change your relationship in all the ways you’d like it to, but it will change you – and that change will be everlasting.
A simple definition of moving torward would be actively seeking good fellowship, intimacy, and reconciliation with the people whom I have determined to love. Notice this does not apply to everyone, but to whom it does apply, it does so without qualifications. Meaning, my commitment to move toward does not depend upon the actions of other people, but relies solely on my resolute belief that this is what obedience to Christ looks like. It means that my comfort and motivation is that the Holy Spirit is producing in me a character that reflects His nature.
Christ moves toward us
As Christians, all that we do is to be a reflection of the person and character of Jesus. This is our role as image bearers and as those who have been bought with His blood. Jesus moved toward us while we were guilty sinners. He loved us while we were unable to love Him in return. Not only that, but we were unlovely and unlovable. (Ephesians 2:5) But just as we were buried with Him in death and justified by His righteousness, we were also raised with Him in new life so that we might diplay the riches of His kindness toward us. (Col 2:6) He gives us this commission in His summary of the law: Love one another. (Matthew 22:37)
We can say boldly and mysteriously that His love is perfected in us when we love one another. (1 John 4: 12) So as imitators of Christ, we love others as He loves us- sacrificially, unselfishly, with unmerited forward movement toward them.
moving toward in conflict
Maybe the most difficult practice of moving toward is amidst conflict. So many of us have come to assosiate conflict with pain and discomfort. However, conflict doesn’t have to end in heartache, but can be used as a catayst for better understanding and greater intimacy. As you develop a healthy pattern of responding to conflict with communication, understanding, and reconciliation, it then ceases to be a traumatic experience and becomes an opportunity to grow together in grace.
Whether you are the aggressor or the wounded, you can choose to move toward. If you are in sin, the clear path forward is repentance- first to God, then to the offended. If you’re wounded, the path forward is to seek (and find) comfort in Christ and His ultimate victory over injustice. Then, if you are able, freely offer forgiveness. I once heard someone say that “harboring bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.” Forgiveness is not just a kindness to the offender. It is peace for you, freedom for you, and an opportunity to extend to others the grace that you have been given.
This transactional pattern of repentance and forgiveness creates an emotional climate of safety and stability where love and trust can flourish. And where there’s safety, there’s growth and intimacy.
moving toward in intimacy
We like to say that there are three needs that every person has: To be safe, known, and loved. As we grow and live together in the patterns of obedience, repentance, and faith, the bonds of love and trust are strengthened. Where there is trust, there can be honesty and openness. It’s almost as if the veil of darkness is lifted and we catch a glimpse of the sweet fellowship that God always intended- one where we can be seen and truly known.
With Christ as our foundation for relationships, we can love each other deeply in the details and the nuance. We can give freely of ourselves without expectations and recieve others with kindness and compassion. We can ackowledge our differences without being threatened by them. And we can voice our needs without fear of judgement. We can share the desires of our hearts knowing that they’ll be handled tenderly. This is what it is to be safe, known, and loved.
moving toward in daily life
I started this post by dealing with conflict because it really is where basic emotional safety begins. There is no hope for building on an unstable, unsafe foundation. But once there is safety and intimacy, there is opportunity for growth in the every day. As we faithfully move toward one another in the freedom of good fellowship, we build a life that produces space for one another to thrive. We nourish one another with the good news of the Gospel. We extend mercy, walk humbly, and care about not only the physical health and safety of those we love, but also begin tending the very souls that we so cherish.
Moving towards one another in daily life looks like finding a rhythm. By knowing and being known, we are able to anticipate the needs of others, pray for them, offer words of encouragement and comfort- even the gentle wounds of a friend. Because we consistently move toward one another in safety, we have built a relationship that can bear the weight of truth spoken in love. We can live out our faith together as both the iron that sharpens and the oils of blessing.
living the principle
This is a simplified picture of what it looks like to live and walk in obedience to Christ in our relationships. We move toward. We continue showing up, listening, and loving unconditionally- we embrace the vulnerability, uncertainty, and persistancy of being a friend.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,Philippians 2:5-8
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!