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Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism© is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Minimizing Detrimental Relationships

Hello, everyone!

First, I want to say a big, hearty "Welcome!" to all of the new subscribers!  I am ever so grateful to have you on board.  God has blessed me again and again by your support and encouragement!

I'll be honest.  I have been trying with all my might to move on to the 5th slice of the Whole-Person Pie©, and let me just tell you, it is a tough one because it is all about relationships.  I have spent hours seeking the Lord for extra help on this one.  Relationships are tricky, and handling them in a Christlike manner is challenging.

Each one of the eight "slices" of the Whole-Person Pie© presents its own unique challenges, but the relational slice is the one that most affects other people and their feelings.  It is one thing to work on ourselves and minimize the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional excess because all of those categories are, for the most part, internal and personal.  It is quite another to analyze and work on the relationships in our lives because they involve the external and other human beings.

No man is an island.  Even the most reclusive of us must have contact with another human being at some time or another and the things we do and the choices we make absolutely affects other people.

There are basically two kinds of relationships—those we choose and those in which we are involved through no choice of our own.

"No Choice" Relationships

Examples of relationships that are woven into the fabric of our lives outside of anything we can control are close and extended family members, in-laws, co-workers, fellow church members, and business associates.  These people are a part of our lives by default, but they are not there by accident.  As Christians, we know that everything that touches our lives has first passed through the hands of our Creator, and He is winnowing our path—leaving in and taking out according to His will.  We do not have the option of choosing our grand-parents, parents, siblings, or extended family members.  We have no control over the people who work with and around us, who choose to go to the same church we do, or who are a part of the business networks that life and careers dictate and require.  We have no power to choose who our close and extended family members marry or have as friends.  Though we do have the privilege of choosing who we marry, we have no control over who their parents, siblings, extended family members, or friends happen to be.  If we find them to be difficult, we have the option of not marrying the one we love because of our dislike for their family, but if we choose to unite in marriage with someone, their family will inevitably be a part of our lives as a part of the "package."

"No Choice," uninvited relationships encompass all of the people who are a part of our lives (whether we want them to be or not) due to circumstances that we did not cause or create.  They are in our lives outside the realm of our own preference or choosing.

Choice Relationships

These are the relationships over which we have full control.  Each person who falls into this category is there because we have invited them to be.  I have heard the comment, "If we weren't family, we surely wouldn't be friends."  When "no-choice" relationships happen to also be "choice" relationships, it is a rare gift!

The Inner Circle

Each one of us has an "inner circle"—a place occupied by select people that we choose to allow in.  The people in closest proximity to us, whether they be "choice" or "no choice" relationships, greatly influence and affect us, either for good or bad.  Biblical minimalism is the pursuit of bringing every area of our lives into alignment with how Jesus lived His life and wants us to live ours.  This surely includes making sure we are selective with who we permit into our inner circle—that part of our relationships over which we have complete jurisdiction.

There is a big difference in someone being a part of our lives and someone being a part of our inner circle.  Just because someone is in our lives due to circumstances beyond our control (whether by birth, marriage, or other reasons) does not mean this person has earned the right to be in our inner circle, nor does it mean they should be in our inner circle.

Jesus had a close inner circle.  He spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness, being sorely tested and tried by satan, before He made the decision as to whom He would choose to be His elect twelve closest followers.  This was one of the most weighty decisions Jesus made while walking this earth.  He had to get it right.  Of the twelve He chose, only three were included in certain situations.  The Bible doesn't specifically divulge His reasons for giving Peter, James, and John exclusive access to particular events, but we know they were the only three who were invited to witness The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), His raising Jairus' daughter from the dead (Luke 8:49-51), and to be the most intimate witnesses to His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-37).  There are many thoughts and theories on why these three men were particularly chosen for such monumental events in Jesus' life, but regardless what His reasons were, it is clear that Jesus chose to have a deliberately-chosen circle of twelve friends, with only three of those friends being granted fuller access.

Everything Jesus did while on earth was intentional.  Every decision He made was full of purpose. It is important imperative that we pay attention to the details if we are to successfully follow Him.  He didn't just choose Peter, James, and John to be granted a higher level of access at one time, but this happened three distinct times.  (There may have been more, but we are told of three.)  This was a well-planned and purposely-considered pattern of behavior, and it should not be overlooked as we seek to align our walk of faith with the way our Master lived.

There are people in all of our lives who are a detrimental influence.  Perhaps they are friends with whom we had a relationship before becoming a disciple of Jesus.  If we are choosing to follow Him and they are continuing to walk a path that is contrary to the way Jesus lived His life, sometimes this conflict of interest evolves into a fork in the road where a parting of ways is necessary for our spiritual wellbeing.  I am not defending adopting a "holier-than-thou" mindset or that we should ever judge others, but I am saying that it is so easy to be drawn back into pre-Christian behavior if we continue to keep ungodly influence in our inner circle.

PLEASE NOTE:  (Due to complexity and post length, I am purposely not including marital relationships or relationships with children in this mix.  For the sake of this discussion, my intentions are strictly to include and explore all relationships, other than spousal and parental.)

If detrimental relationships are ones that we have chosen and invited into our lives, it is a fairly simple process to minimize or completely eliminate contact.  Not that it will be easy or without fallout, but by God's grace, it can, and probably should be done.  It is quite a different situation when the destructive relationship is a part of our lives by default, such as with a parent, sibling, in-law, or other close or extended relative.  What to do then?  It is heartbreaking and complicated to come to the realization that someone we dearly love or someone with whom we cannot completely avoid contact is bringing ungodly influence into our lives simply by being a part of it.

We cannot change another person or their destructive habits and behavior no matter how much we want to, and the best things we can do are to pray for them and gently pull away for the sake of our own Christian walk.  This is never going to be easy, and misunderstanding is sometimes a sad albeit inevitable repercussion because sensitive feelings and emotions of others are involved.  Those who are not following Jesus will not understand the motivations of those who want to follow Him with all their hearts.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  1 Corinthians 2:14  (KJV)

When we become a Christian, we are a new creation.  Our hearts are regenerated, and we are changed from the inside out.  That change will manifest in every area of our lives, including the selection of those in our inner circle.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  2 Corinthians 5:17  (KJV)

All of us have dealt with rejection, betrayal, and hurt, and it is hard to think that due to a choice we initiate, however necessary it may be, a loved one may experience similar pain.  When it becomes obvious to us that we need to "evict" someone from our inner circle or put some distance between ourselves and another person, it is so important to seek God's will and ask for Holy Spirit discernment and wisdom concerning the imminent misunderstandings that will ensue in the aftermath of severed or minimized relationships.

Jesus understands hard choices.  There is no situation we will ever face that He has not already encountered something similar.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15  (KJV)

Jesus absolutely dealt with relatives and loved ones who were a source of vexation.  

"He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him."  John 1:11  (NLT)

Concerning familial relationships, Jesus said,

"For Jesus, Himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country."  John 4:44  (KJV)

"And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."  Matthew 10:36  (KJV)

Remember when Jesus was rejected in His own hometown?  They not only rejected Him, they tried to push Him over a cliff!  (You can read all about it in Luke 4:16-30.)

I find it very interesting that after His hometown showed such blatant disrespect, disregard, and complete repudiation, Jesus did not linger around and keep wasting time on such detrimental relationships.  He knew the dangers of listening to the wrong things for too long, and He refused to allow anyone to deter Him from His purpose.  He got away from them, and He moved on to pour His heart into those who would listen to Him, accept Him, and who were hungry for the truth.  Luke 4:30-32 says, "But He walked right through the crowd and went on his way.  Then He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath He taught the people.  They were amazed at His teaching because His words had authority."  (NIV)

Jesus did not condone, nor did He require His disciples to keep pursuing such frustration and vexation.

To His disciples, He said, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."  Matthew 10:14  (KJV)

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."  Matthew 7:6  (KJV)

Here are some questions you may want to ask as you seek God's will concerning the need of minimizing relationships in your life.
  • Is this person a part of my life by choice or because of circumstances I did not create or cause?
  • What is my first gut feeling when I think of this person?  Is it negative or positive?
  • Is this person controlling me?  
  • Am I under bondage to this person?  
  • Do I feel the need to seek this person's approval before making decisions? 
  • Am I afraid of this person?
  • Is this person Godly?  
  • Does this person maintain a close relationship with Jesus and seek to follow Him in their daily life?  
  • Should I be listening to and following this person's advice?
  • Do I want my life to turn out like theirs?
  • How do I feel after being around this person?  
  • Does this person fill my cup or drain it?
  • Does this person inspire me to press in closer to Christ?
  • Do I feel like I can never please this person?
  • Does God require me to continue to try to please them?
  • Has this person ever hurt me in any way?  
  • Do I need to forgive this person? 
  • Do I hate this person?
  • Do I want God to bless this person?
  • Do I have a choice as to whether or not I am around this person?
  • Do thoughts of this person bring on anxiety?
  • Am I comfortable being around this person?
  • Does this person make me feel inferior?
  • Is this person in my inner circle?
  • Should this person be in my inner circle?  Have they earned the right?
  • Does this person remind me a lot of Jesus?
  • How does this person feel about Jesus?
  • Do I want to be like this person?
  • Would I want others to view me like I view this person?
  • Do I owe this person an apology?
  • Do I owe this person anything?
  • Is this a relationship I should gently, but firmly eliminate from my life?
  • If so, is this a relationship that I can eliminate from my life?
  • If not, what changes can I make to minimize contact and influence without being unlike Christ?
  • Do I feel obligated to this person?  Why?
  • Would Jesus allow this person to dictate His decisions?
  • Would He advise one of His disciples to shake off the dust and move on from this person?
In this post that was recently published on No Sidebar, I identified ten warning signs of a potentially toxic friendship.  The things I talked about could apply to familial and other relationships as well as friendships.

Biblical minimalism is about cleansing and purging the toxins, shedding the excess, minimizing what distracts us from wholeheartedly following and serving Christ.  In closing, here are some Scriptures that will help as you search your soul regarding the relationships you are allowing to be a part of your life, especially the ones in your inner circle.  This is so important to your well-being and to the measure of your success in following Jesus and living a life of peace.

"Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals."  I Corinthians 15:33  (ESV)

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"  2 Corinthians 6:14  (ESV)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil."  Proverbs 3:5-7  (ESV)

Who is in your inner circle?  Whose advice are you listening to? Whose approval do you seek?  Whose feedback are you influenced by?  Whose attitude is affecting yours?  Who are you allowing to sway your thinking and worldview?  Who are your friends?  Of those friends, who are you closest to?

As we continue to follow this path toward living a peace-filled, Godly, minimal, Jesus-honoring life, relationships play a vital role.  Though it is a challenging process to sincerely lay them out before the Lord and seek His will concerning whether or not there is a need for purging in this area, it is an extremely worthy and necessary endeavor.  God bless you as you seek His will and give you the courage to follow Him wholeheartedly.


6 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, what a deep post. I truly found your questions very accurate as the way to judge whether a relationship is a positive one or a negative one. I'm sure we have all had troublesome relationships that could certainly use some examination using your questions as a guide. Thank you for your loving spirit and open heart in sharing your thoughts with your readers.

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    1. Thank you so much, dear friend. I am so grateful for your kind words! I have been thinking of you and praying for you. I can't remember if I owe you an email! If I do, please forgive me. Life has been so busy lately. Take good care, and God bless you richly!

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  2. Dear Cheryl,
    Oh thank you for pouring out your heart here, for us to ponder at the Lord's feet with you. It is something that I've been praying over also. Thank you for reminding us that even in these hard topics, Jesus has set the example for us, and wants to help us even now. May I allow Him full access to peer deeply into my own heart. Blessings, love and hugs to you!

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    1. Oh, dear friend! Thank you. I am so thankful Jesus has set the example for us, as you said. Thinking of you and praying for you and sending blessings, love, and hugs back to you!

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  3. Hi Cheryl,

    I am going to share this post with my daughter. She is in an impossible situation right now with her extended family who are extremely toxic and controlling, and it's weighing on her and causing undo stress which is not good for the baby that she is carrying which is do the first week in November when she and myself are concerned she "hasn't seen anything yet" as far as total disregard to boundaries by these people.

    I feel you treated this subject with incredible humility and Godly wisdom. I appreciate you and your writing so much. You are such an incredible blessing to me.

    Sending you much love and gratitude.

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    1. Oh, Karen! Your dear daughter! I am so very sorry to know she is enduring such stress and the overriding of her boundaries. I do trust God will please alleviate this situation for her. It is SO difficult when it involves in-laws, because of the close, sensitive feelings of one's spouse. Being a Christian woman who strives to live in Biblical submission to her husband can make it all even more challenging. I will surely be praying for your precious daughter and trusting God to please work this all out for her. Sending much love to both of you, dear friend. You are surely an incredible blessing to me, too.

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