Do you know the old saying? “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is a lie. Most times, words hurt far more than sticks and stones. Relationships can be hard. It doesn’t take long for you to discover; as life giving as relationships can be is equally as hurtful as relationships can be. That’s why we are jumping into this relationship series. How do we grow up? How do we have emotional healthy relationships?

There are three parts to this series. Part 1 is the Sunday morning times together. We will be teaching about what it means to be people who are in Emotionally Healthy Relationships. Part 2 is a 40 day discipleship that you do at home. It’s the book called, ‘Emotionally Healthy Relationships.’ Here is how it works. From Monday to Friday, each day, there is a morning and evening thought and prayer. To get the most of out of this series, slow down and walk through each thought and prayer at regular times. This book can be a relationship changer if you walk through it with someone like your spouse or friends. Lastly, Part 3 is the practical part. The author of this series in a DVD series, after church, teaches practical relationship life skills.

We open the series today with THEE relationship test. How do you know when you need to do some heart work? That is THEE relationship test. To discover the answer, let’s jump into scripture. A couple of weeks ago, we read the story of the prodigal son, or some call it that lost son. It’s a story about two sons. The younger son left home and blew all his money. The older son stayed home and worked very hard. In this story, both sons were lost but only the younger brother realized how lost he was and came home.

25 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26 Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. 27 He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast – barbecued beef! – because he has him home safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. 29 The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? 30 Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours –   32 but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!'” MSG Luke 15:25-32

When the older brother found out that his younger brother was home, did you notice something was missing? Did you find it odd that he wasn’t happy for his younger brother? Actually; the surprise was, he was angry and selfish.   How does that happen? How did his heart become so cold? Why was his obedience missing joy? Why can someone go to church and still become selfish?

Here is the answer from the story: The older brother wasn’t in a relationship with his father. He didn’t hang out with his father. He didn’t enjoy his father. And because of that, for him, life was all about work and doing the right things. Notice, his life wasn’t about relationship, it was about performance. Or we could say, ‘Getting things done.’ He became damaged in his heart. He didn’t see things correctly. He was comparing and measuring his performance. He couldn’t see what was most important in life (relationships). Because of that heart damage, he became selfish; he wanted his father to have a party for him. He became angry; he couldn’t be happy for his brother.

The tragedy for the older brother was, that he never saw how lost he really was. In his mind, he was the good brother. He did all the right things. He was obedient. He was faithful. He had become so prideful in how he lived, he couldn’t see how judgmental, critical and angry he had become.

In all of this, notice: He couldn’t be happy for is brother. That is when you know, you have heart work to do. That is THEE relationship test.

Do you know people like that today? They appear to do all the right things. They say they follow all the rules.   They pay their bills, they build companies or are good employees, they go to church, but it’s normal for them to walk through life with being judgmental, critical an angry? It is a struggle for them to be happy for others. How does that happen?

This is what happens when we aren’t in a purposeful relationship with our heavenly Father. Our lives become less about relationship and more about performance or getting things done. We become harmful to ourselves and others. We can become busy, selfish and angry. We demand others to do for us what only God can do for us. We expect others to meet our needs of love, approval, and self-worth. We begin to need people too much. We set up those around us to disappoint us. Our expectations of others can be a weight too heavy for others to hold. And if others fail us, and they will, we become like the older brother. We are prideful of what we are doing, so prideful, we can’t see how lost we really are. We can become judgmental, critical and angry.

Ultimately, we struggle to be happy for those around us. And that’s when you know. That’s when we have become like the older brother. We need heart help.

Real quickly, I must ask you; Are you happy for others? Is it normal for you to walk through life and enjoy God’s grace and to celebrate others? Your spouse. Your kids. Your parents. Your friends. People at church or other churches? Is life about relationships or your performance or all the things you have to get done?

Here are some follow up questions; Do you expect others to celebrate and validate you? Do you feel like people disappoint you regularly? Is it normal for you to put up walls to protect yourself? Do you feel alone? Is it normal for you to be judgmental and critical of others?

Please hear me. To the core of being a disciple of Jesus means, when we experience God’s love, it directly changes how we treat others. However, if we are not enjoying God’s love for us, we will be unable to love others well. We may become like the older brother; selfish, judgmental and critical. And the worst part, like the older brother, in our pride of doing things well, we may never see how lost we really are.

There is a clear connection between experiencing God’s love and being in emotionally healthy relationships. The apostle John explained it like this.

14 The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together. 16 This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. MSG 1 John 3:14-17

What does it mean to be happy for others? What does it mean to love others well? What is normal? How do we take this spiritual concept and make it practical? Here are three ways and they are more simple than you thought.

First, accept people as they are. Notice the older brother couldn’t do that. The ability to sit and listen to someone. See life from their point of view. Don’t compare their story with yours. Don’t judge, just listen. Don’t try to change them. Accept their hurts and weaknesses. Have you ever had someone spend time with you and listen to you? Has anyone ever validated you like that? That’s probably one of the greatest ways to love; listen.

The other way to show love isn’t common knowledge. When you meet with someone, it should be your intent that when you are finished, they know that they are special. The second great way to love is to help others know what makes them beautiful with your words and attitude. Notice, the older brother couldn’t do that. Don’t turn away. Let them know what value they have.

Third, you can love others with no expectations. You can give with no strings attached. You no longer live in a tit-for-tat world. You give because you simply want to give.

Just a quick thought: think about the relationship you are in that is a struggle. What do you think would change if you accepted them and if you were able to help them see what is beautiful about them? Imagine if all your friends around you gave to you with no strings attached. Isn’t that what would bring you to life?

As you begin to love others, you may discover that it is harder than you thought. When you celebrate others, jealously might pop up. When you try to accept people as they are, you may become angry.   When you hear their story, you make become judgmental and think, ‘They should just get over it.’ If someone hurt you, forgiveness may be hard. Those unhealthy emotions are telling you that you have heart work to do and that you need more of God’s grace than you have now. And if you don’t deal with those emotions, they can damage our relationships.

Thee relationship test; can you be happy for others? And if you can’t, what is inside you, what is coming out of you? Are you jealous, angry, critical, judgmental? Those are all indicators that you have heart work to do.

Emotional healthy relationships means; you are so aware of God’s love and acceptance of you, you are able experience hurt and give back love.

Think about this: can you be happy for others?