Humor me for a moment. Let’s play a word association game.
I’ll say a word and you respond with a word that comes to mind when you hear my word. Ready?
Here’s the word: relationship.
What comes to mind? The average American would likely associate that word with other people. Relationships are things we have with other people.
However, that is limited in scope. Yes, we have relationships with other people. Yet, we also have a relationship with ourselves, in that we talk and listen to ourselves in our own minds. And even more importantly, by virtue of His creation of us, we have a relationship with God. It may be strong, it may be distant, or it may be broken. But it exists, nonetheless.
At the heart of relational wisdom (RW) is an understanding of the 3D nature of relationships, with self, with others and with God (SOG).
RW is an operating system for life but many people need a major upgrade in their relational function. Thankfully, God’s Word is full of relational wisdom and will help us grow in all the needed areas, with ourselves, with others, and with God.
These three dimensions represent a comprehensive approach to harmonious relationships. Think of the acrostic SOG: self, others, God. Every moment of ourselves is spent in these three dimensions. In the Great Commandment, Jesus commanded us to love in all three of these areas: to love God with all our hearts, and to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
And within these three dimensions there is a dynamic interaction of awareness and engagement. When I am living in wisdom, I am aware of God, others, and myself. There are certain key things that I know related to all three. Out of this awareness, I then must engage in a wise manner, translating my knowledge into speech and action.
Often when we read the Scriptures, we find that God speaks along these lines of awareness of Him followed by engagement of Him. A classic example of this would be Ten Commandments, an account of which is found in Exodus 20:1-21.
That text begins with God declaring who He is (vv.1-2). Next, He tells the Israelites how they must be guard themselves, their own hearts, and remain in covenant with Him (vv.3-11). Out of their God and self-engagement, they then are to live faithfully in relation to other people (vv.12-17). The conclusion to the giving of these commandments was an appearance of God before the people in thunder, lightning, and smoke.
This is how the SOG process typically works: we begin with God, aware of Him and engaging with Him. We then examine ourselves with awareness and engagement, following with the same responses to others. As we do these three things, we then experience a 360-degree encounter with God, who will pour His love deeper into our hearts because we have faithfully employed relational wisdom.
The danger is that we compartmentalize our response in these three areas. Some will pursue God with a passion but not be sensitive to the needs of others. Others will focus on their relationships with other people without the dynamic of a relationship with God. And still someone else might practice self-examination before God but never come out of their spiritual closet to interact with others who have also been created by Him.
It reminds me of an old nursery rhyme about a cat who went to London. You know how it goes: the cat is quizzed about where it has been and replies that it has been to see the queen. “And what saw you there?,” came the question, to which the cat replied, “I saw a mouse run under the chair.” What an example of tunnel vision! In all the grandeur of a royal court, the cat only noticed its ancient nemesis, the mouse.
Our world would be a different place if, unlike that cat, every person had 360 degrees of relational wisdom, for God, others, and self. As we seek to be more aware and engaged in all our relationships, harmony and peace will gentle descend into every walk and sphere of life.
Brett Selby is the Southwest Regional Ministry Partner for Oklahoma Baptists and can be reached at email@example.com.