I want to ask you some questions. Really process through these. What do you think?

Why do you have friends?

Why do people want to have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

Why do people get married?

Why do people start families?

Why do we hate being lonely?

At our core level, human beings crave connection. From the beginning of time we have been forming bonds, building family groups, combining family groups into small communities, and growing those communities into villages, towns, cities, nations, and empires.

We all desire contact and relationships with other humans. In fact this is more than a desire. This is a NEED. According to this Psychology Today article, “babies who are not held and nuzzled and hugged enough will literally stop growing and-if the situation lasts long enough, even if they are receiving proper nutrition-die.” Lack of touch can be detrimental to the health and development of children. This impact can be seen in overcrowded orphanages around this world.

The answer to the questions I began with can be summed up like this: We were created for community. What’s more, we were created FROM community.


The Bible opens with the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. God creates the stars, planets, vegetation, animals, and everything during the first six days. After all of this creating, God then created beings to be placed in charge of taking care of it all.

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image.

In the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28 | NLT)

I love what author, pastor, and YouTuber Jefferson Bethke has to say about this passage:

Created FROM community and FOR community. In the beginning there was perfect oneness. Man and woman were created as two halves of one whole. Eve was created from Adam’s rib, or side (Genesis 2), that they should be side-by-side partners, neither above or below the other. (For further explanation, check out this article.)

Both man and woman were created from God’s Image (Gen. 1:27). Both man and woman embody the divine image. We are God’s representation on earth. As such, we are at our best when we are in a loving, committed community.

Connection. Unity. Love. Respect. Intimacy. This is what we are made for.

So how are your relationships going for you?

How well do you get along with your parents?
Are you and your siblings close?
Do you have a tight-knit group of friends you can count on no matter what?
Do you know that your significant other is committed to you and only you?

Most likely one or more of these relationships has some degree of dysfunction. Why? Because we are terrible at archery.

Let me explain.


The story of the first humans continues in Genesis 3. All is well until the serpent tricks the woman into eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They had ONE rule – and they broke it.

I don’t have time to get into the full significance of that story right now. What matters is that the humans disobeyed God by taking matters into their own hands. They didn’t trust God. They didn’t believe that God wanted the best for them. They thought they knew better than God. Sound like any of your relationships?

When the serpent talked Eve into eating that fruit, a little thing called “sin” entered the world. As soon as that happened, “their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves” (Genesis 3:7 | NLT). Worse, God shows up soon after – you’ve seen that trope in countless sitcoms. He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

So Adam and Eve hide. They hide from God. They felt shame. They felt alone. They are now separated from God and from each other in a way they’ve never experienced.

“Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” (3:9 | NLT)

We don’t talk about the word “sin” much outside of a church context. The word just sounds so….churchy. But the word for sin is actually from the world of archery. In ancient archery contests, if an archer missed the mark, the judge would call it a “hamartia,” the Greek word meaning “to miss the mark.” The shot was off target. This video explains the concept really well:

When Adam and Eve sinned, they “missed the mark” of being God’s image bearers. They failed in what they were meant to do. And the consequence of sin was and is separation. There was a newfound separation between humans and animals (3:14-15), between mother and child (3:16), between husband and wife (3:16), between humans and nature (3:17-19), and between humans and God (3:22-24). The ultimate separation would be death (2:16-17).


Fast forward to the book of Exodus. This tells the story of how God, through Moses, delivers his people from slavery in Egypt and forms them into a new nation. They escape Egypt after a series of unfortunate events and make camp in the wilderness at the base of Mount Sinai. God summons Moses to the summit. There God gives Moses the Law which was to be the foundation for this new community.

The first ten of these commandments, we’ll call them “The 10 Commandments,” set the course for the rest of the story of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17).

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me
  2. You shall not make for yourselves an idol
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false testimony
  10. You shall not covet
On the surface these just look like a bunch of “You shalls” and “You shall nots.” But if God wanted to let the people of Israel know what is most important, how would he do it?
Look at these again. Notice that the first four set the course for a relationship with God. What does it mean to love God? Well, for starters you don’t have other gods competing for your devotion. Then you respect God as Creator so that you don’t make an image of any created thing to represent him. You shouldn’t use God’s covenantal name (YHWH) to promote your own self-serving agenda. You shouldn’t call upon him willy-nilly. You should respect, revere, and cherish God’s name. Finally, you should take time every week to spend with God in worship, in prayer, in study, in meditation, in communion.
But it doesn’t stop there. A right relationship with God also depends on a right relationship with other people. God cares about your family dynamics, so treat your parents with honor and respect. Don’t go around killing people. Jesus would even say don’t go around angry at people and wishing them dead. Honor your marriage covenant. Love your spouse. Be devoted to him/her to the exclusion of all others. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you so that you can all trust each other. Don’t spread lies and rumors about people – speak truthfully or not at all. And don’t live in a state of perpetual jealousy at other people’s relationships or lifestyle or possessions.
If everybody lived this way, there would be no separation whatsoever between God and us or between each other. In other words, there would be no sin. In other other words, this would be heaven.
Jesus summed it all up this way: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 | NLT).

So if you’re still tracking with me, sin is the problem that leads to all sorts of dysfunction and separation in your relationships. Love is the antidote to sin, and the result is true connection, community, and intimacy.
But love is like onions in that it has layers. Actually, let’s say it’s more like cake. Cake has layers, too. Let’s look at four layers of love. The first three will sound familiar. The fourth may surprise you. (If you want to see how these layers apply to your relationship with God, click here. This explains it much better than I could.)
Layer 1: “I love me for my benefit.”
This is where we all start out. Infants are the most selfish beings on the planet. They don’t care that it’s 2:30AM. They need to eat NOW! Speaking from current experience, the selfishness factor doesn’t diminish all the much through the preschool or early elementary stage.
One of the most important lessons to learn, and the earlier the better, is that the world does not revolve around you. You are not the most important person. Your needs and desires do not take priority over everyone else’s.
Sadly, there are many adults who never learn this lesson. Luckily there is a place for them in our society – reality TV.
Layer 2: “I love you for my benefit.”
This is slightly better, I guess. Children can be taught to behave and act less selfishly. But often they must be bribed or rewarded. They can figure out that if they say or do the right things, then they will get extra dessert or candy or video game time.
This is also the layer I see a lot of high school and college relationships at. You want to date the hottest girl in school just so you can brag about it. You want to hook up with that one guy just to make all your friends jealous. You view relationships as a way to gain popularity or social status. You want a boyfriend/girlfriend just because everyone else is doing it. But the moment it gets hard and you have to sacrifice for that other person, the moment it actually costs you something, you dump him like a sack of bricks.
Or maybe you have friendships that feel this way. Maybe you have that one “friend” that only wants to hang out when there’s a big test or project due and they need your help. Or maybe you have a car and they don’t, so they’re always bumming rides off you. It makes you feel used. That’s not a healthy friendship.
These kind of relationships are toxic and should be avoided if possible.
Layer 3: “I love you for your benefit.”
This is where many people end up. It seems like a noble sort of love. It’s selfless and compassionate. It looks past faults to find the good. This kind of love “brings out the best in him.” This kind of love “makes me want to be a better person.”
But here’s the reality. This kind of love leads to score-keeping. You begin to keep track of who’s doing what in the relationship. Resentment can easily take root if this is the case. When you realize that you are putting a lot more effort into the relationship than your friend is, you can become bitter and closed off. You can become passive aggressive towards them, hoping they will pick up the slack. But they are just enjoying themselves. Why should they pick up that anything is wrong?
Another reason this is dangerous is that it gives you too much *perceived* control over the other person. You begin to think that it’s your job to “make them happy.” Or if they are in a bad mood, it’s your fault somehow. But really, how much control should you have over someone else’s emotional state? If it’s up to me to control another person’s mood all the time, that’s a super power I do not want.
We should want to do the sort of things that lead to joy and good times. We should always want the best for the other person – be it our spouse, our parents, or our BFF. But we must realize that we are not in control of their reactions and emotions. The only one who has control over your emotions and reactions is….YOU.
Which leads to the fourth and deepest level.
Layer 4: “I love me for your benefit.”
This sounds counterintuitive, which I think is why so few people get to this point in their relationships. But if you think about it for a moment, it makes perfect sense.
This level of love requires you to be more mature in your emotional development. It requires work on your part, relying very little on others. And that’s the goal. There must be a certain amount of freedom and autonomy in a relationship or it’s not truly love.
This is the kind of love that says, “I’m going to take care of myself so you don’t have to.”
This is the kind of love that says, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to walk on egg shells around me all the time. I don’t want you to have that much control over my emotional state. So I’m going to get more in touch with my feelings, because it’s not fair to you otherwise.”
This is the kind of love that says, “I’m really stressed out right now, and I need a while to relax and reenergize. I want to be fully present with you, so I need to disconnect for a little while.”
This is the kind of love that realizes, “I cannot pour from an empty vessel.”
This is the kind of love that understands, “To be the best friend/boyfriend/son/spouse/brother, I need to be the best me possible.”
This is the kind of love that pays attention to the last part of this command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This is the kind of love Christ shows the church and that husbands should show their wives:

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:25-30 | NLT)


Practice some self-care this week.

Take some time for yourself.

Determine which relationships are toxic or dysfunctional. Take a break from those relationships and reevaluate their purpose.

Do whatever helps you be the best you. Maybe stay away from social media for a while. Maybe instead of getting sucked into a group chat until 2AM, read a book. Spend some time in Scripture or prayer. Find a really good Bible study – the YouVersion Bible App has tons of great studies for free right in the app. Work on your own emotional and mental health.

You can’t pour from an empty vessel. You cannot love others unconditionally unless you start with yourself. You only get one you. You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Treat yourself that way. Your body is the Temple of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Honor it, cherish it, respect it. You bear in your body the very Image of God. Recapture that image and let it shine through.