Overview of the content
Week 1: Actively look for blessings in your relationships. Acknowledging and showing gratitude for these blessings will open the way for joy and gladness in your relationships.
Week 2: Consider the influence you have on your relationships. Honestly observe any negative intentions, feelings, thoughts, or actions that you contribute to these relationships
Week 3: Invite the Lord into your relationships so they may be strengthened, guided and improved.
Week 4: When we are challenged by conflict or despair, choose to stay connected to God's presence.
Week 5: Ask for and offer forgiveness in your relationships. As you pursue the forgiveness process, honor protective boundaries in harmful or abusive relationships. Feel the freedom and healing that can come from forgiving and letting go.
Week 6: Show gratitude to the Lord by using the gifts provided to feed and nurture your relationships. Bring these blessings to life by reaching out to others.
Week 7: Celebrate the Lord's Power.
Why Build Healthy Relationships?
What do relationships have to do with a person's spirituality? What makes a person truly spiritual? Some people may point to the person who gives up worldly attachments, retires to a monastery or mountaintop and seeks inner peace and enlightenment through meditation. Some might point to a person who believes that the blood of Jesus has paid for our sins. Some might think of the person who has thorough knowledge of the Bible or other spiritual texts and teachings. But all the enlightenment, all the faith and all the knowledge in the world mean nothing without loving relationships with others. "If I have faith that can move mountains, but I don't have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).
Jesus said that everything in the Bible points to two things: loving the Lord and loving your neighbor (Matt. 22: 32-40). He said the same two kinds of love would bring us eternal life, and to give an example He told the story of the Good Samaritan who helped a man lying wounded by the roadside. Then Jesus said we should be like that Samaritan and be a good neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).
The Lord calls each of us to live lives that are loving. He teaches us how to serve the people around us, even when it seems difficult to do so. Building Healthy Relationships is a program designed to explore the Lord's teachings that support healthy, more meaningful relationships of all kinds: with co-workers, our siblings, with our parents and our children, and in our marriages. As you continue on your spiritual journey, remember that our efforts to be spiritual are not in isolation, but in community as we interact with and serve one another.
In the Bible: The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus was about 30 years old when He gave the Sermon on the Mount. He had spent most of those years living in relative anonymity. He was known only as a carpenter to His neighbors and had not taught publicly or worked miracles, so they were surprised when He began to teach with such power and insight.
The lack of visibility does not mean that He was just waiting or doing nothing. Though little is recorded of these years, we can infer that He was doing just what He later asks us to do—changing on the inside. The power and wisdom that Jesus manifested toward the end of His life on earth was not political or physical, but spiritual and divine. Though He often healed people who were physically sick, His first concern was for deeper healing of their spirits and their relationships. He manifested the power of love—that by loving people so deeply and resisting malice so completely, He could move people to love Him and to love one another. The 30 years of growing in love and wisdom prepared Him for the last three years when He traveled around with His disciples, teaching and healing, sharing His hard-earned love and wisdom with all who would listen.
The Sermon on the Mount took place near the beginning of the final three years of Jesus' life and of His public ministry. Of the four accounts of Jesus' life (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), Matthew has the fullest narration of the Sermon, though parts are included in Luke's version as well. This daily reader focuses on Matthew's version, chapters 5, 6 and 7. If you would like to explore the themes presented in this book in greater depths, we recommend reading the chapters in Matthew before and after the Sermon on the Mount (Appendix C), as well as the passages from the Writings for the New Church, listed in Appendix E.
The Sermon on the Mount is not long. You might easily read it in less than a quarter of an hour, and yet we are taking seven weeks to study it. This is because spiritual growth isn't so much about what we know as it is about how we live. The seven weeks are to give us a chance to apply and practice spiritual living and to develop new habits. Spiritual growth seldom happens in a few days, or even in a few months or years. Often it requires a whole lifetime, so it is not expected that you will have completed the journey by the end of the seven weeks. Most likely, this course will act as a runway—a patch of ground that is smoothed to help you pick up enough speed so that you can take off and fly on your own. After the seven weeks, the journey will still be ahead of you. If you have already been on a spiritual journey for many years and you are already flying, you might think of this course as a place where you can land, refuel, give your engine a tune-up and then take off again.
The goal of this program is simply to be an instrument in helping you improve your personal relationships by connecting with the Lord and His Word, and in creating a space so you and others can share what you learn and experience. Tasks, activities, stories and insights are provided to aid this process.