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About this series
Taught by Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, Relational Intelligence gives us a clear understanding of what it takes to develop intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationships where people share a rugged commitment to one another for the long-haul. Ryan exposes the flaws in relational thinking that result in broken, disillusioned lives. He provides alternative, biblical insight into how healthy, mature, and fun relationships can be nurtured and enjoyed.More from this series
Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or you’re an extrovert, we all have this same deep desire, this longing, this intrinsic need to have an intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationship that has this rugged commitment to one another. Intimate, meaning that where you really know someone and you are known by them. Just not on the surface level, it’s life-giving, like the people that you see and you maybe had a few friends like this that you just, like, “Ahh.” Man, your soul is refreshed by them.
That they’re character-shaping – that you want to be a better person that, like, when you’re around them, you’re just like, “Oh, I want to be a better person because I’m with them and around them.”
And then it’s just not a fair-weather friend, a fair-weather marriage – that it has this rugged commitment. Like you know they are with you through thick or thin, through good times and bad. And the question is: how in the world do we experience or have those kinds of relationships?
What we need is relational intelligence or relational wisdom. Relational intelligence is simply the skill of navigating relationships well. It’s a skill to be developed and grown and honed in. And it’s different because I think what we live in, we live in the age of information. We get so much information. And sometimes we think if we get more information, we acquire more information, then that makes me better at relationships.
No, it just makes you know more about relationships. But relationship intelligence is developing a skill. It’s the application of the proper information or the right knowledge, that we actually have to put it into practice. One of the things I have talked to my kids, I like to coach, so I coach my kids in their sports and talk to them and say that, “Practice doesn’t make perfect.”
Practice makes permanent. See, here’s the difference. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice makes permanent. So whatever you repeatedly do, will, you will permanently do.
And so, the correct knowledge and information put into practice is so important and especially when it comes to our relationships. When it comes to our relationships and making sure, Okay, God, You have designed us. You have created us. And so, I’m going to come to You and ask, okay, what is the wisdom that You have and how we are to go about our relationships and how are we going to then put it into practice?
This morning we are talking about love. And we are going to look at the skill of navigating love. Not just romantically – in all shapes and forms of it – but we say things like this, “Love will get us through.” How are you going to make it? On love! I don’t know! Do you have a plan? No. But we love each other.
We say things like, “The world would be a better place if we just loved each other.”
Love is what makes the world go ‘round. Love is the most powerful force on the planet.
Or maybe, this is more popular. “Just love me. Don’t try to change me. Just love me.”
We believe in love at first sight and as a culture and as a people, we are constantly falling in and out of love and what love has become is love has now become our trump card, hasn’t it? See, we use love in this way: as long as I love them, or as long as you love them, then it is okay. Who am I to stand in the way of love? Well, I fell out of love with them and I am now in love with them, so I can cheat on my spouse or I can do this. I can violate God’s call and the way He designed relationships because I just love them. And it has become our trump card.
Now, in this conversation today about love, there is underneath it this modern love promise that is inherent in, well, our conversation dialogue about love. It’s what we buy into. And the promise goes something like this: when I fall in love, then everything will fall into place. When I fall in love, oh, wouldn’t it be great to fall in love? And when that happens, everything will fall into place because love is what makes the world go ‘round and you don’t need a plan and just when you fall in love and you’re like, we don’t really believe that, but we believe that. That’s kind of how it works.
Said another way: when I find the right person, then everything will work out right. When I find the right person. Mr. Perfect, Miss Right, when I find them, then my life will work out right and it has this kind of progression to it. The modern love promise says: find the right person, fall in love, and then live happily ever after, right? I find the right person, which is a challenge in the world we live in, because how do you know if you married the right person or found the right person with eight billion people? It’s a lot of choices to find the right person.
And then fall in love and then live happily ever after. And the challenge is, and you know it and I know it and we experience it, is what happens when you don’t experience happily ever after? See, what we do is we reverse engineer the love promise. If everything doesn’t fall into place, then we fall out of love.
Said another way, if everything is not working out right, then I must have married the wrong person. And for some, you’ve been married a year, six months, two years, the seven-year itch. It’s a thing, I hear.
And you look at them and you’re like, “I don’t really love them anymore. Things didn’t fall into place. It’s not working out right. They must be the wrong person.” Let me ask you this about love. If you love is all you need, why isn’t love more resilient? Like, if it is the most powerful force on the planet, why isn’t it more resilient? Why doesn’t it have a staying power? Why do we fall in and out of love so much in our culture? Why is love so fickle? Why does it feel like one day you’re in love, one day you’re not, one day – well, she is the most amazing, then all of a sudden, they are the most amazing?
I think part of the problem has to do with the way that we use the word “love” and then the way that we define the word. Like, think about the way that we use the word “love” in English, because that’s what I’m speaking – English. I guess that’s the reason I use that.
But we use it in all sorts of interesting ways, right? I love the Golden State Warriors, I love tacos. I mean, they are fantastic. I love Mexican food. And then I love my kids. We use the same word and we know, we know we mean something different by it every single time, but doesn’t it lose its grit? Doesn’t it lose its umph, its power when we use that same word for so many different things?
Because the love that I have for my kids, the love that I have for my wife, the love that I have for my friends is far different than the love that I have for the Warriors, not too different, but different, or food. And then how we define love. And I think this gets to the root of it, honestly.
See, we define in our culture, love as a noun. It’s a thing. It’s a force. In fact, Webster defines it this way, “It’s a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person. It’s this attraction that includes sexual desire, a strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship, a person you love in a romantic way.”
And we have all probably experienced something like that before, this force, right? Cupid drew back his bow and then, pow! You’re knocked head over heels. You’re like, what just happened? I don’t know. Love happened.
It just hit you. It’s this force. It’s this thing and you saw her across the gym or across the quad. You saw him across the coffee shop and you couldn’t get them out of your mind. You went to bed just daydreaming like, Oh my gosh, trying to figure out, Okay, how do I strike up a conversation? And then you social media stalk them and you’re like, that’s weird, but no, I could be their friend and then DM and maybe say, “Hey!” And then if they say “hey” back then maybe something might happen there.
Or we’ve had that, maybe it’s at a party, maybe it’s on a trip, or just a conversation happens. And something ignited. And you’re like, “Ooh.” You fell in love.
And, yet, the challenge and what you see and what I see and what we experience is we are a culture obsessed with love, but we actually seem to have a love deficit when it comes to our friends, when it comes to our relationships, when it comes to the deep areas.
So the question is: how do we have a love that is actually resilient? That stands the test of time? That can withstand the storms of life? How can we have a love that we’d go, “Yeah, that will last a lifetime.”
One of the amazing things about when the Bible was written – it was written in a time when Koine Greek was the dominant, or trade language. And so, across the entire Roman Empire, you at least knew the trade language, which was Greek. And then you probably knew your own local dialect. For example, Jesus, and His disciples spoke Aramaic and that was their native tongue, and yet, they also would have spoken Greek because you had to know Greek as the dominant trade language to be able to communicate.
And the great thing about Greek is they don’t, it doesn’t just have one word for love. It doesn’t just use one word that says I’m going to use this for every single way. In fact, there are four words for love.
These are all important in our life. And, yet, there’s only one of these that is to be the foundation. And so, what I want you to do is as I begin to unpack these, for you to begin to think about and evaluate: which one of these words is actually my love foundation? This is the, this is what I’m building relationships upon.
Not just dating relationships, not just marriage relationships, but relationships with co-workers and friends and neighbors. And you begin to go, okay, there is a foundation upon which you’re building and you have to understand, okay, which of these four loves am I building a foundation upon? All of them are important. And so, but only one of them we are to build a foundation to have a love that lasts.
And so, the first of the four loves is the one called storge. This is familial love. It’s a natural or instinctual affection. This is a parent’s love for a child. This is sibling’s love, like brothers and sisters. It’s the storge type of love. Now, when storge is your foundation and we see this a lot with especially parents and kids in our day and maybe you have seen helicopter parents, right? They just hover. In my day, and some of you remember this, my mom would go, “Get out of the house.
And here’s what was amazing, I’d be like eight years old, get on a bike, and just go riding in the neighborhood. Why? Because it’s like, “You’ll be fine!” And all of a sudden today we have these hovering parents. And what happens is when storge is your foundational type of love is that your kids are your life. Maybe you’re in a family and you, maybe if you’re a college person, your family or your parents become your life and there’s this idea of failure to launch as well.
And what happens in marriages is kids, the marriage subtly begins to center around their kids. And so, instead of investing in their relationship, they are just hovering. We’ve got helicopter and then you have snowplow parents. Maybe some of you had snowplow parents. Maybe some of you are snowplow parents. What a snowplow parent is they just want to push all the obstacles out of their kids’ way. They just want to plow it.
And for a marriage that is built on that, what ends up happening is it lasts until the kids get out of the house and then one of the spouses suffers an identity crisis because their identity was in their kids. And then the couple looks at each other and has nothing in common.
Storge, incredibly important familial love, but it is not intended to be the foundation of our love.
The next is eros. Eros is the physical or sexual love, a deep feeling of attraction or sexual desire. When we are talking about love in our culture, “Cupid, draw back your bow,” right? That part of it, we’re talking about eros. We are talking about an eros type of love.
It is this physical, sexual – it’s this moment, and it’s, by the way, God’s not down on eros!
We tend to think that God is like, “Ugh!” Oh, prudy, like, “Ooh my gosh, ew, you do that? Ah!” No. He invented it! It was His idea. And so, we should take note from Him about how to go about our sexuality. In fact, He wrote an entire book, Song of Songs, all about romantic love and our sexuality.
However, when eros becomes the foundation, what happens is a relationship as a people, we become pleasure seekers, me-centered, and emotionally based. And as soon as that attraction diminishes, as soon as the passion begins to fade or dwindle, go, “I just don’t love them anymore.” And it was never intended, as important and beautiful and wonderful, to be the foundation of our love.
You have storge, you have eros, and then you have phileo. Phileo is the friendship or companionship love. It’s a close association and affection. I mean, I think one of the lost arts in our society today is the companionship and deep friendship.
Like, this is a love that we need to dial up. It’s an area where we don’t do friends very well and we live at a surface level and for many, this is an area where you’re going, “I need to invest more in my friendships.” However, if phileo is the foundation, what it ends up doing is it creates a bit of a co-dependency on the other person and you begin to look for that other person to fulfill or complete you and fulfill your needs.
This can happen especially if you have a background, maybe you have a family background that is tough, so storge is hard. Maybe you have a background where eros is one of those that it actually does feel gross, it feels hard, and you’re like, Man, I, Ingram, you don’t know what I’ve been through.
And so, then, what happens is then we lean into the phileo side and that becomes our life source and connection. And these are all important. They are important to our friendships, they are important to our relationships, however they cannot sustain and last as the foundation of our love.
And the last one and many of you already know what the last one is, you probably wrote it in already in your notes, the last one is – what, anybody? Agape. That’s right. Agape is an unconditional, sacrificial love, a love marked by giving and not getting. It is others-centered, unconditional saying, “I love you unconditionally,” which, by the way, let me just explain this real quick. Unconditional doesn’t mean there isn’t boundaries to it. It means, and so, every good parent understands this, so let me explain.
I love my kids unconditionally. And what we tend to interpret unconditional is you love me as I am, don’t ever change me or expect anything of me. No, no, no, no, no. My kids, I get, because I love them unconditionally, I want the very best for them, my love will never vary and I see that there is activity and behavior in their life that will shipwreck them and so my unconditional love says, “I want to give you what is very best and I know that that attitude, that response, that direction of life is going to fundamentally harm you.”
See, it’s agape is an unconditional, sacrificial love, a love marked by giving, not getting. In fact, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives us this definition.
And what I want you to do is as you listen to this, many times we just go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard it before. I was at a wedding the other day,”and you’re like, “It’s just that sweet love passage.” Would you hear this afresh? This is powerful. This is profound. This isn’t like cutesy, weddingy, that’s not a word – but you know what I mean. This is gritty. This is real.
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, the apostle Paul says this, “Love is patient, love is kind.” In fact, he only tells us two things which love is. Now, think about this. Don’t you want a roommate that is patient and kind? Don’t you want a co-worker that is patient and kind? Wouldn’t you like a boss that is patient and kind? Wouldn’t you hope that your spouse is patient and kind? Okay? How about your kids? Don’t you want kids who are patient and kind?
He says, “Love,” patient, this longsuffering, enduring, kind, gentle, tender. And then he gives us seven things that love is not. “It does not envy, it’s not jealous,” love doesn’t look at your life and go, “I want what you have or I’m upset that you have it.” Love doesn’t look at someone else’s Instagram game and go, “Ugh. I wish I had that.”
“It does not envy, it is not proud.” Think about that. Love doesn’t inflate one’s own importance. It doesn’t make it about themselves. It does not dishonor others. There’s no shame in love. There’s no guilt in love. There’s no putting you down or wanting to make sure you’re put in your place in love.
“It is not self-seeking,” it’s not about you. Or maybe said another way, it is not self-absorbed. In the me-centrality that we live in in our culture, he says: it’s not all about you. “It’s not easily angered,” irritated, annoyed, frustrated. Those are all words I use to say that I’m not angry, I’m just irritated, I’m annoyed, I’m frustrated, right?
We don’t like to say “anger,” oh, but it seeps in so many different ways with our relationships. “It keeps no records of wrong.”