The first circle of relationship is internal. It’s between you and God. Where is your desire? Is it to please God? How is your faith walk? How is your prayer life? Who are you on the inside? This will always ultimately pour out the cracks in your outside self – so making it a priority to keep this circle of existence in top shape is the only sane thing to do.
The second circle of relationship is between you and other believers. Between you and your family, between you and the members of your church. You’re under someone’s authority (everyone is), you have authority over someone else… how are you dealing with that? Are you obeying in this circle?
The third circle of relationship is between you and the outside world. How do you relate to non Christians? To strangers on the street, to the grocery clerk, when you’re driving? Is it evident that you’re a Christian? If so, are you making Jesus look good?
The fourth circle of relationship is between you and the larger world. This is you as a citizen. How do you vote? Do you vote? Serve in the armed forces? Write letters to your congressperson?
The four circles of relationship are all part of all of our lives. Because we are all part of the body of Christ, each one of us has different areas of concern. That’s how a body works – my legs walk, my fingers type. Both are important! Let’s not pick sides. A healthy member of the body of Christ has to deal with all four circles of relationship.
*My* emphasis here is usually the first and third circles. I am pretty intense about my relationship with Christ, and I’m equally intense about showing that in my actions to the world around me. But if I leave off my second circle, and start to treat my husband poorly or flip off my pastor – that affects the first and third circles quite immediately!
Thinking of all four of these relationship circles enables us to sort out problems. Say I had a problem with loving my husband correctly. Is it a second-circle problem, where I need to learn to be a better wife in a practical fashion? Or is it a first-circle problem, where I need to learn to obey my God? Unless you know where the problem lies, helping me solve it is extraordinarily difficult.
As the world grows darker, our third circle – the light we shine around us – grows greater in importance. But if we’ve no light to shine (our first and second circles are out of whack) we make Jesus look bad instead of making Him look good.
So, being that my gift is exhortation – let me exhort you. Get your internal life in order, get your relationships in order… because that third circle? It’s been neglected and misused. We may never be the “nice people” again – which is fine – but Christians are supposed to be the *good* people. God’s empowered us, He indwells us as the Holy Spirit – we need to let Him shine.
To God be the glory, great things He has done.