A Good Relationship Leads to Good Communication
“Having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.”—1 Thess. 2:8.
1. What question confronts a husband and wife, and where do we look for a reliable answer?
AS HUSBAND AND WIFE, are you as married persons able to communicate with each other fully and freely? You should do so. Or do you find there are certain limitations, if not barriers, giving rise to a measure of frustration, or perhaps even to hostility at times? The story of communication, how it originated and was established on a fine foundation, is intensely interesting. For our guidance and instruction on this subject, we do not turn to myth or legend, but to God’s Word, the one and only source of reliable information.
2. What does it mean to communicate, leading to what conclusion?
2 First, you might ask, what does it mean to communicate? It means to convey or impart information from one to the other. This results in a sharing, having something in common with each other. This may be just on a mental level, imparting knowledge and understanding, but between husband and wife it can and should involve your heart, your feelings and desires, your loving interest in each other. The simple and direct way of doing this is by word of mouth. You converse or commune with each other. In other words, there is a communion established between you, a mutual understanding or meeting of the minds. Besides what is said, there is the way in which it is said. Even a look can communicate a world of meaning and feeling, as you doubtless recall from your early courting days. Is that not so? Do you not realize from this that the primary essential to good communication is a good relationship between you?
3. (a) How is the Bible a means of communication? (b) In this regard, what do we learn from Matthew 15:1-9?
3 However, another means of communication is by the written word, as evidenced by what you are now reading. The printed page is conveying something to you. The best example, of course, is the Holy Bible. True, the majority today, even in Christendom, do not accept the Bible as being of divine authorship, though it is still used in their church services. Do not let that surprise you or put you off. The situation is similar to what it was in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees and scribes stoutly claimed to stand for the Law, but, as Jesus pointed out, they were first and foremost sticklers for the traditions of their fathers, thereby causing them to “overstep the commandment of God.” Did the fault lie with God’s written Word, the Hebrew Scriptures? No. Rather, they failed in the first essential, a good relationship of devotion to Jehovah. As Jesus said of them, quoting from Isaiah’s prophecy: “This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.”—Matt. 15:1-9.
4. How can we prove to be receptive and responsive, and with what result?
4 Like the clergy of Christendom today who have the complete Bible, those men knew well enough what the written Word said, but they were blind and deaf to both the message and the spirit that it was intended to convey. However, there were exceptions then, and you can be among the exceptions today. As Jesus said on an earlier occasion to his disciples: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted. . . . ‘For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.’ However, happy are your eyes because they behold, and your ears because they hear.”—Matt. 13:11-16.
5. What was outstanding about man’s creation as compared with other acts of earthly creation?
5 Counting you among the happy exceptions, let us look back at the story of communication and see how it got started, and what we can learn from it. In the Genesis account of creation, Ge chapter one, we note that on each day, up to the sixth day, the action is introduced by the form of the Hebrew verb that means that something should take place. Yes, God was communicating his instructions, but no person is mentioned as responding thereto. However, when it comes to the crowning act of earthly creation, we note a marked change when we read: “And God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’” Though in a position to issue a directive as to a subordinate, the Creator was now inviting cooperation. A friendly, kindly tone is implied; a good relationship, a happy partnership. This is how it should be between married partners. If you are a husband, is that how you talk to your wife, saying: “Come on, let us . . .”?—Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26.
6. In this respect, what guidance is given to elders in the congregation?
6 While at this time we are discussing particularly the marital relationship, the same principle applies to other relationships, including those between you who are elders or overseers and others in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. Though you as elders have a special responsibility, carrying with it a certain degree of authority, the general attitude and manner of communication should be by way of inviting cooperation, rather than giving orders. In helping someone with a problem, such as may be encountered when witnessing in certain territories, rather than just saying what must be done, it is far better to say: “Let us go and tackle this problem together.” The warm spirit of unselfish and loving devotion should be conveyed, not only in what we say, but by our tone of voice and course of action. Notice how this is clearly and beautifully expressed by the apostle Paul when writing to the Thessalonian congregation: “Having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” What a fine example of a good relationship leading to good communication both in word and deed!—1 Thess. 2:8.
EXEMPLARY PATTERN OF GOOD COMMUNICATION
7. How does John identify the one to whom God spoke as recorded at Genesis 1:26?
7 Returning to our story, do we know the one with whom Jehovah was communicating at the time of the creation of man? The answer will help us to appreciate the depth of meaning as to man’s being made in God’s image and likeness. John, introducing his Gospel account of Jesus, identifies him as “the Word,” who was “in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him,” including man. Further, John says: “The Word became flesh . . . and we had a view of his glory . . . full of undeserved kindness and truth,” and that he, being “in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him.” Surely this delightful description of Jesus breathes the very spirit of a fine relationship and a ready communication.—John 1:1-3, 14, 18; see also Proverbs 8:22, 30, 31.
8. What is the significance of the title “the Word,” and how does this apply to Christ Jesus?
8 This is further seen in the significance of the title “the Word.” It has the meaning of message bearer or spokesman, like the officer in former times who stood in front of a curtained window and conveyed aloud to others the message of the king, who was unseen inside. That officer was entitled Kal Hatze, meaning “the voice or word of the king.” As for God’s Son, he was the Mouth or Spokesman for his Father, Jehovah. He was the trustworthy means of communicating to others whatever the Creator wished to convey. He faithfully served in the same way during his earthly ministry. He said on one occasion: “I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak. . . . Therefore the things I speak, just as the Father has told me them, so I speak them.” He again speaks and acts in the same capacity when he leads the heavenly armies in the execution of God’s righteous judgments at the battle of Har–Magedon, being called “the Word of God.”—John 12:49, 50; 14:10; Rev. 19:13.
9. What fine pattern is set for us at Genesis 1:26, and is it still possible to conform to this?
9 With these things in mind, how deeply impressed we should be to think that man was created in the image and likeness of the great Creator and his beloved Son! The fact that we can appreciate and talk to one another about this in itself shows that this is true. Furthermore, Jehovah has kindly conveyed to us in his written Word the pattern of good relationship and communication, and even after six thousand years of sin and imperfection, it is still possible to conform to that pattern. Hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are endeavoring to do just that, with divine help. Are you couples, as husband and wife?
10. How and why do those who rely on human wisdom fail to deal adequately with marital problems?
10 Let us look more closely into this pattern and see the essential features that have to be copied, also features to be avoided and, if it is necessary, eradicated. This is, in fact, the only effective way of tackling and overcoming the difficulties and problems encountered, especially in the field of marital relationships. True, there are many and varied schools of thought promulgated by social organizations that interest themselves in such problems and are ready to give advice and treatment. Without our stopping to question their motives, it must be said that at best their efforts represent the sum of human wisdom in the field of psychology. In effect, they say that marriage is a human relationship and must be treated on that level. They fail and refuse to give the Creator his rightful place as the Originator of this relationship, or as being the personal Author of the Holy Bible, with its counsel and instruction on every human relationship. Whoever heard of a psychiatrist referring his patient or client to the Holy Scriptures as the final authority for guidance? For that matter, how many priests or clergymen would advise such a course to any of their flock in dealing with such problems?
11. (a) How is it evident that man did not evolve? (b) What is revealed by Adam’s first recorded words at Genesis 2:23?
11 We, however, will shun worldly wisdom and will consult the Book provided by the Great Physician, seeking his help in confident anticipation, “not doubting at all.” (Jas. 1:6) As we read on from Genesis 1:26, how evident it is that man did not evolve, as taught by the worldly-wise. What happened when “Jehovah God proceeded to build the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman and to bring her to the man”? The man was not lost for words. He did not greet her with a bark of approval or with a growl of disapproval. Instead, he at once communicated aloud his reaction to this most wondrous and welcome gift, this ideal helper and complement. Rather than just standing there, looking at her, it seems more likely from what he said that he held her close to him as he spoke those words so rich in meaning and feeling:
“This is at last bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh.
This one will be called Woman,
Because from man this one was taken.”
Ah! that was real poetry, true in form and economy of words, each phrase nicely matching the next, with progression of thought and perfect balance. This would doubtless be more noticeable in its original tongue. Man was indeed made in God’s image, with the fine ability to communicate.—Gen. 2:22, 23.
12. How does God’s word conclude in an inviting vein?
12 Thus in its opening pages God’s Word gives an interesting and encouraging account of communication between individuals, both in heaven and on earth. Invitingly, God’s Word also ends, not with a grand resounding climax, but on a friendly note of a personal conversation between two who obviously enjoyed a happy relationship. “He [Christ Jesus] that bears witness of these things says, ‘Yes; I am coming quickly.’” Then we hear the aged beloved John, with shining eyes, earnestly responding: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” Yes, the sooner the better. That is the tone of it.—Rev. 22:20.
A BARRIER OVERCOME
13. How were the line and level of communication affected by man’s transgression?
13 While a good relationship was maintained by Adam and his wife with their Creator and each other, there was no problem. But as soon as that relationship was severed by willful transgression, a barrier was immediately raised across the line of communication. “The man and his wife went into hiding from the face of Jehovah God” when they heard his voice in the garden, because, as Adam said, “I was afraid.” They could not face their God and were fearful of what he would say to them. As for the level of communication between the man and his wife, it could not have been very cordial. Though no detail is given, this is indicated by Adam’s self-excusing explanation offered to Jehovah: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me . . . from the tree and so I ate.” Additionally, Eve was told: “Your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” As we will discuss later, that word “dominate” surely points to one of the chief causes of difficulty as regards communication, especially if it is on the part of the wife.—Gen. 3:8-16.
14. (a) What does it mean to walk with God? (b) The repeated expression “by faith,” at Hebrews, chapter 11, implies what?
14 Does that mean the position was hopeless for us, with no prospect of overcoming the difficulty? There is an expression used in Genesis concerning certain ones that indicates otherwise. It is said of Enoch and Noah that they kept walking with the true God, not just on occasion, but for their whole lifetime. The same must have been true of Abel. (Gen. 5:22-24; 6:9) Where two keep walking together, there must of necessity be a well-established relationship and freeness of communication. This is also shown by another expression that is used of these three, also of many others. Starting with Abel, Paul says of those mentioned at Hebrews, chapter 11, that “by faith” they proved their loyalty and devotion to God, believing that “he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” These qualities are an essential part of the pattern to be copied.—Heb. 11:4-6.
15. Why did Jehovah remove the barrier resulting from sin, and how should we respond to this?
15 It was Jehovah in his mercy and loving-kindness who made it possible for the barrier to be overcome, “for he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” On our part, however, there must be the right heart attitude, or at least the willingness to be taught the right attitude, for “the loving-kindness of Jehovah is . . . toward those fearing him . . . and toward those remembering his orders so as to carry them out.” (Ps. 103:10-14, 17, 18) There must be no self-willed or domineering attitude. On the positive side, looking further at those mentioned by Paul, we see two, Abraham and Moses, from whom we can learn much in studying the pattern we want to follow.
16. (a) What is noteworthy about a relationship? (b) How did Abraham prove his faith and devotion, resulting in what?
16 A relationship rarely, if ever, stands still. It either develops or recedes. Again, its growth is either healthy or unhealthy. This is something to be watched and safeguarded, especially when persons are living closely together as husband and wife. There may be mutual faith and confidence to begin with, but it cannot be taken for granted. Be prompt, even in small things, to demonstrate those fine qualities. This Abraham did throughout his life, as the record shows, commencing at Genesis, chapter 12. Paul mentions three big events when Abraham, by prompt obedience, proved his strong faith and devotion to Jehovah: (1) His leaving his hometown and country when called, and (2) his living for years “as an alien . . . in a foreign land,” and especially (3) his ‘offering up of Isaac.’ (Heb. 11:8-10, 17-19) Notice how the foregoing is well supported by James, when, referring to this last incident, he says: “You behold that his faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected, and the scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” What a healthy growth to a fine relationship! What a thrilling conclusion! Abraham had great faith in Jehovah, and Jehovah had strong confidence in his friend. —Jas. 2:21-23; Gen. 18:19; Rom. 4:16-22; Gal. 3:7-9.
17. (a) What pattern did Jesus set for his followers? (b) What goes along with friendship, and how was this seen in Abraham’s case?
17 Jesus spoke of the pattern of true friendship in connection with good communication. Humility, even lowliness, coupled with a readiness to serve, is an important part of the pattern. After washing his disciples’ feet on that last night with them, he said: “If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” Later that same night, he said to them: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 13:14, 15; 15:14, 15; Phil. 2:3) He took them into his confidence and kept nothing back. Similarly, as with a friend, Jehovah talked with Abraham a number of times, and once at great length in a most intimate way, when allowing Abraham to intercede with him over Sodom and Gomorrah, as recorded at Genesis, chapter 18. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, comes into the picture here. She was quick to serve. She exercised faith. She showed great respect. And, says Peter, you wives can “become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.”—1 Pet. 3:5, 6; Gen. 18:6; Heb. 11:11.
18. What was outstanding in the case of Moses, leading to what special communication?
18 With Abraham, it was the close relationship as “Jehovah’s friend,” but with Moses it was the exceptional means of communication that was outstanding. When taking Miriam and Aaron to task for criticizing Moses, Jehovah said: “If there came to be a prophet of yours for Jehovah, it would be in a vision I would make myself known to him. In a dream I would speak to him. Not so my servant Moses! He is being entrusted with all my house. Mouth to mouth I speak to him, thus showing him, and not by riddles; and the appearance of Jehovah is what he beholds.” (Jas. 2:23; Num. 12:6-8) Many years earlier, when describing how Jehovah used Moses’ tent, “pitched . . . far away from the camp,” as a “tent of meeting,” the record says that “all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent . . . And Jehovah spoke to Moses face to face, just as a man would speak to his fellow.” This led on to that grand communication when, in response to a request by Moses, “Jehovah went passing by before his face and declaring: ‘Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.’”—Ex. 33:7-11, 17-20; 34:6, 7.
19. What reasons can be given for Moses’ unique position?
19 Moses was surely unique in enjoying such a close means of communication with Jehovah. The reason? Partly his great need as a leader of a very difficult people, “stiff-necked” and “evil-inclined,” and also because, for his own part, he maintained unswerving loyalty to Jehovah. (Ex. 32:9, 22, 25-29) Another quality is mentioned. “The man Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” In this too he was unique, as is also this final word regarding him: “But there has never yet risen up a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom Jehovah knew face to face.”—Num. 12:3; Deut. 34:10.
20, 21. (a) What do we learn from the heavenly pattern of relationship and communication? (b) What do we also learn from the earthly pattern?
20 So how can we summarize? What constitutes a good relationship, leading to good communication? Looking into the inspired Scriptures, there is first the example of Jehovah and his Son. From the beginning, there was a genuine, loving interest in each other. “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way . . . and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time.” Though superior, Jehovah invited his Son’s cooperation. The Son, for his part, was always deeply respectful and obedient. There was the closest contact and confidence between them. They were in full union with each other.—Prov. 8:22, 30; Gen. 1:26; John 11:42; 14:10, 11.
21 Looking at the earthly pattern in God’s Word, what do we find? Although your partner, like yourself, is imperfect, learn how to express appreciation of each other in a tactful way, not only in the early days, but down to the twilight years. Avoid a domineering attitude due to pride and selfishness, not only wanting your own way but expecting your partner to fall in with your ways even down to small things of no real consequence. Rather, learn how to walk and talk with each other, ready to accommodate your pace and mood accordingly. Build up and maintain mutual faith and confidence. Suspicion is the worst enemy to free communication. Be alert to develop and strengthen the bond of true friendship. Practice and demonstrate “tender affection” with mercy and meekness.—Phil. 1:8; 1 Thess. 2:8; Jas. 5:11.
22. What further important question merits our consideration?
22 Even though couples are striving to do these things in all sincerity, problems can easily arise, whether both partners are true Christians or not. How can a faithful course be maintained, especially in a divided household? In the following article we will find the answer to this question.
[Picture on page 307]
The spokesman or “Kal Hatze” for an Abyssinian king