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How to Cultivate Righteous Relationships: A Headmaster's Address to the Student Body

Headmaster Philbrick addressed the student body in chapel recently, challenging them to think strategically about the company they keep, and how to cultivate righteous relationships.

"The Three Most Important Relationships you must Cultivate

A major part of growing up is forming and cultivating good and right relationships. This is not always easy work, and it will not go well, or right, if you don’t have some kind of guideline, or standard you are looking towards in forming relationships. Would we expect a soccer game to go well if we did not know the positions or the overall rules of the game? Would you expect your Algebra 2 test to go well, if you did not do well in Algebra 1? You get the idea.

Think with me for a moment the many relationships you have to curate at this time in your lives. You need to be mindful of cultivating good relationships with your parents, siblings, teachers, peers, boss, co-workers, coach – and possibly even more. Wow! Reflect on this for a moment- that is a lot of work, if you quest to form strong, reliable and rewarding relationships with these various people and groups. These relationships, or really any relationship, will not form well or for the betterment of both parties, without some intentionality.

Relationship formation is so important to us here at JRHS that we have created two guiding documents to guide you along in this critical area. One is Essential Student Outcome (ES0) #5, “Formative Relationships” and the other is our “Statement on Dating Relationships”. I invite you to review them again now that we are nearing the end of quarter one in this school year.

There are THREE relationships that are the most important, the most critical, the most foundational to all of your other relationships, and to all of the rest you set your heart and mind to. When you have these three relationships in order, the rollout of success into the other areas of your life is profound. You have been working on these three key relationships all your life, whether you know it or not; and you will keep on. The order here is so, so important! When we cultivate and protect these three relationships in the right order, we experience great fruit and blessing. Do you think you know what the three are?

They are your relationship with God, with your parents, and with your future spouse. Yes even your future spouse, which odds are greatly in my favor, you haven’t even met him/her yet! But that relationship too, must be cultivated now.

Here is a pneumonic device to help you understand the importance and the order of these “Big Three” relationships. When we get this right, life becomes safer, more meaningful and more fulfilling. It is “The Three M’s” – who thinks they know one or more of the M’s?

First is Master – the primary relationship to form is with God the Master of your life. The Master of all creation, and the one who created you to one day become a leader on His Team. From childhood, all the way into young adult life, you are forming the foundation of your life-long faith in God. This is the cornerstone of it all.

Next is Mission – once you know God as your master, and you seek to do His will, then an exciting and intimidating next step is to find your Mission is His Kingdom. If He has made you for His image and purpose, then He has a plan for you to find and follow and contribute to the overall work of the Kingdom on earth. Wow, now that is a good way to look at, “what am I going to be when I grow up?” This quest should become your number one, most important thought in your high school years. During the high school and college years, your mission is really quite easy and already prescribed for you, so, don’t miss the obvious: your mission is to be a “student”; you only get that mission for this comparatively short section of your life – live it well!

Next, and thirdly, is Mate – the Bible uses the word “mate” to define the role that married people have for one another. We are designed to complement another person, and when done right, the divine synergy of 1+1=3 results, and two independent beings make a covenant together, and by that, accomplish great things for God and Man. Whether you know it or not, all the relationship decisions you make today are affecting your relationship with Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful, most likely whom you haven’t even met yet! Searching and finding your mate begins in small steps during high school, but your most strategic steps in this regard will follow the high school years.

Just like there is a right way to study for a test; or to change the timing chain in your truck; or to bake cookies; or to make a presentation; or to….. you get the idea. What I want you to hear here is that there is a right way, and a right order, to go after these key, most important relationships.

In terms of the essential (and wonderful, meaningful, exciting, etc) quest towards the biblical mate, you will face huge pressures to do it in what is commonly called the “Secular Dating” model. This is relatively new on the world scene, probably less than 100 years, which may seem like a long time, but look at it this way: Abraham’s children didn’t have to struggle with “dating”. The word that better describes a biblical approach towards finding your life’s mate is “Courting”. It may sound old fashioned, but it is indeed tried and true. The most significant difference is the end game. With dating, a commonly accepted end game is pleasure or fun. With Courtship, the endgame is marriage. Dating is typically a short-term endeavor, whereas Courtship looks through the lens of a lifetime. Dating gets stuck on “me” whereas Courtship includes “we” and “family”.

And now let’s conclude with characteristics of healthy relationships, and these apply not just to boy-girl relationships. These characteristics can be barometers for all of your relationships. Recall for a moment, the three key relationships (God, Parents, Future Spouse). The signature of any great relationship is that it will create harmony and boundaries. Both of these ideas are so good, and so healthy! You will be in harmony (such a strong musical word) with your relations and your work. You will willfully be within the boundaries that are there for you to stay safe. Some of you know that I have enjoyed raising various animals on our small farm for many years, and I have come to realize that good boundaries (ie fences) are critical for all members of the farm to be living harmoniously. So, here they are, characteristics, or maybe outcomes of healthy relationship:

1. Your personal life in Christ will increase; you will have renewed interest in your life in Christ and will pursue accordingly.

2. As will your friends’ life in Christ; as you grow, you will spurn others on.

3. Your relationship with your parents will improve and increase; as you seek harmony with them, the fruits will be evident to all as strife decreases, and peace and love increase.

4. Your mission (ie your engagement at school) will improve; you will make strides in crossing the bridge towards the Joy of Learning, as opposed to the Work of Learning.

5. Your overall diversity and breadth of friendships will increase and improve; you will move away from a few select and safe relationships to having strong and diverse relationships where everyone is sharpening everyone. As the water comes up in the harbor, all the ships rise.

6. Your personal boundaries of thought and behavior will increase and improve; Mom and Dad will instill fewer boundaries on you, because you are putting them on yourself. Instead of Mom and Dad managing your phone for you, you will be managing it yourself.

7. Isolating, Island, or Exclusive relationships will decrease; you will long for authentic Christian community, where everyone is working together. This will also be illustrated in the adult relationships you choose to engage with, perhaps even a formal mentor.

8. Your personal sin struggles will go down; your avoidance behaviors will go down; in short, you will be looking for the rewards of righteousness.

So, to wrap this up: perhaps one of the most important parts of the curriculum here at JRHS is that you would grow in the cultivation of good relationships, ones that will serve you well for a lifetime. Remember the Big Three (God, Parents, Future Spouse). If you get these three right, everything else falls into place behind.

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