The Secret to Successful Relationships
The invisible forces governing interpersonal harmony

What are your relationships like? How successful are they? What principles determine the success of a relationship—friendship, romantic, marital, family or any other?

Do you realize that the subject of human relationships is spiritual?

Material knowledge is governed by fixed physical laws—natural laws that preserve ecological balance among elements like soil, water and air. These concern relationships between physical elements. Everything in nature could be considered a “relationship”: the air we breathe is a product of a relationship between two elements; so is water. Water takes various forms depending on its relationship with temperature. All this is material knowledge.

We can understand and operate according to these laws using our five senses. For example, with sound, musical harmony is the result of relationships between frequencies (the vibrations of molecules in the air and in our ears) that we can discern as consonant or dissonant. Perceivable measurements define those relationships.

But then there are laws that cannot be seen or measured with the five senses, yet they are no less important—quite the contrary! These are moral and spiritual laws governing human relationships. These are definite, albeit spiritual, measurements that determine the success of those relationships.

When man, out of greed, ignorance or neglect, breaks physical or material laws, he generally tries to fix things by treating the effects rather than looking at the cause—that is, at the law he broke! When he breaks spiritual laws, he is even likelier to make this mistake.

“In all this world, our human society is treating the effect, while ignoring the cause—or, more properly, breaking the laws and trying to remove their penalties,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote. “For every evil effect, there has to be a cause! Humanity continues indulging in, with ever increasing vigor, the causes of crime, of violence, of wars, of sickness and disease, of unhappy marriages, of divorce and broken families” (Plain Truth, March 1970).

Finding the Invisible

Those physically indiscernible laws that govern relationships are recorded in the handbook given to us by our Creator Himself: the Holy Bible. “It alone reveals the inexorable, yet invisible laws that regulate cause and effect, action and reaction—that govern all relationships—that produce happiness, peace, well-being, prosperity” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong).

Human governments try to create laws that regulate relationships between individuals and groups. But they are not based on the spiritual principles that would actually cause harmonious relationships. That takes spiritual know-how.

When Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they laid the foundation for human civilization apart from God. In an address to the University of Southern California Law Center on March 31, 1983, Mr. Armstrong said, “Now good and evil is a type of knowledge that is not concerned with the building of airplanes or sending men to the moon and back, or producing computers or the things of modern science. It is concerned with relationships between people and relationships between people and their Maker.”

So there is knowledge that regulates relationships in the physical, material world, and knowledge that regulates relationships among the God kind—between people and with God. Scripture shows these laws also impact angelic relationships.

Your entire existence depends on human relationships and your relationship with your Maker.

“And so a civilization has been built, and based, on attitudes of competition,” Mr. Armstrong continued. “Now the basic book of constitutional law states that the basis of all law is just a simple word, L-O-V-E, love. I like to translate that as it is put into practice in the world today into the word get. And the opposite is the word give. That is, love is the word give. And get is the opposite in the transgression of that law. Now that is a law. … [A] law defines conduct. And so man has formed his own ideas about the way of life and how he conducts himself with his neighbor, how groups conduct themselves with other groups, how nations conduct themselves with other nations. It’s a competitive society, not one of cooperation and love.”

Measurable Harmony

You can bring these principles into all your relationships, whether man and woman, parent and child, siblings or roommates, and between groups such as families, organizations or nations.

The Church of God is a spiritual organism. Ephesians 4:11-12 describe governmental offices within the Church that are “for the edifying of the body of Christ.” A body implies a relationship of a number of parts. “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (verse 16).

What builds the body is love. That is what increases the effectiveness of the relationships inside the Church—“the measure of every part.” Every joint contributes. The phrase “fitly joined together” is one compound word in the Greek. One segment of that word comes from the root harmos, related to our word harmony.

Yes, just as there are scientific laws governing audible, musical harmony, so are there laws governing spiritual, interpersonal harmony.

Again, harmony can be discerned through measurable vibrations and the ratios—or relationships—between those vibrations. Harmony requires differences that work together beautifully, just as different body parts function together as one. If the pitches of a musical composition were all the same, that is unison, which isn’t very interesting for long.

A musical ensemble creates harmony by complementary differences in function, but there also must be considerable uniformity—such as in the rhythm and tempo being performed. One section of a choir should not reach the final bar of a song before another section. And they all have to be singing the same song.

Philippians 2:2 describes this as the members of God’s Church being of “one accord.” This is the Greek compound word sympscyhos, meaning “together with” (sym) in “inner feelings and desires” (psychos). Church members have differing harmonic “frequencies,” but there is uniformity of our ultimate goals and desires.

Interpersonal harmony is governed by invisible, spiritual laws. No physical device can measure it. Some have made insightful observations about how relationships work based on observable data, but they can’t truly measure what regulates those relationships.

A Gravitational Force

Mr. Armstrong often compared these spiritual laws to the law of gravity. We cannot see that either, but we can measure its impact everywhere. That is how God’s law works! Mr. Armstrong described it as “an invisible, yet inexorable [impossible to prevent], spiritual law in active motion. … It is … as inflexibly relentless as the law of gravity” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).

That is a great comparison. We tend to think of laws as “rules”—as in, you can choose whether to obey or follow them, and they may change over time or depending on circumstances, or apply to only certain people. But not gravity! It is in force at all times, acting on you and all you know whether you think about it or not.

If you walk off the edge of a four-foot ledge, gravity will pull you to ground level. You didn’t “obey” or “disobey” gravity; gravitational force simply exerted itself on your actions.

If you walk off that ledge accidentally, there could be painful consequences. But with forethought, you could do something enabling you to land safely below.

To do something as simple as stand up or walk around requires adapting your energy and muscles to gravity—as toddlers quickly learn. If you want to be lifted off the ground for an extended period, a great deal of energy and additional laws or forces need to be accommodated (e.g. the law of aerodynamics).

The “give way” is an “invisible, yet inexorable, spiritual law in active motion,” “as inflexibly relentless as the law of gravity.” Even though this law is spiritual and imperceptible to carnal minds (Romans 7:14)—which are naturally hostile to it (Romans 8:7)—you need not be spiritually minded for the law to affect you. God’s laws are exerting themselves on every human relationship at all times. God’s law is a force at work whether we think about it or not, whether we’re a toddler learning to walk or an elderly person with a cane, whether we live in the year a.d. 2022 or 2022 b.c.

Our choice is whether to cooperate with God’s laws or not.

This explains the world as we know it! This explains the suffering, heartache, violence and misery. To use the gravity metaphor, so many people, in their relationships, are hurling themselves off bridges, trying to walk on walls, and attempting to eat meals on the ceiling!

Cooperate With the Laws

God’s laws impact all human relationships. They govern “harmony” in that sense. We can live in harmony with them or not, just as we can cooperate with gravity or not.

How much harmony exists in your personal relationships? That is spiritually measurable. And God reveals the laws that govern those measurements.

These laws define the way God has always lived.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “The phrase ‘the Word was with God’ does not refer to place or space; it means He was with Him spiritually,” Gerald Flurry writes. “He was with Him in unity. He was in submission to God for all eternity. He set the example for all people of how to submit to the one now called the Father!” (The God Family Vision). This earliest relationship exemplified harmony.

Amos 3:3 describes the principle at work: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” “They were in total agreement and cooperation,” Mr. Armstrong wrote of God and the Word. “Also two can’t walk together in continuous peace except one be the head, or leader, in control. God was leader. Their way of life produced perfect peace, cooperation, happiness, accomplishment. This way of life became a law. Law is a code of conduct, or relationship, between two or more” (Mystery of the Ages).

God and the Word set out to create the universe as we know it, all governed by the way of life that they had forever lived.

When God made Adam and Eve, He taught them that spiritual law. But they had to take His word for it because they couldn’t perceive it of themselves. God must show us good and evil, because we cannot otherwise discern them. This allows us the opportunity to cooperate with His way that produces harmony.

Again, cooperating with God’s way is living the “give way.” Proverbs 11:24-25 give a vivid example of how this way works: “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself” (New King James Version).

Satan influences this world to do the opposite. People reason, If we each try to get for ourselves, then at least we have enough. But this does not work, because then everyone is taking—never mind at whose expense! The invisible laws God set up state that if you give someone water, you will have water. That is a force exerting itself on us at all times.

The same principle works in tithing. By giving God the first 10 percent of our income, we end up having more. Give $10 from $100, and somehow you’re left with more than $90, and often much more than $100. The $90 goes further, or more opportunities to make another $100 keep presenting themselves. It gets to a point where we don’t have room for the blessings (see Malachi 3:10 and Proverbs 3:9-10). This law does not discriminate on whether someone is a member of God’s Church or not: Some who are never baptized members of God’s true Church follow this law of tithing and are blessed accordingly.

This Is Everything

1 Corinthians 13 thoroughly discusses God’s love. It begins by saying this love is more important than speaking foreign languages, or understanding all mysteries, or having faith to move mountains.

Profound is the statement in verse 3: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [God’s love], it profiteth me nothing.” Here, the Apostle Paul seems to be describing the “give way,” yet says these giving actions can be done without godly love. Yes, God’s love is the action of giving. But it goes deeper than that.

Mr. Armstrong encapsulated this in his definition of godly love: “If I had to define love in four words, I would say, ‘Love is an unselfish outgoing concern’ ….” He then elaborated that this concern is “for the good and welfare of the one loved” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).

God’s love is not an emotion, though it can be expressed with emotional content. But it definitely is concernwhich is an attitude or frame of mind. That attitude—not just the action—is all-important in whether or not we are expressing God’s love!

Action and concern are not necessarily separate concepts. God’s love is action-based concern and concern-filled action. Mr. Armstrong continued: “True love combines the rational aspect of outgoing concern—desire to help, serve, give or share—along with sincere concerned affectionate feeling.”

Consider: You could do “giving” things, yet if you did so with a “get” attitude, these wouldn’t yield harmonious relationships or other fruits of God’s love in your life. We all can give, serve, even “cooperate” in the wrong attitude. We can do those things in the spirit of competing and taking, perhaps of self-righteousness.

However, if you help others because you care for them, that is “outgoing concern.” If you serve or date because you truly care for the one you’re serving, then you are cooperating with the invisible, immutable, inexorable godly force that governs all relationships.

A way we can gauge this is how tired we get in our service. We all get physically tired and need rest and recharging. But if truly motivated by godly love, we will not get spiritually tired! If we give only because we are supposed to, then we can get spiritually tired. If we do it only because no one else will do it, we can grow weary in well doing. If we serve only because it’s our duty, we get tired. This is because we are working against the force governing all relationships!

If we are concerned about others, our actions can be truly loving.

God is concerned with our outgoing concern! He must give us His very love, which we don’t have naturally within us. His purpose for man—to be spirit-born members of His Family—means we are to become this love.

“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (verse 10). When God’s plan is fulfilled, so much of what we deal with will cease or become obsolete—but not God’s love. Because that is the force that has forever governed and will govern all relationships.

Ten Principles of Harmony

God further defines His love in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Never forget that they define the “gravitational force” of God’s way of give. Though they are 10 “laws,” they really describe one great law, or way.

The first four commandments govern our relationship with God. 1) We are to put Him first, making that relationship top priority. 2) We are to see Him as the Bible reveals Him, rather than having our own image of what He is like. 3) We are to understand, respect and value His name, authority and reputation, guarding it with our words and actions. 4) We are to properly use the time He sets aside to get to know Him better, putting other things aside to perfect that relationship. Follow those principles, and there will be force stronger than gravity in your life, forging a relentlessly strong relationship with God!

The remainder of the Ten Commandments govern our relationship with fellow man (Matthew 19:18-19; Romans 13:8-9). Consider the spirit of commandments five through ten. 5) This regulates harmony in the parent-child relationship—a command as much to parents to uphold the law, and a command to others not to do anything in a child’s life to undermine his parents’ honor. 6) This protects and values human life—in spirit, governing against us even hating a fellow human being in our hearts. 7) This preserves marital relationships; it shows how that harmony is impacted by what is done before or during the marriage, and prohibits anyone from disrupting that harmony. 8) This prohibits getting at the expense of someone else—perhaps the most explicit prohibition against the “get way.” 9) This protects how we represent ourselves and others in both our words and actions, protecting reputations, which factors into relationship harmony. 10) This governs our attitude, prohibiting the “get way” in our thinking and seeking to gain at others’ expense.

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

Jesus Christ showed us how all the commandments are love and divided into two categories of outgoing concern (Matthew 22:36-40). We are to love God “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” God’s law requires love, outgoing concern, in all our interactions.

1 John 5:1 teaches that interactions within the true Church of God are governed by the “love God” section of these two great divisions: “… every one that loveth him that begat [God] loveth him also that is begotten of him [those God has begotten into His Family].”

Of course, members of God’s Church still apply the last six commandments to their fellow brethren, but the attitude or concern behind these actions is at the level which we are to love God. We are to love the brethren, not just “as yourself” but “with all your heart, soul, strength and mind—more than you love yourself” (Gerald Flurry, “Loving God and Your Neighbor,” Royal Vision, July-August 2004).

Just before that verse in 1 John, it reads: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). The Apostle John ties our harmony with God to our human relationships. How can you think you’re in harmony with the invisible God when you are in disharmony with someone right in front of you?

Working Together Forever

Any relationship requires a degree of working together, with both parties cooperating with God’s inexorable, immutable laws. If one person is cooperating with God’s laws while another disregards them, that won’t be a harmonious relationship. If you give to someone in a godly way, and that person only gets from you in a selfish way, your relationship will be strained.

Jesus Christ was perfect, but those “getting” around Him limited the extent to which they could have a healthy relationship with Him. He was a “man of sorrows” because of these shortcomings of others.

To use the gravity analogy, you can live your life in perfect accord with that law, cooperating with it as best you can. But if someone throws you out a window, you will be impacted by their disregard for gravity.

The extent to which all cooperate with God’s law determines how much we can have peace on Earth. In fact, a time is coming when God’s government will rule this Earth. This government will administer this law—it will enforce cooperation with the give way. Appropriately, when we talk about God’s government administering His law (this force), we talk about it “enforcing the law.” Isaiah describes the time when the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) is doing just that.

Verse 7 reads: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

This law has existed since before creation, and it will remain in effect for eternity. God’s government will ensure it. Because it will never stop being enforced, the peace, love, cooperation, togetherness, happiness and harmony will never end!