“Healthy Relationships: Spiritual Alignment” by John Burke

“Healthy Relationships: Spiritual Alignment” by John Burke

Today we’re wrapping up this series on Healthy Relationships talking about Healthy Spiritual Alignment. 

In your closest relationships, few things can bring greater relational health, a better ability to work through difficulties, and more enjoyment than being spiritually aligned.

And conversely being spiritually misaligned can lead to a lot of hurt, disunity, and heartache.

I’m going to be talking about alignment in relationships including in friendships, in marriage, and in business partnerships. The relationships where we are closely tied together to another person whose decisions can affect your business, family, and way of life. 

I’m speaking to those not yet married or married again, and those not yet in business partnerships, but also to those who are but feel misaligned—if that’s you, I want to give you some hope today.

Many of us are married or we hope to one day be married. There are few things more wonderful than a successful marital relationship, but there are few things more painful than a marital nightmare.  The way you go at deciding about marriage makes a huge difference.

There are these proverbs that remind us to decide wisely. 

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome spouse.  Proverbs 21:9 (then the writer changes his mind and say, no…)

“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and angry spouse.  Proverbs 21:19.

Basically he’s saying, you can make a bad decision about what car you buy, you can get it wrong about a house purchase, but when it comes to deciding who to marry…Don’t Screw Up! (that’s a loose translation-but you get the point). 

The same principles apply when thinking of a friendship or long term business partnership, though the consequences in marriage (which is meant to be a life-long covenant) are far more important and profound.

Still a business partnership is a formal, legal binding together that can last many years, and if it is not spiritually aligned can cause lots of problems.  

And some of the same questions you need to ask going into marriage, you also should ask before going into a long-term business partnership or developing a deeper friendship. 

So here are some questions to ask for Healthy Spiritual Alignment in relationships where you will be bound together, potentially years to come.

Are we spiritually compatible

Much to people’s disappointment, God doesn’t tell us detail by detail who to marry. 

I think he gives us a lot of freedom to choose wisely. 

And honestly, the Bible deals a lot more with the issue of you becoming the kind of person who can be happily married more than finding the right person to make you happily married. 

But it does give two very specific directives about deciding who to marry. 

First, make sure it’s someone you can commit to for life, because God’s design is for lasting, growing oneness.

That’s the goal of marriage, according to Jesus: 

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,’  and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  Matthew 19:4-6

The goal is unity—marital Oneness. 

Not that you become clones of each other, or think the same thoughts, or like all the same things, but that you’re committed to work toward unity even with differences—that’s loving, and it takes work, and commitment.

Years ago I spoke frequently to teens and young adults that were part of the Church of South India. I was fascinated by their cultural tradition of arranged marriage. I met many of these kids parents and discover that arranged marriages can become very love-filled, happy, lasting marriages because the two people decide and commit to working at loving each other—that was true for them.

This is true for all marriages—you have to be committed to growing to love the other, especially when it gets tough, as it always does.

That’s why the Scripture also says make sure you are spiritually compatible. 

Scripture’s clear about this one-it’s called the principle of being equally yoked. 

And it’s a metaphor of two Oxen who get joined together with a yoke – a piece of wood that binds two Oxen together to keep them walking together and working together. 

But the problem is that if the Oxen aren’t basically the same core strength, they’ll just go in circles, and it will pull the other one off course.

The Bible’s speaking to Christians about this:  “Do not be yoked together with an unbeliever.  2 Corinthians 6:14

Now, if you’re new in your spiritual journey, just checking out faith, don’t get freaked out by this—let me kind of paraphrase what this says and why.  It basically says, “look, if you’re a person who really has no interest in God or spiritual matters – then you’d better marry someone who has the same lack of interest that you do.  If you don’t give a rip about knowing or following God, then just marry someone headed the same way, and you’ll be equally yoked. But if you’re a follower of Christ.  If you have accepted God’s forgiveness offered in Christ, and you’ve made God Lord, leader, CEO of your life, then your goal is to love God and follow His will– to orient your life doing things his way more and more. So you need to marry someone who has the same core beliefs and desires.  If you do, you’ll be spiritually compatible, equally yoked, headed the same way working well together!”

Now, the problem comes when someone who believes in God dates and subsequently falls in love with someone who doesn’t share the same beliefs or desires spiritually. They are being guided in different ways.

Now—I know when Christian singles hear that, they say, “What’s the deal, was God having a bad day when he said don’t be unequally yoked?  Why would he be so restrictive and exclusive?”  

And of course, one of the reasons we recoil as singles is you think—man does that ever shrink the playing field!  It sounds almost punitive. But if you stop and think about it, it makes sense.  And secondly, if you believe God is real, trust him to lead you to the right person at the right time.

Rutgers University National Marriage Project studied 22,000 couples and found a high correlation between spiritual agreement and all aspects of marital satisfaction.

“In the current study, an intriguing association between high spiritual agreement and the level of closeness a couple experienced was observed.” – National Marriage Project.

They found spiritual agreement correlated positively in 8 areas of marital fulfillment, including sexual fulfillment.

So God’s desire is just to help us succeed, not prohibit us from finding love.  

God IS love, and as we really seek His help loving the other person, our love grows.

And what could be more important than the central unifying, governing beliefs of a person? 

I mean, what goes more to the core of who a person is, the guiding factor of who they’ll become, and the shaping influence that forms essential values and character than their core spiritual beliefs? 

So if two people get hitched together, and deep down the gal wants God in her life, wants to grow in his ways and become who God intended. 

And yet her husband’s core guiding philosophy is “have fun, feel good, and go with your heart.” 

Well, I can just tell you, because I’ve watched it way too many times – those two are on divergent paths – they may seem really close at first, but they’re diverging away from each other over time, because are not spiritually aligned, and it’s not wise thinking marriage is going to change that fact.

I spoke with a woman who was longing to have her whole family come to church together, and learn together – to have that sense of growing and exploring spiritual life together like soul mates – but her husband has no interest, never has. 

And she prays with her kids at night, and he just scoffs. 

Well one, that’s confusing for the kids, but two-if she keeps growing and he keeps scoffing, do you think they’re becoming One?

Growing in unity?

Not a chance.  

A woman who recently went through a divorce said to me, “I can’t help but wonder what our marriage could have been if God had been at the center of it?” 

So the first question you have to ask, and the one the Bible says is an essential “yes.”  Are we Spiritually compatible?

Now, what if you’re already married and you and your spouse are not in spiritual alignment? 

And we have many couples like that here at Gateway because we are a church that helps people find faith in Christ, and often one spouse finds faith, but the other doesn’t—then what? 

Well, there’s still hope as you seek to follow God that one day you could be in spiritual alignment. 

In fact, Scripture says this to people in the Corinthian church, which was very much like our church:

If a Christian has a wife who is not a Christian, but she wants to stay with him anyway, he must not leave her or divorce her. 13 And if a Christian woman has a husband who isn’t a Christian, and he wants her to stay with him, she must not leave him. 14 For perhaps the husband who isn’t a Christian may become a Christian with the help of his Christian wife. And the wife who isn’t a Christian may become a Christian with the help of her Christian husband. 1 Corinthians 7:12-14

So if that’s you, here’s my advice from the scriptures and from experience watching couples not in spiritual alignment. 

  • Love your spouse to the Lord, don’t try to crowbar your spouse or guilt your spouse to the Lord. 
  • Pray for your spouse daily, and ask the Lord daily how you can show your spouse how much God loves them by how you treat them. 
  • Encourage them toward God, but don’t coerce or condemn or manipulate—be like Jesus who loved and served us back to the the Lord. 

And let me speak for a second to spouses who don’t believe in God.

You know, God still loves you and even wants to help you also love your spouse. 

Maybe you don’t believe in God because you have questions, or maybe past hurts that caused you to say “how can a loving God exist?” I get it, I’ve had both those, but even if you don’t believe in God, do you believe in Love? 

If so consider where love comes from…  

Love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8  

What God claims is that He IS Love—He’s the Source of all genuine love.

Which means any love you’ve felt from another person, or given to another person—it’s borrowed love.

When you’ve been loved or loved, it’s only because God loves you even more—you or those people experienced love because you were open to being channels of His love. 

If love isn’t from God, if it isn’t bigger than chemical reactions, why does it matter so much to us?

God claims to care deeply about your marriage, your family, you personally.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  1 John 4:9-11.  

God defined love as self-giving, self-sacrificing, forgiving—there’s nothing you or I have done that He won’t forgive, because He wants a relationship with you and your spouse, and to help you both love each other in a deeper way than you realize. 

So ask yourself this question, do I oppose Love?

Do I fully understand love, or is there mystery beyond what science or even my logic can explain? 

Do I need help being a more loving person? 

If so, why not be open to exploring God with your spouse? 

Worst case, you just demonstrated love toward your spouse by being willing to consider this God stuff—that’s loving. 

Now what about business partnerships and being spiritually aligned?

What does that mean, and does it even apply? 

I would say, not to the same degree as a covenant marriage relationship, but when there is a legal binding together, this does have wisdom to pay attention to.

If you want to follow Christ, and you are starting a company or some legal endeavor and considering a partner who does not follow Christ, how might this apply?

First. God tells us we are to live and do business in the world, we aren’t to wall off and only work with people who believe the same, in fact we are to represent God’s and ways and God’s love for our coworkers, suppliers, and customers.

Try to please [your supervisor] all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:22-23.

It doesn’t matter if they are believers or atheists, we are do our best as working for God.  So we aren’t to withdraw from the world, but to represent God even in how we work and do business.

But what about a partnership? 

How do we apply Jesus’s and Paul’s teachings to modern business and commerce?

What are the boundaries for contracts, partnerships, and other relationships where assets are intertwined?

Here are three insights.

They are not absolutes; each person must prayerfully listen to the Holy Spirit.

Do you align ethically?

God wants us to be fair and ethical, ultimately to apply the golden rule to all our business dealings—to treat others as we would want to be treated if we were on the other end. 

To follow Christ in business means you don’t lie, cheat, or misrepresent your product. 

Your end goal is not just more money, though profit is not bad, it’s essential to stay in business, but as followers of Christ we don’t violate God’s ethics or standards just to make more money—people and profits, in that order. 

So if you are starting a business with an equal partner, are they on the same page? 

And just because they profess to follow Christ, I would still spell out the ethical, moral values you want for the company or project.

If the partner is not a believer, but you explain why these ethical, moral values are so important and they are on the same page—then at least you have an agreement in how to conduct business so that it does not violate God’s ways.

Sometimes non-Christians are at least following what aligns with God’s concern for people—sometimes better than Christians, which shouldn’t be the case.

John Burke told me this story of when a VP in a small pharmaceutical company came up to him after the service. He wasn’t a believer, but he liked the way we present things in a way that makes sense (he was exploring faith), but he asked John’s advice on an ethical dilemma.

He said, “I’m VP of sales, and my CEO wants me to push a drug that I know is highly addictive. I’ve been doing it, but I know it’s not good for people, and I have felt more and more like I can’t do it any longer.  What do you think I should do?”

John told him, “I think you’re hearing the promptings of the God you don’t yet believe in, and you have a good heart—you care about people, so you’re listening to your God-conscience. What do you think you should do? 

He said, “I think I’m going to look for another company.”

John said, well one option is to go tell your CEO why you can’t keep doing it, so that maybe God can use it to change the company’s direction, and if the CEO doesn’t respond well, then you know it’s time to leave.  So it can be that people who do not know the Lord have the same godly ethical alignment to partner.  But before partnering…

Spell Out A Way Out

This is just smart for any business venture, but essential for a company or long-term venture, with Christians or non-Christians. 

Put down in writing if something goes wrong, or if an ethical, moral guideline is crossed, or if you feel like this is just not God-honoring or not working, there is a clear way to buy each other out, or sell out, and divide the assets cleanly.

I’m amazed at the number of people who go into ventures or partnerships without doing this—especially Christians. I think it feels like “we trust each other, why make them feel like I think something’s going to go wrong?”  But the way to frame it is—if we anticipate what could cause misunderstanding or a break of the partnership, then we can remain friends if we agree on how to handle it ahead of time. It’s wise.

Seek Wise Counsel

Before you go into a long-term business venture or partnership, seek wise counsel. 

Seek out and talk to people you respect, especially godly business people who know the person you are about to be tied to and find out their reputation. 

And if there’s anything concerning, don’t violate your conscience for the “big gain.” 

That’s always the reason that nightmare partnerships happen—it seems so financially lucrative, this person is the magic bullet or the perfect partner in some aspects, but if wise counsel or other people see character flaws or past integrity issues, don’t blow past that.

Pay attention to wise counsel.

So Spiritual Alignment is important for Healthy Relationships—especially when we are going to enter a long-term arrangement, and most importantly in the life-long covenant of marriage.  Pay attention to spiritual alignment and you’ll be forever grateful.

We are out of alignment with God, but Jesus came to bring us back into alignment. Ask for forgiveness and He brings you into right relationship. If you’ve done that today or recently, we have an opportunity to declare that today through baptism. If that’s you, just go out to the baptism pool and let someone know you want to be baptized.

If you already follow Jesus, are you in a community that is spiritually aligned? If not, take that step of faith. Join a group! Join a group to serve, to heal, to belong, or to grow. Join us for starting gate to discover how to do so or let us know at the connect spot or through the connect card.

We all have a next step today. Ask God to guide you towards your next step and follow through!

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About John and Kathy Burke

After ministry in Santa Barbara, the former Soviet Union, and Chicago, in one of the […]


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