Crossing the Rubicon of Relationships

Dr. O.S. Hawkins Chancellor, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (Philemon vv. 17-21 NKJV).


The year was 49 BC. The order came down to Julius Caesar to disband his army and give up his struggle. He stood on the banks of the Rubicon River and pondered his immediate dilemma. If he continued his march and crossed the river, there could be no turning back. He gathered his troops, tore up his orders, and led his dedicated legion across the Rubicon to march against Rome. This act of total commitment to the cause brought about a declaration of war against the Senate, and for Caesar, it paved the way to his becoming ruler of the expanding Roman world. Since that moment, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” has been used to signify total commitment to a cause from which there can be no turning back. 

There should be a “Rubicon” in close interpersonal relationships, a line of commitment we cross in which we are “in” for the duration. The word commitment is one that gets a lot of wear today but needs a more definitive expression. Some are committed — but only to their own happiness. Thus, they tend to move from one relationship to another while being virtually void of commitment. Commitment is one of the missing elements in modern relationships. The secret to ongoing connections is to cross the Rubicon of relationships by making a commitment to one another that lasts a lifetime.



No treatise on the art of building positive and productive relationships would be complete without a word about commitment. Paul, having already addressed in his letter to Philemon such vital principles as affirmation of one another, accommodation of one another, and acceptance of one another, next turned his attention to the importance of allegiance to one another. He expressed his commitment to Onesimus by writing, “If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my account” (Philemon vv. 17–18). When Philemon read that, he knew Pual was unconditionally committed to Onesimus. Then Paul sent a definitive word to assure Philemon that he was just as committed to him as well by writing, “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (v. 21). 


Four steps

Relationships that last over time are those that are built upon loyalty and commitment to one another. Crossing the Rubicon in relationships takes four steps. Paul articulately and accurately pointed each of them out as he continued his letter to Philemon. 

The first step is openness. And this is often the most difficult step, especially since any long journey always begins with the first step. Committed friends have no agendas hidden from each other. They are open in their relationships with each other. 

The second step is obligation. Committed friends sense a responsibility for one another. They always stick up for each other and rush to the other’s defense when the need arises. 

The third step in crossing this river is objectivity. They get the big picture. They return favors. They always see past themselves to the importance of reciprocation.

The final step is optimism. Committed friends believe the best about each other, stay positive, and always do more than is expected in their relationship. They bring out the best in each other. It only takes a little to be above average in this respect.

There is a river to cross in our relationships with one another. It may be that some of you stand on its bank, in a similar way that Julius Caesar did. It is time to commit — to the point you realize there will be no turning back. Every relationship has its own Rubicon.


Taken from The Connection Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2023 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. O. S. Hawkins is the chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books and regularly speaks to business groups and churches nationwide. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the Code series support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting

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