Life is About Relationships

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

“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow solider, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:1–3).

I have always been an early riser. It matters not whether I go to bed late or early or whether I am rested or worn-out; my internal clock always wakes me up before sunrise. During my pastoral days in Fort Lauderdale, I journeyed to San Francisco for a speaking engagement. I arrived, had dinner and went to bed in the hotel to get rest before my assignment the next morning. Like clockwork I was wide awake at 6 a.m. The only problem was I was now on Pacific time, three hours earlier than my body clock. The little red numerals on the clock radio beside my bed greeted me with the news: 3 a.m.! With zero success, I tried my best to go back to sleep. I quoted every verse I knew, and yes, even began to count sheep jumping over the fence. But all to no avail.

I got up and went to the desk by the window to work on some items I had brought in my briefcase. I reached for the switch to turn on the desk lamp, moved it to the on position… and nothing happened. I don’t usually give up on things too easily, so I began to do a little detective work. I arrived at the brilliant conclusion that the lamp had only three possible points of connection: the source, the switch and the socket. I checked the source. The lamp cord was plugged in to the outlet all right, snugly connected to the source. Next, I rechecked the switch. It was turned on. Now the process of deduction was coming to fruition. There was only one more possibility. I checked the socket where the light bulb was screwed into the lamp. Bingo! The bulb must have just been replaced and had not been screwed tightly enough into the socket. I gave it a couple of turns, and there was light!


The socket

When we really think about it, life is a lot like that lamp. We have all known people who seem to have a little sparkle or shine about them. And most of us have been connected with others who, by their very presence, light up our lives and the lives of those with whom they come in touch. What is it about these kinds of people? They are connected at the source, the switch, and the socket. There are only three relationships in life: We have relationships with others, whether at home, at the office, in the social arena, or wherever. This is the outward connection, the socket, if you please. Here we make contact and touch the lives of others.


The switch

Second, we have a relationship with ourselves. Some call it self-esteem, self-worth, or self-respect. This is the inward connection, the switch that turns on the light. Here we connect with ourselves in order to produce positive relationships with others. 


The source

Finally, and this is an awesome thought, we have the capacity to have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the upward connection, the source where we can plug in to supernatural power. 

What is the bottom line of these three relationships in life: the outward connection, the inward connection, and the upward connection? We will never properly relate to others until we properly relate to ourselves, and we will never properly relate to ourselves until we find our self-worth in Christ by being connected with Him through faith. In short, in order to shine and light up the lives of others in positive, productive interpersonal relationships, we need to be connected at the source, the switch, and the socket.


Made to connect

relationshipsWe are made to communicate positively with each other in relationships. Back at the very beginning of the created order, with each creative act, God would pause and speak. Do you remember what He said? That’s good. He said this same thing when He made the sun, the moon and the starts and put them in their places of orbit in clock-like precision. He said this when He divided the sea and land and made the vegetation and the animal life. That’s good… that’s good… that’s good. But then He made man, and God said something else: “Not good”! What? “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are made to connect with each other in the power of productive interpersonal relationships. By our very nature, we are made to connect with each other. Much of our success in life is not determined by how much we know or how high we have managed to climb in material circles, but in our ability to build positive, productive relationships with others in the home, in the marketplace and in the social arena. 

Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul laid hold of this threefold principle of relationships and masterfully used it in the initial paragraph in his letter of greeting to his friend Philemon. Paul viewed himself as connected at the source, plugged in to an unlimited power supply, fueled by the Holy Spirit. He saw himself as connected at the switch. He was switched on and exuded self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence by finding his own identity in the person of Jesus Christ. And the result of his being plugged in and switched on was that when he touched the lives of others, he not only brightened their road but had a unique way of lightening their load at the same time. 

Relationships and Life

The problem with so many relationships is a breakdown at one of these points of connection. Some have a difficult time relating to others because of the fact their own self-image is damaged. Thus, their tendency is to be so fearful of rejection that contact is never made with others, and the light that could mean so much to others never gets switched on. Many relationships are unhealthy because we can project what we feel about ourselves onto other people in our world. Still others seem to move from one relationship to another, never able to move beyond just short-term connections.

Allow me to say what I have already said: We have only three relationships in life, an outward expression, an inward expression, and an upward expression. And the truth is, we will never properly relate to others until we properly relate to ourselves. This will never happen until we come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, realize how indescribably valuable we are to Him, and begin to find our self-worth in Him — not in ourselves. This is the thrust of Pual’s ancient yet applicable letter to Philemon. 


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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