For Good Relationships?
In a recent entry in the devotional booklet Our Daily Bread, there was a report about a man who was happy he had accomplished one of the things on his bucket list.
We are familiar with the term bucket list. It refers to a list of things someone hopes to accomplish before he or she dies.
By the way, I looked up bucket list on the computer. Some of the items that came up, some of which I have heard from other sources, too, include dining at one of the world’s best restaurants and going white water rafting. Sky diving. Concerning that, I’m with what I have heard asked, which is, “Why would anyone willingly jump out of a perfectly-operating plane?” Bungee jumping from the Royal Gorge Bridge. That makes even less sense than sky diving, at least to me. Finishing a jigsaw puzzle. Actually, I have never had much success at starting a jigsaw puzzle. As in how do you find even two pieces that fit together? For me, that is true even with the 24-piece Thomas the Train puzzle we have at home for the grand nephews and grand nieces to play with. Learning to fluently speak another language. Attending an Olympics.
The bucket lists some people have go on and on and on. But according to the Our Daily Bread devotional, a man reported he was happy to have recently accomplished one of the things on his list. It was accomplished when he took his sister to Europe.
According to the devotional, the man has traveled to Europe many times himself, but his sister had not, and she wanted to go there. The man put on his bucket list taking his sister where she wanted to go. He was happy when that was accomplished.
The one who wrote the devotional shared how impressed he was with the unselfish nature of the man having on his list something that made his sister happy. The author of the devotional then wondered how many of his dreams and goals were focused, not on himself, but on others.
With that, the author referred to the first of the Bible passages we will consider today as we concentrate on the question, “What makes for good relationships?”
I should mention that the question for today is among those we who are Christians might be asked. Questions we need to have thought about so we will be ready to provide Bible-based answers.
The other questions, which we have asked and answered recently - all of which we will
review toward the end of this message - are these. “What is God like?” “How valuable am I?” “What happens after we die?” And, “Why does God let bad things happen?”
Today, “What makes for good relationships?” Right now, here in this life, what can we do to help the relationships we have with other people be good, positive, encouraging, and helpful for us and for others.
The Bible passage referred to - just so you will know, this is the first of three passages that will be highlighted - is Romans 12, beginning with verses 6 through 8, in which the apostle Paul lists various spiritual gifts a person might have.
Other gifts are listed in other passages. The point is made over and over again in the Bible that everyone has at least one spiritual gift.
But in verses 6 through 8 of Roman 12, here are the gifts listed.
Prophecy. Or preaching, defined as announcing the Christian message.
Teaching. That refers to explaining the Christian message. Explaining what it means.
Exhorting. Specifically teaching others to not only know and understand, but also do God’s word. Exhorting refers to encouraging others to do what God says to do.
Service. As in helping others in various practical ways.
Acts of mercy. That involves forgiving. Forgiveness given so another person can be restored and hopefully grow.
Contributing. Sharing. I think financial giving is the gist of that, but other things can be shared, too, such as expertise or time.
Again, there are other spiritual gifts listed in other Bible passages. But do you notice with each of the ones just listed how they are focused on others?
Concerning preaching, I could preach to myself, but I wonder how much good that would do. Preaching is done so others can hear and know the message of Jesus.
With teaching and exhorting, I realize teachers learn a lot as they prepare lessons. But the lessons are not for themselves. They are for others. For their students. It is others who are to be taught.
Service, giving aid, acts of mercy? They, too, are for the benefit of others.
Contributing. That means not keeping all your money for yourself, but having a willingness to give for the good of others. To give through the church, which helps the various ministries sponsored, or through other groups. The People’s City Mission comes to mind.
All those spiritual gifts are focused on others, rather than on the people who have them. The point being, as this first passage relates to today’s question of what makes for good relationships, that whatever spiritual gifts any of us has are to be used for the benefit of others. If that is how we use our gifts, the relationships we have should be better. Better because we are focused more on others than on ourselves.
Paul continues the passage by listing some other ways to make relationships good. That continues through verse 21 of Romans 12. Included in the list are these things.
Let love be genuine. We are going to get to a definition of love later, but let your love be genuine. Love, not just in words, but in action as well.
Outdo one another in showing honor. And yes, I think it is OK to accept a few accolades from time to time. But our emphasis is always to be on honoring others. That should be more important than the honors we receive.
Practice hospitality. That certainly reaches out to others. Mentioned is the instruction to associate with the lowly, so do not ignore the down-and-outers when offering hospitality.
Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. What an interesting one that is. Do you know someone who has succeeded at something, or someone who has had some other good thing happen to them? Celebrate with them. Do that even if what has happened seems to make them more successful or richer or more powerful or more popular than you. Do you know someone who is sad? Weep with them. Show them sympathy or compassion or understanding. Maybe give them an ear of listening, or maybe a shoulder to rest or cry on. Both rejoicing and weeping at appropriate times will certainly help a relationship to be good.
Repay no one evil for evil. Do not avenge yourself. If an enemy… This is a difficult part of Paul’s teaching. If an enemy is hungry, feed him. If an enemy is thirsty, give him drink.
That last one seems so contrary to what is natural to do. But obeying this part of the passage may improve a relationship. Perhaps the one who is an enemy will be so impressed when kindness is shown that he or she will become a friend.
And hey, maybe such a transformation will not happen. But listen to this teaching in the passage. “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” Maybe all the good things you can think of to do will not make for a good relationship with someone. But you are - I am - to try. We are to do our part to make our relationships good, and keep them good.
Including, as the first passage for today indicates, using our spiritual gifts and doing everything else we do with others in mind.
But, it might be asked, that is fine with most other relationships. What about having good relationships at home? What makes for good relationships with our families?
For the answer to that, let’s consider some words Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians. Colossians 3:18-21.
First, to wives. “Be subject to your husbands.” I have done a bit of study on what that means. what I have found is that the wording could be, “Wives, respect your husbands.” Respect him as a person, as a husband, as a father if that fits. Respect his opinions and his talents. Respect will help him feel valued.
Second, to husbands. “Love your wives.” That includes what follows those words. “Husbands, do not be harsh with your wives.”
You know, even words can be painful. May those of us who are husbands do our best to keep our words to our wives kind and encouraging.
And there is this that popped into my mind. Sometimes a lack of words can be hurtful. Which reminds me of something I share with couples who are getting ready to be married.
A long, long time ago - late 1970’s maybe - our church had a softball team. One night, as we prepared to leave home for a game - me playing, Lynna Gene watching - I guess she said something that upset me.
We got in the car. I backed out of the garage and onto the street. I shifted to drive and proceeded to the ball park, where I parked. All the while saying nothing to Lynna Gene. Saying nothing because I was mad.
Upon parking, I got out of the car, at which time I saw some teammates and their wives. Fellow church members. To whom I immediately started talking. Not just talking, but joking and laughing.
And it hit me. I had just ignored Lynna Gene - my wife - the most important person to me. But I was friendly to everyone else. What, I thought. If I’m mad, fine, but I better show it to everyone. And if I can be friendly to everyone else, I better be friendly to Lynna Gene, too.
At that moment I made a promise. A promise to be at least as nice to Lynna Gene as I am to everyone else.
I think - I hope - I have kept that promise. A promise that, to me, is a sign of love for my wife, which is a Biblical teaching. A teaching designed to help make for good family relationships.
And children, you are included as well. Paul continued, “Obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” According to what Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, children obeying is “the right thing to do.”
But then there is this that Paul added in his letter to the Colossians. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Instead - this is in Ephesians - “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
By the way, do you see how everything is to mesh in a family relationship?
A wife is to respect her husband, which will be easier for her to do if he loves her. And it will be easier for him to love her if she respects him.
It will be easier for children to obey their parents if their parents do not provoke them. It will be easier for parents to not provoke if their children will obey them.
What an interesting meshing of expectations. A meshing that is to extend beyond the family to every other relationship. A meshing that is at least hinted at in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians where, in verses 4 through 6, there is a description of love, which is needed to keep all relationships good. And again, everyone is to live according to the things in these verses. But may it start with us. Remember the teaching. “If possible, so far as it depends upon [us], may [we] live peaceably with all.”
Love is patient. That is the ability to endure injury or provocation without resentment or revenge. It includes praying for someone who is hurtful.
Love is kind. That means being courteous. It includes being useful to others. Remember what is listed in Romans? What we looked at earlier in the list of spiritual gifts? Service, giving aid, acts of mercy? Those are examples of kindness. They will help relationships to be good.
Love is not jealous. It will not feel bad when others succeed.
Neither is love boastful. A loving person will not brag about his or her own successes or importance.
Love is not arrogant or rude. A loving person will not cause problems for others. He or she will treat superiors with respect, those beneath them at work or in school with kindness, everyone else with courtesy.
Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable. And yes, these descriptions can be difficult to follow, including in our every day and in our family relationships. But they must be followed for there to be love, which is needed so our relationships can be good.
Love is not easily provoked or resentful.
Love does not rejoice at wrong. It has no pleasure in learning about someone else’s faults or failings.
Instead, love rejoices in the right. It celebrates when others live as they are supposed to live.
All that - if everyone will follow each part of that description of love - will make our relationships good.
* * * * *
For the past few weeks, we have been answering questions we who are Christians might be asked by others. Questions that might be asked by those who are spiritually curious. Questions we need to be able to answer so we can be what Jesus wants His people to be, which is the salt of the earth. By answering the questions we have considered, we can add a Christian flavor to the world, which will help preserve the world by causing people to have a thirst for a relationship with God, which will help them to be alive spiritually.
With the question discussed today, this series of messages comes to a close. So let me review all of what has been talked about. May we remember each answer so if and when we are asked any or all of them, we can respond in ways that are Bible-based.
What is God like? According to the Bible, God is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and the Vine that sustains us, His branches. He is Love. He is the Creator. He is the Master Teacher. All of that is what God is like.
How valuable am I? According to the Bible, I am - you are - we are so valuable Jesus offers us salvation. So valuable He is willing to forgive us. So valuable He gives us opportunities to please Him.
What happens after we die? According to the Bible, we will go either to Hell, which is a place of punishment, or to Heaven, which is a place where Jesus is - a place where we will be in His loving presence forever. Our destination will be determined by decisions we make in this life. If we reject Jesus, punishment awaits. If we accept Jesus - if we believe in Him as the Savior He is and then live out our faith in Him by obeying Him - Heaven awaits.
Why does God let bad things happen? According to the Bible, it is not God’s idea - it was not His plan - for bad things to happen. Blame Satan for what is bad. But when bad things do happen, God can turn them to good. Good such as receiving comfort from Him and sharing it with others. Good such as our spiritual growth. Good such as us having reasons to rely on God.
And as we have discussed today, what makes for good relationships? According to the Bible, show love to all, as love is described in I Corinthians 13. Share respect, love, and obedience with your family, as those qualities are described in Colossians 3. And as taught in Romans 12, use even your spiritual gifts in ways that will help others.
And again, the charge is to do all that, even if it is not reciprocated. Remember the wording. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
That is what you can do to make for good relationships.
With those questions and answers in mind, today’s closing song will be our invitation for the Lord to take our lives - every part of our lives - and consecrate them to His use, including in preparing us to answer spiritual questions. To answer them as the Bible answers them. In everything we answer, may we be consecrated to be the Lord’s spiritual salt .
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated.
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love,
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King,
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages for Thee;
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my love, my God, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
We are called to be the salt of the earth. We are therefore to be salty in our responses to lots of questions. Including the question discussed today, “What makes for good relationships?”
May we never hesitate in answering that question. May we instead be ready to respond exactly according to what the Bible says. That we are to show love to all. That we are to share respect, love, and obedience with our families. That we are to use even our spiritual gifts in ways that will help others.
As the closing song has challenged us, may those things be our goal, as shown in all we do, all we say, all we spend.
Let’s know - let’s remember - how to answer today’s and all other spiritual questions. May we be salty. Amen.