In a previous article, we looked at how the phrase “Walk Worthy” applied to living out one’s ideals. I think that the phrase also applies in a very meaningful way to our interpersonal relationships — not just how we behave when interacting with strangers that we encounter through chance meetings.
Our interpersonal relationships come in a range of intimacy and permanency:
- Some are critically important and permanent like our relationship with God as our Creator, our parents who raised us, siblings who shared a home with us, and eventually a spouse and children of our own as we grow up into adulthood
- Some relationships can seem as important to us as family, but may be less permanent over the course of our lives – best friends, fellow patrol members, teachers who helped us overcome a fear of algebraic word problems, kind pastors/priests who comforted us in times of grief or educated us in understanding eternal spiritual matters, etc.
- Other relationships could be much more transient such as co-workers at our place of employment, people we meet in college classes or in special interest clubs, etc.
Regardless of the nature of these relationships, we ought to walk worthy of these people – at least as far as the “golden rule” would imply “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (which is actually from scriptures such as Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18; James 2:8; Galatians 5:18; Romans 13:9).
Still, as Christians we’re actually called to a much higher standard that can be difficult to walk worthy of on a consistent basis. We’re told in Romans 5:8 that God demonstrated His perfect love toward us in that while we were in open rebellion against Him (sinning, breaking His rules) He sent His only son to die as payment for our transgression. He has the right to condemn us and destroy us, but He loves us enough to withhold His proper and legitimate wrath AND give us a means of escaping the penalty of our rebellion. This still requires us to confess our sins and pursue holiness instead of living in sin, but it’s a powerful message that comes with added responsibility. In loving others, we are commanded (in Matthew 5:43-48) to not only love our neighbors, but to love our enemies. The passage concludes in verse 48 with the admonition to “be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” so we’re to walk worthy of perfection? Not sure we can achieve that, but our standards should be to actively shun sin while loving others and sharing the gospel with them.
So what can we do to safeguard and nurture friendships? Actually there’s a lot of advice in the Bible:
- First, protect the relationships we’ve already established.
- Luke 6:31 – “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
- Romans 12:10 – “Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.”
- Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
- Colossians 3:12-14 – “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
- John 15:12-15 – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
- We should work to understand the issues that often cause strife in our interpersonal dealings so that we can tame them, be vigilant, and avoid those issues.
- Pride is the opposite of humility. Humility is needed for unity. Pride can be insidious – lying dormant and ready to interfere with otherwise healthy relationships. Consider these verses: Matthew 20:25-26 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” When you start thinking that someone else “owes you” this or that courtesy or gesture, you may be encouraging your own pride to rear its own ugly and ungodly head. The net result could be an argument or destroyed relationship.
- Respect authority. If someone is the leader within an organization, you may not agree with their approach, words or attitude, but when you challenge them you forget that they’ve earned that appointment and have to answer to a much stricter judge than you could ever be. Instead support them, talk with them, come alongside and try to help them understand your concerns gently. Consider Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Also remember 1 Peter 5:5 – “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
- If (when) we mess up, understand the simple formula provided to reconcile
- Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
- Reconciliation is an urgent matter. Get it tended to before anything else – consider Matthew 5:23-24 – “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
- It doesn’t matter how big the offense may seem, or who may be responsible. We’re reminded in Matthew 5:43-48 that we’re to love even our enemies and that we should be perfect like our Father in heaven is perfect. “Be the bigger man” is seen in a whole new light when the so-called “bigger man” is God in heaven – can we forgive even when we’re right and they’re wrong? God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. Learn, and practice to be like HIM – walk worthy.
Lastly, there may be rare times when conflict is actually needed. Sometimes Paul the Apostle and Jesus had conflicts with other people over serious issues (not petty or contrived issues). These have to deal with error in doctrine and should be handled with the utmost care and concern that the issue be resolved and the person, once back on the right trail be loved and restored (Proverbs 27:5-6). However, that’s another story for another day.