Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I’m grateful to Dr Dale Robbins of Victorious Publications for the thoughts about a topic that affects each one of us. We can’t escape living and mixing with people, and we need help on how to get along with them.
Years ago a simple placard was often displayed on the walls of American public school rooms. It said, Remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. This simple code of behaviour, when practiced, made schools, and society, a far better place than they are today. The ‘Golden Rule’ has been called the greatest principle of human relations and originated from the Bible with these words of Jesus: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
According to Jesus, two great commands serve as the foundation of all the teaching of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). The first and greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul.” He stated that the second great command is to “Love your neighbour as yourself,” which is another reference to the Golden Rule. In other words, ‘love’ is the act of doing to others as we would want them to do to us.
The law of reciprocity
The Golden Rule continues to be Jesus’ expected standard of behaviour by his followers. It is not an option, but is considered a command of the Lord. Christians are taught to treat others in the way which they wish to be treated themselves. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
When God created mankind, he established the ‘law of reciprocity’, which gave man the ability to reap in accordance to what he would sow. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). This principle of sowing and reaping is both a natural and spiritual law. Its application is universal, whether we’re talking about agriculture, work ethics, our health, our relationship with God, our marriage, or our relationships with each other. The kind of seed sown will determine the kind of harvest yielded. In effect, man’s end-product is determined by what he chooses to sow. He is the catalyst for what he receives out of life.
Treat others with the same attitude and consideration that you wish to be shown.
When we consider relationships with people, we discover that they are especially affected by what we sow. Human beings tend to be impressionable, reactive creatures. In other words, they generally reflect the treatment they receive from others. Our behaviour toward people tends to be the catalyst, the motivation for how they relate to us. Consequently, treating others with courtesy usually causes them to be courteous to us. Patience and kindness promotes patience and kindness, etc. Ask yourself how you wish to be treated:
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- Would you like to be shown encouragement?
- Do you want your shortcomings to be treated with tolerance and forgiveness?
- Do you desire to be shown love and acceptance?
Then treat others with the same attitude and consideration that you wish to be shown.
You’d be amazed at how many people feel lonely and lack friends simply because they don’t apply the law of sowing and reaping. The ability to make friends has nothing to do with how attractive, smart or successful you are. Once again, our attitudes and actions toward others are the measure by which they usually relate to us. Sometimes people may have a low self-esteem or may be preoccupied with problems which may cause them to seem distant or unfriendly to others. Ironically, they may often feel that others don’t like them because they are somehow inferior or unacceptable in some way. However, this is not the case. People tend to react to whatever attitude is projected toward them, and the impression of coldness and unfriendliness is what causes others to keep their distance.
The greatest factors in making friends
Sociologists say that friendliness and confidence are the greatest factors in initiating friendships. The Bible teaches, if you want friends, you must first sow your friendliness into others, and they will respond with friendship. “A man that has friends must show himself friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24). Be friendly, but don’t over-impose yourself upon people. Remember, what we sow is what we reap. If we sow rudeness and inconsiderate behaviour, we will likewise reap the results. “Seldom set foot in your neighbour’s house—too much of you,and he will hate you” (Proverbs 25:17).
The attitudes and behaviour you sow can diffuse conflict. When a person is at peace with God, his demeanour is content, joyful and peaceful—not contentious or angry. His nature lends toward peace rather than turmoil. Thus, the sower of a gentle, peaceful attitude tends to defuse hostility and anger. The Bible says:
When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7 – GW).
Words are some of the most potent seeds that we can sow.
Words are some of the most potent seeds that we can sow. If we sow gentle, peaceful words, they will tend to disarm conflict, rather than to provoke trouble. “A gentle answer turns away wrath: but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 – EHV). If we are patient and persistent, our gentle expressions are far more likely to change hearts and opinions than anything else. (Proverbs 25:15).
The Scripture says,”The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself” (Ecclesiastes 10:12 – ASV). ‘Grace’ means unmerited favour, and gracious words are those filled with gestures of unearned kindness.
The wise person, who wants to develop good relationships, looks for good and complimentary things to sow into others. Everyone wants to be around those who are gracious with their speech. “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs12:25)