Our relationships with other people are about so much more than our relationships with other people.
The way we relate to other people reflects our attitude towards God. He is the ultimate reference point for all our relationships.
Not our comfort.
Not even the way the other person is acting.
What does He want?
How can I please Him?
If you make another person’s attitude and actions your reference point for how you are going to respond and relate to them, you are going to have a very difficult time moving forward. Because people change. Some days they are going to do the right thing, other days they are not, which means, if they are your reference point, the way you respond to them is going to be constantly going up and down.
But with God.
Whats more, when you only focus on the other person, if that is the only person you are looking at, there are going to be times when you just can’t see doing the right thing because they might be actually evil. If it is only them and you in the relationship, there’s not much hope because they might just not be a good person.
That’s why the Bible doesn’t encourage you love other simply because they deserve it.
For example in 1 Peter, Peter is talking to servants about how they should respond to their masters, and he talks in the second chapter about servants whose masters are morally bankrupt.
If you are only thinking about the other person, then you are going to find many different reasons to give up and to stop doing the right thing. But when Peter counsels servants with unreasonable masters, he won’t let them just think about the other person. Instead, they have to see that their response to that person is connected to their attitude towards God.
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”
It is almost like you have to learn to see Jesus smiling standing behind the person who is screaming in your face.
I had a friend who came under attack and he was describing how painful it was. He just wanted to attack back. He actually was invited to a sit down across the table kind of conference with the people who were attacking him and they were just unleashing on him. How awful! I asked him how was he able to continue to respond with grace and kindness in the middle of that.
He said that he just imagined tape recording the conversation and sitting down afterwards with Jesus and listening, and so he made it his primary goal to speak in a way that would make Jesus happy.
That’s what I am talking about.
If we are going to respond lovingly to others we must focus our attention on Christ even more than we do on how the other person is treating us. Obviously, when we are in difficult relationships, it is tempting to think our response is mostly about the other person, which is why we are getting angry, but our response, is actually first and foremost about our faith.
Do we trust God enough to love people who are hard to love?