Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to truly understand another person?
Most of us have had the experience of being puzzled over interactions, even with someone we’re very close to.
I remember once helping two people in their effort to get along better. When I shared with one of them what the other expected, the first person was surprised. They thought that’s what they’d been doing all along!
Knowing how to love others can be challenging, but it’s essential to keep at it.
God created human beings as relational creatures. A career, wealth, and success may be fulfilling in some ways, but they can’t take the place of deep and satisfying relationships.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had perfect communion with each other until they entered into sin. Ever since then, human interactions have been plagued by dysfunction, pain, and conflict.
The most challenging relationships are usually with those closest to us—our families or people who are very significant to us personally.
Our intimacy with God can empower us to love others well, but good relationships don’t happen automatically. They take time and effort to cultivate.
Sometimes we’re so busy and distracted with responsibilities that we don’t pause to evaluate how well we’re relating to our family members. In fact, without proper awareness we may become insensitive to the unchristlike ways we’re treating them.
We might not even see a problem until we’re faced with a major crisis like divorce or alienation from our children or parents.
So let’s take time right now to consider the quality of our family relationships.
When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, He gave a principle that should guide all our interactions: “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31).
Most of us are familiar with this saying because it’s known as the Golden Rule, but knowing it isn’t the same as practicing it. This command came directly from Jesus, and as His followers we’re obligated to obey it.
I invite you to think about this principle and write a list of ways you’d like others to treat you.
Then ask yourself if this is how you’re behaving toward people, and specifically toward family members. For instance, if you want to be treated with respect, are you doing the same for your spouse, siblings, or parents?
As you make your list, consider how God tells us to act.
First of all, the Lord wants us to demonstrate love for others.
All the commandments in the Bible regarding human interactions are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9).
Love is more than emotion; it’s selfless, other-centered action. The motive is to do what’s best for other people. That’s not always going to be what they think they want.
But as we practice behaving this way, we’ll get better at recognizing the unspoken needs and expectations of those we love.
Second, God tells us to treat people with kindness.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).
Wouldn’t you like others to treat you like this instead of with harshness?
Then this is how you should treat them. Think of the harmony and peace these qualities would produce in your home or interactions. Children who grow up in a kind environment are more likely to continue this practice in their own homes in the future.
Third, we are to forgive each other just as God forgave us.
We should respond by “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also” (Col. 3:13).
Because families often live in close proximity, offenses are inevitable. But we should never live on the edge of anger or hold grudges, because that’s a poison that affects everyone in the family.
When we wrong others, we want forgiveness, so that is what we should offer them.
You may be thinking that treating others like this is impossible, and in your own strength, it is. But believers have the power of the Holy Spirit to help them overcome sinful responses and instead, to interact as God desires.
Remember that the Golden Rule is not always reciprocal. The context of Luke 6:31 is about responding to mistreatment. Treating someone according to this principle doesn’t mean they’ll do the same for you. The goal is to make sure you’re responding the way God wants in any case.
Even if your kindness isn’t returned at first, your gracious response could still impact the other person.
On several occasions, when I showed kindness to those who mistreated me, I saw a startled look on their faces because it was not what they expected. You could make a great impact in someone’s life by living out this principle.
Your kindness to others, especially to family members, is of great value. And as you move away from self-focus and into selflessness, you’ll find you understand them better. Your relationships will vastly improve—and that pleases and honors God.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. It’s a comfort to know that the Lord can restore broken relationships and hearts. Here at In Touch Ministries, we’d like to help you seek healing for your family. If you’re struggling in this area, please visit us at intouch.org for prayer and further resources.