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The Southgate Christian Fellowship

Message Centre

Getting Along Nicely

 Some people say: ‘I love God, it’s people I can’t stand’

But we can’t make it through life without dealing with people. They are everywhere. Even when we think we’ve got rid of them the phone goes. They are in our homes and at our work. They are at church and where we enjoy our leisure.

Like it or not, we need people. We might wish sometimes that we could live life totally on our own terms, but that is impossible, and learning to deal with people will help us at home, at work or at church. It will help us live a happier life.

However, getting along with other people can present a challenge for us as Christians. But it also presents us with an opportunity. This is increasingly important in the context of the breakdown of society in the UK  today where people may not be interested in God or religion but they do want to know how to live successfully.

As Christians we have the ‘Makers Manual’ to show us how to do it and help others do the same. So let’s look at some excerpts from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, to see what principles he can give us for getting along with people.

 

1: Criticism

In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says…  1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

 Here, Jesus is talking about unreasonable criticism. He’s not saying we can’t bring correction where it’s needed. He’s not saying we cannot or should not discern good from evil. This is needful at times, in fact, as St Paul says,  the Bible brings teaching, rebuke, correction and training in righteousness (2Timothy 3:16-17), and elsewhere, St Paul talks of the need to love each other more but with all knowledge and discernment (Philippians 1:9-10).

So, what Jesus is saying is that we should not subject others to unreasonable or destructive criticism. Critical spirits can poison churches and destroy God’s work, and in the eyes of critical people some people can’t do right for doing wrong. Jesus is warning against this, because unjust criticism comes from, and can bring, hurt, resentment, bitterness, bearing grudges, unforgiveness and the like...

Jesus is saying… ‘Check yourself, it will keep you busy enough just monitoring yourselves without judging others.

Jesus is saying we don’t have a right to try to straighten other people out while we have unresolved problems.

 

2: The extra mile

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus says…  38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

 Can justice still be done? Yes. Jesus wasn’t saying justice shouldn’t be done. Rather, he was saying that the principle of retaliation, practiced by the Jews at the time, shouldn’t be an excuse for vengeance. Also, turning the other cheek does not mean that we cannot defend our lives.

It does mean however,  that we should not take little insults too seriously.

Here is a challenge for us as Christians: Can we coexist with difficult people? Can we overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21)?

Also, Jesus is encouraging us to have a generous and compassionate attitude toward the needy. And remember, going the extra mile or giving another your coat opens the door for love to be returned. This can drive some people crazy until they find out why you are so kind.

Going the extra mile can mean flowers instead of an email, a visit instead of a phone call, a meal instead of chocolates on Mothers Day, on a Birthday…

 

3: Say sorry

In Matthew 5:23-26 Jesus says…  23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

 Apparently, when a group of thoroughbred horses face attack, they stand in a circle facing each other and, with their back legs, kick out at the enemy. Donkeys do just the opposite; they face the enemy and kick each other!

Sadly, Christians can do just that, ignoring the real enemy while we attack fellow believers.

Are you a horse or a donkey?

Does time heal? Not if the issue hasn’t been dealt with. Sometimes an incident can become a faded memory over time but that doesn’t mean it’s resolved or dealt with. On the other hand, sometimes time allows a situation to become worse and worse until it becomes dangerous.

We need to deal with conflicts and not hope they will go away. Paul says judgement follows taking Holy Communion without rightly recognising the Body of Christ (1Corinthians 11:29). We need to keep short accounts with God and with each other. There needs to be, and there can be, reconciliation through forgiving and forgetting. That’s what we’re encouraged to do in the Lord’s Prayer.

 

4: Love your enemy

In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says…  43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 It is a shame to say, but sometimes we can’t even show kindness to those who are kind to us. Yet Jesus wants us to be kind, even to the undeserving, even our enemies. It’s a tall order but God’s Grace is there for us because showing kindness to an enemy is better than revenge.

 Initially it can provoke a negative response but it opens the door for love to break through. As St Paul says… “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21)

The quality of love commanded here is expressed by giving. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you. We can’t do this out of our human nature but we have the nature of Jesus - the fruit of the Spirit - in us for this purpose (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

5: The Golden Rule

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus says…  12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

This is has been called the golden rule, for the principle is worth gold to us. Jesus saw this statement as summary of the law and the prophets.

Notice that Jesus states this as a positive. He didn’t say, “Don’t do to others anything you would not want done to you.” That’s easy, and basically leaves us off the hook. We don’t need to do anything but rightly respond to the actions of others instead.

Instead, Jesus wants us to be proactive in doing good. That’s his example and the thrust of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. The key to understanding Jesus’ words is to keep in mind the major thrust of His teaching: good not evil, grace not vengeance, love not hatred. This is the morality of Christ.

Jesus said… Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

This is both a challenge and an opportunity.

 

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