Almost any time you get a group of people together for any length of time you’ll have problems. Take your family, for example. All of you may be trying your best to live right, but I know families well enough to know that you have a few problems.
Dad gets grumpy. Mom loses her patience. Little Susie slaps her brother, and little brother doesn’t exactly turn the other cheek. A Christian family doesn’t always act Christian.
What about your job? How long has it been since the last big brouhaha?
John’s not getting the recognition he deserves, Jane uses the copier too much, and Jim never shuts his mouth. [I made all that up, but I suspect it reflects a real business somewhere close by . . .]
Oh, but the church isn’t like that, right?
Unfortunately, we’re not exempt either, which is why a significant chunk of the New Testament was written to help Christians get along with one another. I think all of the biblical advice could be summed up in four short verses from Paul, though:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).
One short command in that paragraph always jumps out at me: “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Aren’t most of our relationship problems—at work, at home, at church—caused by our disobeying that verse?
Dad got grumpy because everything didn’t go his way when he got home from work. Little Susie slapped her brother because he took a toy she wanted. Mr. Church-member got his feelings hurt and started a fuss because someone didn’t ask his opinion about some church matter. What’s the thread running through all of that?
I. Like. Myself.
And I think I’m pretty much the most significant person in the room. The problem is, you think the same thing about yourself. And when you have a whole bunch of people thinking that, you have problems at work, home, or church.
The key, of course, is Christ, who calls us to something bigger than self-love. He tells us to stop playing the chest-thumping, I’m-better-than-you nonsense. He asks us to follow him down the path of self-denial, to humble ourselves and treat people as more significant than ourselves.
Try it this week. Wherever you are, treat the people around you as Jesus treated you—as more significant, more important, and worthy of being served by you.
It won’t fix all of the world’s conflict, but it’ll minimize it wherever you are. —Chuck