Everywhere we go we are in relationship with other
people—at home, at work, at church. Being involved in good
relationships is one of the things that makes our lives enjoyable. But
in order to experience the fullest potential they have to offer, we
must build them on a strong foundation.
I have discovered that the strongest foundation for good
relations is love. Jesus said, “By this shall all [men] know that you
are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love
among yourselves]” (John 13:35, AMP).
As we learn to
walk in love in our relationships, we can give up our fight to be
right, become a good student of others and discover the best approach
in dealing with people in any situation.
The Foundation for Good Relations
I used to feel as if I was fighting the devil from
daylight till dark, seven days a week. One morning about 11 years ago I
discovered that the primary reason for my struggle was that I wasn’t
walking in love.
My husband, Dave, and I had just returned from doing a
conference. We went to McDonald’s to have some coffee and read our
mail. Both of us were very tired.
When I’m tired, I like to sit in the sun to be revived.
But in order to sit in the sun, we needed to sit in one of the booths
near the windows, and by the time we arrived, there was only one left.
So Dave said, “You go get the booth, and I’ll go get the coffee.”
As I started walking, I saw out of the corner of my eye a
little old man heading for the same booth. I stepped up my pace a bit
and beat him to it. Fortunately, he knew the lady who was sitting in
the booth right behind us and asked if he could sit with her.
She answered, “Yeah, you can sit here. She beat you to it, huh?”
The worst part of the story is that the man was crippled.
God convicted me right then and there. “Aren’t you cute?”
He asked me. “Here you are, a born-again, baptized-in-the-Holy-Ghost
preacher, in the middle of teaching an ‘anointed’ series on love, and
you’re racing a crippled man for the last seat at McDonald’s!”
This incident helped me realize that I wasn’t walking in
love. True love prefers other people and allows them to go first. Love
will let somebody else have something, even if it’s the last one
available. Love is not self-seeking (see 1 Cor. 13:5).
In order to truly walk in love, we must get our minds off
ourselves and focus on others and their needs. We can have bumper
stickers, Jesus pins, teaching tapes and countless Christian books, but
if the people we come in contact with can’t see love in our actions,
our claim to be “Christian” is of little value.
Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Clothe yourselves therefore, as
God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are]
purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on
behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly
opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience…And above all
these [put on] love.”
The only way that we can put on love is by choice. Just
as our clothes don’t jump off the hangers and onto our body, love
doesn’t just jump out of the Bible and into our character. We must
choose to put it on every day; this is our part. But God is the One who
gives us the strength to walk it out.
First Thessalonians 5:23-24 tells us it is the God of
peace Himself who sanctifies and separates us from profane things—such
as the tendency to be selfish and self-centered. Through the power of
the Holy Spirit living in us, we have the ability to carry out Christ’s
commandment to love one another.
Don’t Fight to Be Right
One way to express our love for others is to be a
peacemaker. The Bible says that we are to live in peace with everybody.
“Be of the same [agreeable] mind one with another; live in peace, and
[then] the God of love [Who is the Source of affection, goodwill, love,
and benevolence toward men] and the Author and Promoter of peace will
be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11).
A person who is living in peace is one who has given up
the fight to be right. Years ago I found it difficult to be this kind
of person. I always had to have the last word, and I always had to be
Dave and I would fight over some of the most ridiculous
things you can imagine. For example, we would watch a movie on
television and fight over who the actors were. It seemed to me that
Dave thought half the men on television were Henry Fonda, and it made
me so angry I couldn’t stand it.
We would go to church every Sunday, rush home and fight
over the couch, and then watch movies and argue about who the actors
were. One night while we were arguing, I heard the Holy Spirit say to
me, “Joyce, if Dave lives his whole life and comes to heaven thinking
that the person in the movie was Henry Fonda, it really doesn’t matter.”
Wow! What a revelation.
It’s hard to believe I made such a big deal over such
insignificant things for so many years! But usually it is the little
issues in our relationships that cause the most problems.
The Bible says “the little foxes…spoil the vineyards [of
our love]” (Song 2:15). We need to stop making a big deal out of little
things. There are enough big concerns to deal with.
I thank God for the peace Dave and I have in our home and
in our relationship now. Every once in a while a conflict will come up.
When it does, we confront the issue in love and come to a resolution so
we can go on in peace. As you and I commit our relationships to the
Lord, He will give us the grace to learn to let go of the little things
and experience more of the joy He died to give us.
Seek to Be a Student of Others
Once you and I begin to walk in love and give up the
fight to be right, we can be more in tune with the needs of others.
Learning to discern others’ needs constituted a major breakthrough in
my life. Like many people, I had a tendency to give others what I
needed instead of what they needed.
A number of years ago, my husband invited me to play a
game of golf with him. He was not playing well that day, and after he
had hit a couple of bad shots, I put my hand on his back, patted him
and said, “It’ll be all right.”
Dave didn’t appreciate my expression of encouragement. He
took my hand, moved it and said: “Don’t do that. I don’t like you doing
that. I’ll be fine.”
I was offended by his response. I got out of the golf
cart and stomped down the fairway thinking, Yeah, you don’t need
anything, Mr. “I’ve Got It All Together.” You can’t even take a little
encouragement because you are too full of pride to admit that you’re
not doing well.
At this point in our relationship, Dave and I were trying
to work through some things. One of the things I was working on was to
stop feeling rejected by him. In fact, I was teaching a series on
rejection at the time.
So instead of staying mad, I stopped and said to God: “I
am not going around this mountain again. I believe You are in charge of
my life, and if You allowed this to happen, then there is something You
are trying to teach me. What is it?”
God spoke to my spirit and said, “If you were playing
bad, you would want Dave to pat you on the back and encourage you. If
he didn’t, you would think he was cold and unloving. The problem is
that you’re trying to give Dave what you need, and he doesn’t need
This comment opened my eyes. God showed me that the
reason for many of the problems in our relationships is that we don’t
take the time to stop and study the other person. If we will follow the
leading of the Holy Spirit, He will show us what others need. Once He
does, we need to freely give it to them.
The fact that we don’t need a particular thing doesn’t
give us the license to withhold it from somebody else. Proverbs 3:27
says, “Withhold not good from those to whom it is due [its rightful
owners], when it is in the power of your hand to do it.” If we will
slow down and seek to understand others instead of seeking to be
understood, we will be able to give them what they need.