Human Relationships informed by faith
October 17-22, 2022
MONDAY 10.17.22 Matthew 7:9-14
The “Golden Rule” for mutual relationships
In this passage, Jesus summed up the big ideas he taught in the Sermon on the Mount, including God’s wisdom about human relationships. He had told his hearers to love their enemies, be honest, show mercy, and more. Those were not separate, individual rules. They expressed the great principle of treating others as God treats us, and as we wish others would treat us.
- In law, business, or politics (and all too often in committed personal relationships), we most often hear the idea that we ought to treat people according to what they deserve. But Jesus spoke of treating people as God treats us, with grace and generosity even when we don’t deserve that (cf. Romans 5:6-8, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21). What good things can happen in a marriage or other relationships when love and grace replace “deserving” to guide us in mutual love and sharing? (NOTE: “mutual” is the crucial word here. “Harming our mates, physically or emotionally, or controlling and demeaning them, is the exact opposite of this vow [to ‘help’ our partner].” *
- Some Christians may think the “Golden Rule” was just a nice, surface-y social motto. But Jesus added, “The gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it” (Matthew 7:14). What people or conditions make it hardest for you to treat others as you’d like them to treat you? What are some ways you have proactively sought to treat others in “Golden Rule” fashion? How easy or hard was that for you to do?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to live less and less in “demand” mode, and more and more in line with your teaching. Help me to treat others in the ways I wish they’d treat me. Amen.
TUESDAY 10.18.22 Philippians 2:1-5
Watching out for “what is better for others”
Though he wrote many profound and challenging passages, the Apostle Paul was deeply practical. In verse 1 of today’s reading, he listed four lofty spiritual benefits that can be ours in Christ. But in verse 2-4, he appealed to his readers to live their day-to-day lives, including all their relationships, in ways that made those spiritual qualities into walking, breathing realities.
- In verse 2, Paul wrote, “Complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other.” God created each of us unique, with our own minds and personalities. These differences enhance relationships when both partners seek to live that way. How can you live out the principles of this verse while honoring your God-given uniqueness?
- In verse 3, Paul wrote, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes.” In verse 4 he urged his readers to “watch out for what is better for others.” What are some of the productive, healthy ways you can put the interests of others above your own in response to Christ’s self-giving love for you? What might this look like in healthy, mutually supportive close relationships?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, it can feel hard and scary to think of “doing nothing for selfish purposes.” But to have a partner who “does nothing for selfish purposes” sounds wonderful! Make me that kind of partner. Amen.
WEDNESDAY 10.19.22 Proverbs 15:1-4, 10:12
“Love covers all offenses”
Many of the Proverbs have a bit of a scattershot quality to them. But in Proverbs 15:1-4, the Hebrew sages linked four sayings that showed how words can wound and damage, but also heal and give life. The values that guide all healthy interactions apply, if anything, more strongly to our closest relationships. The principles in these proverbs, though not limited to family life, speak clearly to it.
- “These proverbs do more than simply urge us to watch what we say and how; they also inspire us to examine the intentions of our hearts….We may find that our motives are more complicated than we imagined.” * Does responding to anger with more anger usually make things better or worse? When have you seen wisely chosen words break down barriers that harsh speech would only have made higher and more rigid?
- The Hebrew word for “covers,” said commentator Paul Koptak, in verse 12 meant “the covering that promotes healed relationships, the way that a bandage covers a wound. Hatred stirs up, love smooths over. Discord and dissension spring from hatred, but love nurtures harmony (cf. James 5:20, 1 Peter 4:8).” ** When has love healed a close relationship, not by ignoring a problem, but by being the glue that points beyond the problem to an essential connection worth preserving?
Prayer: God of life and love, help my mouth not to “gush” with hurtful words. Shape me by your Spirit to make my speech more and more a “tree of life” for all people, especially those I love most. Amen.
THURSDAY 10.20.22 Colossians 3:12-14
“The perfect bond of unity”
The apostle Paul trained to be a rabbi with the respected leader Gamaliel (cf. Acts 5:33-39, 22:3). It’s no surprise that, after he became an itinerant Christian preacher, he taught his Gentile converts the principles of speech and relationships found in Proverbs. But he added a powerful additional motive to his teaching: Jesus’ example. “As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other,” he wrote.
- Paul called all of Christ’s followers to “put on” five qualities: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” When have you shown those qualities toward someone you love, or had that person show them toward you? What other responses might you or they have chosen? Would those alternatives have made things better or worse?
- Every week in worship at Shepherd of the Hills, we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Colossians said, “As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.” How does accepting, deep inside, that God forgives you transform your willingness to forgive others? What factors make seeing yourself and others as “forgivable” particularly significant in building durable intimate relationships?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, please keep shaping me into a person of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Give me the grace to forgive as you’ve forgiven me. Amen.
FRIDAY 10.21.22 Colossians 3:15-17
“The perfect bond of unity”
Paul went on from the words we read yesterday to tell the Colossian Christians, “The peace of Christ must control your hearts.” He wrote that to people who lived in a world at least as cruel and unsettling as ours, perhaps more so. That Greco-Roman world casually discarded friends and lovers, and often showed its Christian citizens hatred, violence, and scorn. Paul’s counsel about peace, praise, and gratitude was a survival manual for people who lived in a spiritual “combat zone.”
- What parts of your experience and temperament make “the peace of Christ” particularly important to make your closest relationships last? The Message rendered verse 16, “Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives.” * How can you live that out?
- Verse 17 took in a lot of ground: “WHATEVER you do, whether in speech or action, do it ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus.” What does it mean to you to do whatever you do in Jesus’ name? How can you work, shop, face a speeding highway or a maddening traffic jam, react to today’s news, cheer for the Longhorns or your kid’s soccer team, or discuss differing ideas about the family budget or future holiday plans “in the name of the Lord Jesus”?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to be a thankful person no matter what comes my way today. Let your peace more and more control my heart and my words. Amen.
SATURDAY 10.22.22 Ephesians 4:25-32
“Say what is helpful”
Anger is a human reality—some experts classify it as one of four basic human emotions. Ephesians 4:26 quoted Psalm 4:4 from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called Septuagint. Then, perhaps because “be angry without sinning” might feel a little vague for real life (“How do I do that?”), the letter added timeless personal advice (of special value in close relationships): “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.” Your words can hurt or heal, and you get to choose which words you speak: “Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say” (cf. also James 1:26-27). And since we’re not likely to always get that right, the passage reminded readers about how God treats us: “Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.”
• Ephesians linked honesty with its call to “be angry without sinning.” We sometimes hide anger by lying, maybe even to ourselves (outwardly: “I’m not angry”; inwardly: resentful). When have you seen a failure to honestly face anger harm a relationship? One counselor said, “Bitterness is anger grown stale.” Ephesians 4 knew that “anger is natural… because people hurt each other in various ways….Paul wants them to deal with it right away so that no one sins against another by feeding on that anger and doing further damage.”
Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “People who are enslaved to anger and malice may think they are ‘free’ to ‘be themselves’, but they are in bondage.” Have you ever said hurtful words, and then thought, “Why did I say that?” Before firing off angry words, are you willing to ask, “Does this give grace? Does it build up? Can I picture Jesus saying this?”
Prayer: Loving Jesus, help me to speak and live so that words like “peace,” “unity,” “humility” and “love” will be the main qualities I show others, especially those closest to me. Amen.