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How important are relationships with God and with each other? – Part 3

In the second part of this series, we started to look at an outline of biblical information to show just how important inter-personal relationships are with other human beings.

In this third part, we will review some Scriptures that show how we are to deal with others in our relationship with them.

How we are to deal with others in our relationship with them.

One of the most obvious places to start is in Exodus 20 where God gave Israel the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments are instructions about how humans should relate to God and the other six are about how people should treat and relate to each other. If these were taken seriously, all relationships would be unrecognisable to what we experience today where selfishness and self-serving predominate.

The Ten Commandments give a summary of how to love God and how to love our neighbour.  God gave additional statutes and judgments showing the practical application of the Ten Commandments.

For example, Exodus 22:21-22 tells us: “You shall neither mistreat a stranger [sojourner or foreigner] nor oppress him… You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.”

Rather than oppressing others, we ought to help them when we have opportunity. Deuteronomy 22:1-4 states:

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.”

We are to do a good turn for others wherever possible.

In addressing our relationship with other Church members, Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

There should be no semicolon in the phrase, “… love one another; as I have loved you.”  Rather, Christ is telling us that we ought to love our brethren in the same way as He has loved us.

Paul, when writing to the Galatians, outlined important principles of sowing and reaping and of not growing weary in well doing, and he finished by saying: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Paul further wrote how he did everything he could to accommodate others to show them the way to salvation, without compromising God’s law, when he wrote: “…and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;   to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

First, he was determined in destroying the Church and having the members arrested and killed, but after his conversion, he was reaching out to others and was trying to do all he could to help others to be led to God’s Truth and to reach man’s ultimate potential—entrance into the Kingdom of God. His communication was out of love towards his fellow human beings. He knew of course that he could not convert or proselytize someone, but he wanted to make sure that he did not become a hindrance for those whom God would call to salvation.

John, the apostle whom Christ loved and who had a special relationship with Christ, addresses another important point in this context, writing:

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).  This was central to the teaching that Jesus gave to all who listened to Him and wanted to follow Him. Unfortunately, down through the ages, lip service has so often been present but the substance ignored.

Notice the communication which Jesus had with one of the scribes:

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ [Christ summarized here the Ten Commandments.] So the scribe said to Him, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’  But after that no one dared question Him” (Mark 12:28-34).

Christ was also saying, in effect, that those who do not love God or their fellow man are far from the Kingdom of God. In fact, they were still walking in darkness even though they might have thought that they were walking in the light. This is especially true for Church members who hate their brethren (1 John 2:9-11).

Jesus said that He would judge the nations and gave this warning for those who did understand the Truth, but refused to live by it: “… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matthew 25:35-36). He then went on to explain in verses 37-40: “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”  That’s quite a warning for those who are followers of Jesus Christ who gives us the blueprint for how we are to treat and deal with other brethren. It is quite a lesson in interpersonal relationship behaviour.

We have to be careful that we don’t upset or offend others unnecessarily.   We will probably know some people who can be touchy or sensitive; perhaps we ourselves can be like this at times, but the apostle Paul addresses this type of relationship in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 where we read the following:

“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?  And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?   But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

This is a classic case of doing without by abstaining or forgoing what we might normally do for the sake of others who are weak in the faith and might be encouraged by our conduct (which is objectively faultless) to follow our example, but they would be doing so with a compromised conscience. Inasmuch as whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23), we must be careful by not encouraging others to sin against their conscience.  We should endeavour at all times, wherever possible, to have good relationships with others although at times, for many reasons, that may not be possible.  If it is not possible, let us ensure that we are not the responsible party in such a case.

Selflessness should be part of the way we react and behave in life as the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:33: “…just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Again, Paul’s desire was that others would be saved, and he did not want to endanger that possibility by the way he conducted himself.

Jesus was hassled and harassed by the religious establishment of His time as they tried to trick Him into giving answers that would incriminate Himself.  “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’  Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”’” (Matthew 22:34-40).  After the Sadducees failed, the Pharisees tried yet again to trap Jesus. However, Jesus was not taken by surprise or without an answer and gave a perfect summary of the foundation of all the law and the prophets for all of those who choose to follow Him.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, later explained: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8).

Jesus gave instruction about those who are against us: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48).

On the same theme, further direction and guidance was given as we read in Luke 6:35 about this matter which cuts right across the grain of our human nature:  “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.”  Very often, when enemies see others reacting in this most unusual way, that of trying to do good to them or trying to be helpful, they can have a change of mind about them.

Paul, in quoting from Proverbs 25:21-22, tells us in Romans 12:17-21:

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

One practical example can be found in Exodus 23:4-5: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.”

If we are to treat our enemy that way, how much more are we to show love for our brethren, leading to unity. Psalm 133:1 is a key verse and very self-explanatory: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!”

The first part of Proverbs 18:24 states that “A man who has friends must himself be friendly,” showing that we shouldn’t be inward looking and “locking out” other people. However, many feel that this is not the best translation. The Ryrie Study Bible comments: “Probably better, ‘A man of (too many) friends will be broken in pieces.’ Indiscriminately chosen friends may bring trouble, but a genuine friend sticks with you through thick and thin.” It still remains true that we must act towards genuine friends in a friendly manner.

When relationship problems occur in a marriage, friendship, business and in so many other areas of life, the outcomes can be threatening, even disastrous.   Even in the Church we can have difficulties between members which can be distressing to the parties involved and may be resolved if the appropriate action is taken.

One passage of Scripture is often overlooked when there is sin involved, causing problems with inter-personal relationships within the Church. The modern phrase is conflict resolution and how we go about it.   We have covered this many times in sermons and in other literature but a brief reminder may be helpful. In Matthew 18:15-17 we read: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

For a thorough discussion of conflict resolution between brethren  in Matthew 18:15-20, please see our Q&A, https://www.eternalgod.org/q-a-2853/  See also our Q&A on the power and authority of excommunication in Matthew 18:17.  https://www.eternalgod.org/question-and-answer-279/

On the other hand, our personal relationship with others may need to involve division and separation because of the Word of God. We explain this aspect in detail in our Q&A which addresses what it means to deny Christ, https://www.eternalgod.org/what-does-it-mean-to-deny-christ/, saying:

“Why would someone deny Christ? A major reason is because of persecution as a Christian, but JESUS warned that this would come:

“‘Remember the word that I said to you, “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me’” (John 15:20-21).

“When a person is called into the Truth, standing firm and not denying Christ will oftentimes be a great test. Again, this is something JESUS said would come—it is part of ‘counting the cost’ (Luke 14:28):

“‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it’” (Matthew 10:34-39)…

“Finally, consider this ominous warning from JESUS:

“‘For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels’” (Mark 8:38).”

If we love others more than God and if we are compromising with God’s Truth, just to maintain a close or friendly personal relationship with others,  we deny Christ, and He will be ashamed of us when He returns.

In summary, our personal relationships with others must be pleasing in the sight of God.

(To be continued)

Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link