The newspaper report read, “James L. Ramey, 53, of Clyde, N.C., was charged with assault in November after a 15 minute brawl at the rural Full Gospel Holiness Church. The brawl began when one person wanted to occupy the back pew, which was occupied, as usual, by a church regular. The church minister’s son suffered a bite to the neck that required 31 stitches.”
Getting along with people – it can sometimes be a challenge in life. Someone once described it in a poem:
To live above with saints we love,
Oh, that will be glory!
To live below with saints we know,
Well, that’s a different story!
While it is unlikely that you’ve ever been in a brawl at church, the chances are that there is at least one other Christian in your life with whom you tend to have problems. How can we get along with people with whom it is often hard to live peaceably? The Apostle Paul had a word on the matter than can help immeasurably. He wrote, “From now on, we know no one according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Then in the next verse he said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.”
What does this have to do with getting along with people? It has to do with the way we choose to relate to other believers. To know somebody after the flesh is to decide their identity based on superficial, earthly things – such as their behavior, their position, – things like that.
Paul said that he chose not to know people within that context. Instead, he points to the fact that, in Christ, we are new creatures. When we choose by faith to look past the human flaws in other people and to see Jesus in them, it becomes much easier to “be at peace with them.” We can’t control how others act, but we can determine how we will respond to them.
When you find it difficult to get along with somebody, there are a few things you might do which could help you navigate through stressful moments.
1. Pray a quick prayer for the person. Ask Jesus to express love to them through you. When we react to the bad mood of others with a negative response, we have allowed them to control us. Why let somebody else cause you to get in a bad mood? You can choose to express love to them and not allow the circumstance to rob you of your own joy.
2. Remember that people who are hard to get along with almost always have conflict going on within themselves. A sales clerk in a store once acted like a jerk to me. My first impulse was to react the same way (I can act like a jerk with the best of them), but instead I paused, looked at the lady and sincerely asked, “Are you having a bad day?” To my amazement, she began to pour out the details of her personal life that were causing trouble for her. I was so glad that I hadn’t acted on my first impulse. Her demeanor instantly softened when I asked that question. (The question I asked could be asked in an accusatory way and add to the problem.) It was one of those “God-moments” when He allowed me to see the importance of responding in love and not reacting impulsively.
3. Recognize the fact that the problem may be within you and not the other person. There have been times when I’ve found myself irritated several times by other people before it finally dawned on me – “They aren’t doing anything wrong. I’m just in a bad mood today!” Maybe the quality in another person that irritates you isn’t a bad quality. Maybe that person reminds you of somebody else that you’ve had trouble with in your past. Or maybe you’re just in a bad mood yourself.
When you find yourself feeling irritable toward somebody else, ask the Holy Spirit this question, “Lord, is it me?” You might be surprised to find out that the problem isn’t with the other person at all.
Paul determined to look beyond human characteristics and see Jesus in every Christian. Mother Teresa was once asked about her work with the lepers – “Do you imagine that it is Jesus ministering to them when you serve them?” “No,” she answered. “When I look at them, I see the face of Jesus.”
There’s the key – seeing Jesus in others. Look beyond the grouch and see Jesus in the face of your brother and sister in Christ. As much as it is possible, live at peace. That choice expresses the life of Christ.
And if anybody ever wants to take your seat in church, especially if it is on the back row – just give it to them!
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.