“How do I get along with people?” That is the million-dollar question of our generation. In a society of division, hate, and vitriol, can we really get along with people? The main theme of our society says, “If you do not agree with me, then you are my enemy.” Sadly, we have not been able knock this theme out of the church. Backbiting, roast preacher, grilled elders, boiled deacons, and fried Christians are just some of the issues within the church.
Hate is espoused in so many circles that we are in a fight to show love to people and get along with them. The wisest man to have lived, King Solomon, wrote a guidebook to having meaningful relationships called Proverbs. Notice what he says in Proverbs 1:2-4 (emphasis mine): “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” In other translations, the initial phrase in verse 3 is translated to “moral instruction for skillful living.” Skillful living encompasses so much, namely getting along with our fellow sojourners.
With all the difficulties of this world, how do we get along with people? Solomon says that abandoning strife is the beginning of the process to get along with people. Notice what he says in Proverbs 17:14: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Have you noticed that our society is built off rivalries, division and fighting? We want, and need, the conflict (or so we are taught); however, Solomon teaches us that we must be peacemakers.
Someone might say, “Well Will, Solomon lived in the Old Testament. Do we really need to listen to him?” Notice what King Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus tells the us that we are blessed when we seek out peace with people. Peace is a foreign concept the 21st century.
A beautiful scene of people being peaceful with each other is in Acts 2, where we happen upon the beginning of the first-century church. Notice what Luke says in Acts 2:42-47 (emphasis mine): “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Did you notice what verse 47 stated? When we get along with people, the church grows.
Peace is only one ingredient to the recipe. Notice what Solomon states in Proverbs 18:24: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Solomon observes that to have lasting friendships, we must be friendly ourselves. We cannot expect to have good relationships with people if we do not treat others with love and respect. Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” If we want to be treated well, then we must treat others well as well. It is not a question, but a command.
Getting along with people means that we cannot be selfish with love or unity. Paul understood this when he wrote the letter to the church in Philippi. Notice what he states about relationships in Philippians 2:1-5 (emphasis mine): “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. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” King Jesus always looked for ways to help others during his earthly ministry. Paul makes the case that good relational attitudes are only cultivated when we humble ourselves.
Getting along with people also includes using language that builds, and edifies, rather than using disparaging language. Notice what Solomon states in Proverbs 16:23-24 (emphasis mine): “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Have you ever tasted fresh honey? It is sweet, full of flavor, and puts a smile on your face as soon as you eat it. In the same way, kind words are full of flavor and put smiles on faces. In direct opposition to this, disparaging words destroy good relationships and destroy the peace that we have previously discussed.
What I am about to say might offend some people, but please note I say it in love. The only way we are to ever have truly good relationships and be able to get along with people is to put the phone down. We cannot have the type of relational attitudes we have discussed unless we cultivate relationships. You never see Jesus tell His disciples to be relational after they take care of their own needs. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, we find that He wanted His disciples to get along with people. He wants US to get along with people. What we must understand is that we must be peacemakers, gracious in our words, and loving to all people. Only when we are embodying these characteristics, will our relationships prosper under the mighty hand of King Jesus!