"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you."
- Matthew 7:12 NASB
Years ago, when I gave my heart and life to the Lord for real, my husband Joe and I had already been married for 17 years, and our marriage was a mess. In spite of having years of marriage counseling, our problems had persisted. Once I began getting serious about my relationship with the Lord, it wasn't long before God began dealing with me about my relationship with my husband. My natural instinct was to ask the Lord to change my husband, since it was obvious that he wasn't treating me the way that the Bible says husbands should treat their wives. But then God spoke to my heart and told me that if I started focusing on my own behavior--and if I began taking the initiative in treating my husband the right way--He would work wonders in our relationship. Here it is 16 years later, and our marriage is stronger and happier than it's ever been. If you have some relationships in your life that need a touch from God, then read on and discover some biblical strategies than can absolutely transform them and you.
Jesus said--"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!" (Luke 6:31 MSG) Taking the initiative to do the right thing in an imperfect relationship is hard on our flesh. When we're not being treated right, our first instinct is to react in ungodly and inappropriate ways. But God expects a lot from His children because He has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to love others with the God-kind of love, no matter how we're being treated. Scripture says: "We know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love." (Romans 5:5 NLT) Because of His intense love for us, the Lord has equipped us to love others with a divine love that lifts us above the tendency to react badly when we are met with injustice. You and I aren't at the mercy of our feelings and emotions, like the rest of the world. We can choose to respond in a Christlike manner in every situation, so that we never have to reap the penalty of a wrong response.
Jesus told us: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged." We can't expect God to act on our behalf in a tense situation when we're focusing on the faults of others, instead of our own. "And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5 NLT) God holds us responsible for our conduct, not someone else's. When we choose to examine our own attitudes and actions, rather than focus on those of others, we will see the Lord move mightily on our behalf.
I had been praying my heart out, asking God to change my husband, and I was seeing little or no results. It finally dawned on me that the Lord wasn't about to honor my prayers for my husband until I began setting a Christlike example in my dealings with him. Scripture says: "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." God isn't impressed with lip service. He wants to SEE us relating to others with His kind of love. One reason for that is "so we will be confident when we stand before God" in prayer. Then we won't "feel guilty," and we can approach God "with bold confidence." And here's the best part--"We will receive from Him whatever we ask because we obey Him and do the things that please Him." (1 John 3:18,19,21,22 NLT) You will be absolutely amazed at how well you'll be able to love even the most unlovable people, when you make a quality decision to obey God in this area. The Holy Spirit's power will flow through you in awesome ways, and you will see God move mightily in your relationships!
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times that I focused on the behavior of others, instead of dealing with my own ungodly behavior. Give me a heart like Yours that always forgives "quickly and thoroughly." (Ephesians 4:32 MSG) Thank You that my Christlike conduct will make an impression on others, and will lead them into Your kingdom!
- J. M. Farro