What effect does your Christian faith have on your interactions with others? There are some people who claim Christ as Savior, but the way they treat people doesn’t match their claim. None of us do this perfectly, but our reputation outside and inside the church should increasingly reflect the life of Christ within us.
It’s important to have right theology and doctrine so we’ll be grounded in truth, but if we don’t live out what we believe, we’re missing what God intends. The church is supposed to be a witness to the world and a haven of safety for the gathering of believers. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
When Peter wrote his first letter, he explained how believers should respond to the various people in their lives. Then he wrapped it all up with these words: “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit” (1 Peter 3:8). These are the qualities that should characterize each of us in our interactions with others.
First of all, we are to live in harmony with one another. This doesn’t mean that we must all agree on every interpretation and application of Scripture or approach to ministry. The body of Christ consists of all kinds of people with differing personalities, perspectives, spiritual gifts, and interests, and each one is essential. Like a musical composition with various parts, the differing harmonies in the church give depth and richness to the body of Christ. But if we don’t have the unity of the Spirit as our conductor, we’ll all be singing our own tune, resulting in chaos and discord.
Paul described it like this: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). When we’re all yielded to the Spirit’s leading, we have His power and grace to behave as those who bear Christ’s name.
When we’re all yielded to the Spirit’s leading, we have His power and grace to behave as those who bear Christ’s name.
Second, Peter tells us to be sympathetic. This is more than just expressing words of comfort; it means being willing to suffer with those who are hurting. We come alongside them in their and pain to help bear the burden. This requires a self-sacrificial attitude. We’d much rather “rejoice with those who rejoice” than “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). But sympathy is an important Christlike characteristic. Accounts in the gospel repeatedly say that Jesus felt compassion for the people and did what He could to relieve their suffering.
The third quality we need in our relationships is brotherly love. Romans 12:10 describes this as devotion to one another as if we were in the same family. And that is exactly what Christians are—members of God’s household. And the one who teaches us to love is our heavenly Father (1 Thess. 4:9-10). Our responsibility is to practice and excel in loving our fellow believers—not just the ones we like, but all of them. Our common bond is not our interests, personalities, or preferences, but the oneness we have with each other in the Godhead (John 17:21).
Next, we need to be kindhearted. This is the opposite of being harsh, insensitive, self-centered, and uncaring. Ephesians 4:32 enlarges our understanding of what it means with these instructions: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In all our interactions we should seek to do good to others, treat them graciously, and not hold grudges. And it all flows from a heart that’s yielded to God and seeks to please Him in our relationships.
Finally, we must be humble in spirit. Nothing hampers relationships like pride, but having a modest opinion of ourselves keeps us from being self-centered and self-seeking. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we put others first and consider them as more important (Phil. 2:3-4). Our goal is not to receive the credit for whatever we do but to serve one another without recognition.
If all these qualities characterize us, how will they affect our interactions with others? It’s fairly easy to get along with those who are kind in return, but the real test comes when there are conflicts. That’s when we must choose not to act like the world. Instead of trading insult for insult or taking revenge, we are called to give a blessing (1 Peter 3:9-11). Believers should be known as peacemakers, not troublemakers. Rather than leaving a trail of criticism, dissention, and disharmony in our wake, we must seek to pave a pathway of reconciliation and peace. That’s how we walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and reflect Christlikeness in our attitudes, words, and actions. As we consider our relationships, let’s remember that how we treat other people is a powerful witness to the world and an example to those in the church. And sometimes God puts us in situations of conflict and animosity so He can demonstrate through us His mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness. Those difficult relationships are not a curse but a blessing, and if we respond with a humble, compassionate, and kind spirit, we’ll bless others also.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. As I think about all the people who count on In Touch Ministries for guidance, encourage-ment, and teaching from God’s Word, I am reminded that we are all one big family in Christ, even if we haven’t met personally. Thank you so much for the blessing you have been to us, and I pray that you too have been blessed by our publications and broadcasts.