Walking the High Ground in Relationships

Study Guide – February 10, 2019

Pastor Clay Olsen

Since today is our special annual Valentine’s luncheon in appreciation of our ladies we thought it would also be a good time to sharpen our relationship skills a bit…and not just in areas like in marriage, but in practicing good relationship skills all around.

Speaking of marriage…You still remember the four most important words in a successful marriage? “I’ll do the dishes!” Right, that’s just a love builder right there. And Charles Shultz, creator of the Peanuts cartoons said that “Love is sharing your popcorn.” One guy was talking about how really careful he had to be in how he related to his wife because he said: “My wife is a psychologist…So not only does she know when I’m being a jerk, but she knows exactly what type of jerk I’m being.” And as Winston Churchill was looking back over his career he said: “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.”

But of course, we know that there is one principle that is in the top slot for all relationships, and that is what’s rightly called the Golden Rule: ‘Do one to others before they do one to you!’ No, wait…that’s doesn’t sound right…that sounds a bit backwards…or sideways…or upside down…That’s more like a Garbage Rule. However, it does seem like this distorted version – ‘Do one to others before they do one to you’ – is really more like the version that is practiced a whole lot more than the real Golden Rule. And therein lies much of the problem in this whole realm of relationships, for human nature is naturally very self serving, as well as very defensive, and quite resistant to correction. What an assortment of obstacles to good relationships, right?

It’s actually a bit comical how God chose to explain this condition to us. Notice Ps 32:8-9- “The Lord says, “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as My eyes watch over you. Don’t be stubborn like a horse or mule. They need a bit and bridle in their mouth to restrain them, or they will not come near you.” God’s Word Version Quite an uncomplimentary picture of our human condition, huh? So, we have a choice to make in both how we relate to God and how we relate to others. Are we going to default to our bent of being stubborn like a horse or mule, or are we going to look to God and be willing to be teachable, correctable, and simply…wise?

That’s another thing to know about the human condition: We are naturally bent toward foolishness. We are naturally bent toward stubbornness and resistance to being led. But to be wise requires that we become ready and willing to be led…led by our Master and Lord Jesus Christ. And if we are willing to be led by our Lord, that will then be demonstrated by how we respond to what the Lord leads us to do about His actual Golden Rule: Matt 7:12- “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” NLT

Think about it: God summed up the essence of the entire law and the prophets as to the key to right relationships by stating this: And let’s emphasize it a bit further…

Do for others what you would want them to do for you.”ERV

Always do for other people everything you want them to do for you.” God’s Word Version

Whatever you desire that others would do to and for you, even so do also to and for them…” Amplified Version

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” NASU

And one more from the Message Bible: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.”

What if we made this one Golden Rule become the very rule that ruled in our minds and hearts? What if we made this Rule that Jesus gave us become the very rule that ruled in how we dealt every day with our wife or husband or child or brother or sister in Christ or friend or co-worker or anyone, really?

What if we determined to make the rest of our life become a demonstration of this Golden Rule that Jesus commanded us to demonstrate to the rest of the world, beginning in our own world? What if we made this Golden Rule be the first rule that we choose to rule our conversation and our conduct with everybody around us?

How about this? What if we said to our self: “Self…in everything today, you are going to treat people the same way you want them to treat you. Self…you are going to talk to other people the same way you want them to talk to you. Self….now listen up self…because you tend to drift away here…so Self…today you are going to do to others and for others whatever you would like them to do to you and for you. Self…it’s time for you to talk to others like Jesus talked to others and it’s time to treat others like Jesus treated others. Oh, and Self, one more thing…remember Jesus wasn’t making a suggestion to you about this. It’s a commandment. And since this is a commandment that means that this is a matter of obedience to Him. So, Self…are we clear?”

How about that? That sounds like a necessary talk we need to regularly have with our old selves.

Plus, here is one place that whenever we are thinking of something like, “Lord, so what do you want me to do?”…the answer is: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you!” That’s what God wants us to do!

Now this is a very interesting thing right here, because much of life really is not about you…it’s about others. But when it comes to this Golden Rule…this ‘doing of this rule’ is not about others…it is about you. It’s about what you are going to do about this Rule. And since this Golden Rule is the essence of the entire Law and Prophets, then the doing of this Golden Rule is not only a central rule for all life and practice, but it also then comes with the power to essentially change the world around you.

Sometimes people get frustrated by the enormity of the problems of this stubborn world and they say, “Well, I can’t change the world!” No, but you can change YOUR world! And the way you change YOUR world is by changing you! You change YOUR world by changing how you treat people in your world, and by how you talk to people in your world, and by what you do to and for people in your world. Do you treat the people in your world the same way you would want them to treat you? Do you talk to the people in your world the same way you want them to talk to you?

But it’s right here that many people throw their challenge flag, and say something like: “But you don’t know the people in my world. They don’t deserve to be talked to and treated along the lines of the Golden Rule. They don’t deserve it.”

This is actually a huge mental hurdle for us right here, because it means that whatever ‘low ground’ others take in this area of relationships we are still going to have to take the high ground. You see, in order to do the Golden Rule you have to let go of evaluating if people deserve it or not in order for you to do the rule for them.

Now, don’t confuse the issue. We’re not talking about forcing relationships where there are broken trusts or abusive situations or refusals of repentance of serious wrongdoing and such, which all cause standing breaches in relationships. We’re just talking about this tendency that many have in their ordinary day to day dealings with others of thinking that others first have to earn or deserve their attempts to treat them according to the Golden Rule. But that would be like waiting for someone else to start the Golden rule first, before you then do the Rule. No, you have to scuttle that kind of thinking and shift your focus to simply obeying God and getting on with demonstrating to others what it looks like and what is sounds like when you live under the rule of the Golden Rule. Remember, the Golden Rule starts with it ruling you!

If you wait for others to deserve your demonstration, well, you have pretty much just eliminated a whole lot of people around you in your world. Plus, think about it: What if God would have waited for you and me to deserve it for Him to demonstrate the Golden Rule to us? Right…we would probably still be waiting…and probably still dead in our trespasses and sins.

You know that old saying about the Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold rules? That’s a humorous kind of comment on money and such. However, in a spiritual sense, since Jesus has given to us the Golden Rule, that means He intends for us to rule by this Golden Rule. We are to rule our lives by it, and then rule how we do life with others around us.

Now, some might think: “The Golden Rule…the key to all relationships? Really, could it be that simple?” Maybe back that up a little…because that’s like calling the Sun ‘a simple star’. Just because the Sun is a simple star doesn’t mean it isn’t central…central to all life on planet Earth! Remember, God made the Sun to be the primary source of energy for our entire planet. The Sun warms the planet and keeps it from becoming a lifeless ball of ice and rock. The Sun also drives the hydrological cycle on Earth, or the four main stages of the water cycle for the entire planet. The Sun generates our weather patterns and provides the necessary products for plant life and all life. So it may be a simple star, but it’s simply one central and amazing star for our whole Solar System!

And just like the Sun is central to our Solar System the Golden Rule is central to relationships on planet earth. It may sound like a simple premise, however, do you remember what Jesus said about it? It is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. Now, where have we heard that before? Matt 22:37-40- “And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV

So just think: All the teachings and the wisdom of all the Law and the Prophets come down to this: The Great Commandment and the Golden Rule. Simple…yet it’s the highest ground that anyone can walk in both their relationship with God and in their relationship with others. It’s highest in not only that it is noble and righteous and rewardable, but also in that it is powerful. And it’s powerful because God uses our obedience to His commandments to change lives. Remember that: God is trying to change lives. And one of the key ways He changes lives is through you and me practicing the Golden Rule in the lives of others around us. You want to help God change the world? Then just do the Rule! We could make a T-shirt out of that: Just Do the Rule!

But don’t get sidetracked about this ‘changing others’, because ‘changing others’ is God’s thing…’obedience to God’ is our thing. Remember, a major thing that God is seeking to do in and through our lives is to show the world more and more of what He is like. But He cannot do that if His children keep insisting on showing the world what they are like instead. Even Christians still fall prey to limiting how they treat others or talk to others or do to others or do for others, all based upon how they ‘feel’ about any or all of that. But now we’re simply back to ‘living by our feelings for self’ instead of ‘walking by faith for Christ’! We are commanded to walk by faith, not by feelings. And when we do, we not only then give God freedom to work through us, but we also then experience a wonderful victory in us, a victory of no longer being in bondage to our feelings, but inspired by our faith, and encouraged by the rewards of living by faith over our feelings.

Plus, seeking to show others; our loved ones, our friends, and even as Jesus pointed out – our enemies…seeking to show them something of Jesus in how we treat them and talk to them is the most powerful influence you can have on them and the most fulfilling experience you can have with them. Again, when God’s children do choose to try to demonstrate something of the Golden Rule to others around them, then they also show something of the God of the Golden Rule to them. Plus, it really is the best chance you have to either keep a great relationship that you have with others continue to be great, or to improve whatever that relationship might be like at the time. Doing God’s Word is always the best thing that you can do unto God and for others.

Let the Golden Rule rule you, and then, in your relationships with others…well, Just Do the Rule! It’s Golden!

(Marriage humor from: www.hitched.co.uk)