It is difficult to get along because we are sinners trying to get along with sinners.
Because I am a sinner, I am hard to get along with. I am obnoxious and rude at times. I am self-centered and ugly. I am, at times, dishonest and unloving. This list is too painful to discuss; let’s talk about your sinfulness.
Because you are a sinner, you are hard for me to get along with. You are selfish and mean and snitty and gruff and a pain in the back side. I am called upon to be forgiving and merciful kind. I’m called upon to turn the other cheek and walk the second mile. It would be hard enough to do this for a really nice person. I am called to do it for you—you sinner!
And so, this is our condition: sinners called to love sinners. Broken people called to love broken people. Immature people called to love immature people. Paul David Tripp laments, “As long as we are two sinners living in a fallen world, there will be work to do.”
Who can save me from this horrible condition? I am a sinner—weak and frail and selfish and called to love sinners—obnoxious and rude and selfish mean. I am called to love obnoxious, and hard to get along with people, and I don’t have what it takes to do it.
Thanks be to God who has provided the Holy Spirit within us who uses the Word of God to change us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are not transformed by trying really hard. We are transformed by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God to change the way we think.
Through the power of the Word of God I come to see you differently. I come to see you as God sees you. I come to see you as you are.
I come to see you as a forgivable, worthy soul that Christ died for. If God counted you so precious that He would give up the life of His Son so that He could have fellowship with you, surely I must find the grace to do the same. And here’s the rub: my own forgiveness depends on it. If grace is big enough for me, it is big enough for you. Jesus conditioned my forgiveness to my willingness to forgive you. (Matthew 6:14, 15)
It is the pinnacle of selfishness to imagine that God would forgive and accept and grace me but He would not do the same for you. If I accept grace for me, I must accept it for you. This was Jesus’ point when he said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 (NIV) It is the only part of the model prayer He felt He needed to explain: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
But, forgiveness is not the only thing. Forgiveness is an absolutely necessary part of getting along with sinners, and we will deal with that in a later chapter. It is one way the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to transform our mind. When our mind is transformed so that we think clearly about forgiveness, forgiveness becomes easy. That is what Jesus said. He said His yoke was easy. Jesus said that following Him would be, in a way easy.
It is easy because it is not about trying really hard to be good. It is about being transformed so that we think differently. When I understand the holiness of God, I come to understand the seriousness of my own sin. When I understand the seriousness of my sin, I understand the significance of grace. I see the bigness of grace, and I see that grace must cover your sin as well. And, if God sees you as forgivable, how can I disagree? As I think differently about this, as my mind is transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God in my life, everything changes.
But again, forgiveness is not the only thing. The Bible is full of life-transforming truths that affect our ability to get along. The first verse I ever memorized would go a long way toward helping us to get along with each other: “Be ye kind one to another.” (Ephesians 4:32 KJV) We need to think clearly about the tone of our voices. Science in the Bible agree that the tone of your voice has as much to do with your ability to get along with others as just about anything. The Bible says, “let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4:5)
For example, take a study where people were given performance feedback – some negative, some positive. If they were given negative performance feedback in a very warm, positive, and upbeat tone, they came out of there feeling pretty good about the interaction. If they were given positive feedback in a very cold, critical, judgmental tone, they came out feeling negative, even about positive feedback. So the emotional subtext is more powerful in many ways than the overt, ostensible interaction that we’re having.
When your mind is transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God to change your mind so that your gentleness is evident to all, your relationships will start to change. You will find it is a whole lot easier to get along with others when your gentleness is evident to all. When you meditate on that truth, your life is changed, and your relationships change. People who were once hard to get along with become much easier to get along with as you meditate on the command to let your gentleness be evident to all.
We are transformed through the Bible’s teaching on forgiveness. We are transformed by the Bible’s teaching on gentleness. We are transformed by the Bible’s teaching on squeaky-clean honesty. There is much, much more. We will explore what the Bible says about taming the tongue and about self-care. We will look at what the Bible teaches about empathy and listening. We will meditate together on what the Bible teaches about serving and about confronting when you need to confront. As we will see, getting along is not just being nice all the time. Sometimes, we need to turn over some tables.
Our ability to get along is the preeminent test of whether the Holy Spirit is doing His work in our lives. Our ability to get along proves whether or not we are yielding to God in humble obedience to the Word of God.
Not that we will be able to get along with everyone. The Bible teaches otherwise. But, in the power of the Holy Spirit working through our lives we will get along with most people.
This is why churches that cannot get along with each other are such a bad testimony. This is why in the letters to the Corinthians, Paul equated conflict with carnality. The inability to get along is not merely a source of grief in our lives, it is testimony about our discipleship. Fundamental to what God is trying to do in our lives is to give us the ability to get along with others.
In this book, we will go step-by-step, line by line through relevant passages of the Word of God. My prayer is that when we are finished you will have the skills to get along with almost anyone. My prayer is that these truths will transform individuals, then churches, then our world.
I’ve been in hundreds of churches over the years and can testify with all confidence that this is a problem in every church I have been in. People cannot figure out how to get along with each other. It is as simple and profound as that. Pastors cannot get along with their deacons. Staff members cannot get along with lay leaders. Church members cannot get along with each other.
You would not have to listen to a pastor very long before you heard him tell you about stories of conflict and inability to get along in his church. It is common, is rampant, and it is shameful. It hurts the testimony of the church of the living God. It brings shame to the name of God, and hinders the advancement the Kingdom of God.
If you think the ability to get along is in the, “nice to have” department, you are wrong. It is a big deal.
Josh Hunt, How to Get Along With Almost Anyone, 2014.