If we get relationships wrong, nothing else matters. Relationships are the engine of God’s transformative work in us. Here are some relational best practices, no matter your race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, height, weight, physical or mental ability, veteran status, military obligations, and marital status:
- It’s not about you. It’s about making the other person feel respected and valued.
- It’s not about agreement. It’s about alignment. It’s ok to agree to disagree in a likeable manner.
- Confirm you heard the other person, even if you don’t have an answer or want to debate it at the moment. Focus on being present with them and show genuine curiosity for their worldview. Consider the following:
- What do they know?
- What do they believe?
- Where are they from?
- Always show mercy. Mercy is not giving them what they deserve.
- Always give grace. Grace is giving them what they don’t deserve.
- Always forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget. It means you move past the past.
Relational strife is caused or sorrows fester when we don’t employ these practices. Today is the only day we have, not tomorrow, to embrace them. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
In my experience, I have learned healthy relationships can be built by embracing the enduring lessons of the gospel. The book of Luke, in particular, shows how the power of the gospel reconciled hostile peoples. Multiple stories in Luke show how bridges were built between Jews and Samaritans, two groups for which a fierce hostility existed. J. Daniel Hays writes in his book, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, “The ethnic and cultural boundary between the Jews and Samaritans was every bit a rigid and hostile as the current boundary between Blacks and Whites in the most racist areas of the United States.”
The Good Samaritan story in Luke 10:25-37 shows a path forward for Neighborly Love in America. It destabilizes our inherited “Black-White” worldview and challenges us to move beyond the “us-them” mentality to an “us-us” in Christ unity that demolishes the ethnic boundaries of our culture. It teaches us how a Samaritan ignored the then societal norms to care for a beaten, bloodied Jew lying in the middle of the road. The Samaritan prioritized their likeness (they were both humans) over their differences. He valued the Jew’s life over the disruption of his plans for the day.
As I study God’s Word in Luke, as well as the book of Acts, Samaria emerges again and again. I feel the familiar friction of ethnic and relational distrust and discord. Yet, I’m touched by the surprising stories and lessons of unity, harmony and peace and from which we can learn so much. As the church grew throughout Judea and Samaria in biblical times, it had peace. What a thought. What a God.
If the Spirit of God truly lives in us, then no prejudice or bitterness or hatred is too great to overcome. Any reconciliation is possible. It all starts with the posture of our heart for a relationship with God. Then relationships with others can heal and blossom.
Start today. It’s the only day we really have.