(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19 NASB
The emphasis in the first two lessons was upon you as a person as you live in your own private world. This lesson has to do with your relationships with others. A sense of being at peace with yourself is, in some measure, a by-product of a proper response on your part to the people in your life.
In the first lesson we called attention to the second great commandment, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Matthew 22:39). Luke relates a similar incident in which a lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In answer, Jesus told of the good Samaritan. You can read this in Luke 10:30-36. A priest and a Levite passed by a wounded man who had been set upon by bandits and left for dead. Neither one stopped to give help. A despised Samaritan, however, did help him, binding up his wounds and paying for his lodging. Which of the three was neighbor to the wounded man? The answer is obvious as stated by the lawyer, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said unto him, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37).
How different was the reaction of a man who tells of an incident that happened to him! As he was standing on the sidewalk, conversing with another man, an elderly woman staggered past.
She was obviously very drunk. The two men watched her weave her way down the sidewalk. A half-block away she leaned up against a car. Then the car drove away, causing her to fall into the street, where she lay in a drunken stupor. The man who told the story said he hurried to a nearby phone to call the police. Just as he was about to dial, he looked again and saw two men carrying the woman out of the street. The thought struck him immediately that these two were showing mercy. His own first reaction had been reluctance to help the unlovely, drunk, dirty woman but to get someone else to do it.
This man went his way with a sense of unworthiness. Why? Because he had not shown mercy toward someone in need. To have a sense of wholesomeness, we must respond to human need. It was Christ Himself who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
To love your “neighbor as yourself” means to be sensitive to his needs. It means to be disposed to help him meet his needs as readily as you meet your own.
Observing the golden rule
Jesus gave us a rule of thumb to guide us in our relations with others when He said, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). This verse is generally referred to as the golden rule.
A college girl was explaining why she was so unhappy. One reason was her relationship to her roommate. Her roommate’s curtains hung on the windows. She had the top drawer in the dresser. Her suitcase was easier to reach in the closet. Here was a college girl who was unhappy because her roommate had privileges that only one of them could have. She expected her roommate to be considerate, which is the reverse of the golden rule.
A man was complaining about the way things were going at home. His wife expected him to take her out for dinner more than he did; she wanted more household money; and there were other complaints. It was not that he could not afford to do these things. But he would not give her these things as long as she refused to carry her share of the marriage. She failed to keep his shirts washed the way he wanted them; she always forgot to put his vitamin capsule beside his plate at breakfast. Here, again, are two people who are losing the joy of fellowship because they are reversing the golden rule. Each person fails to give consideration to the other. You will note that the strained relations in both instances were caused by mere trifles.
On the other hand, there is the man who seems entirely unselfish. In his presence you find yourself telling him all about yourself. Whether he is fellowshipping with his wife, children, neighbors, guests, or the people in the church, he is always ministering. He is quick to open the door, to carry something for you, to give you something to read, to run an errand, to be of assistance generally. He is not above being helpful to his wife. I know of no one who thinks of this man as weak, or as one who is being imposed on. He very obviously enjoys serving others. When his name comes up in a conversation, it is used with respect and admiration, with the comment that there ought to be more people like him in the world.
What can you do for your husband, or wife, or children, or friends that you would like them to do for you? To ponder this question and take appropriate action is to live according to the golden rule. Our Lord said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35, emphasis added).