Many years ago I worked closely with a man who knew a great deal about human relations. He was not the greatest preacher in the field, but he was a friend of the workers. This was more important. When he shook your hand you knew instinctively he genuinely liked you. His was a contagious smile that instantly warmed your heart. His approach exuded warmth and friendliness.
This cordial introduction was an open sesame to the hearts of his associates. He had learned from Jesus a very important principle in human relations.
Jesus Drew the People to Him by Being Friendly
The inspired testimony of the Lord's messenger states: "The love expressed in look and tone, drew to Him all who were not hardened in unbelief."—The Desire of Ages, p. 254. See the Master as He meets a rich young ruler whom He longs to lead into His kingdom. "Jesus looked steadily at him, and his heart warmed toward him" (Mark 10:21, Phillips).* I feel certain the warmth Jesus felt in His heart was reflected in His countenance. There was nothing cold or distant about our Lord. He drew men to Himself by the warmth of His friendliness.
How do we meet those who visit us in our homes and in our offices? When our desk is loaded with urgent work and the business of our caller seems trivial, can we still greet him patiently and make him feel we are glad he came? Or are we just a wee bit irritated that our work has been interrupted? Are we slightly cool in our reception of many visitors—especially if they come from the humbler, less influential walks of life?
Recently I had occasion to visit a cabinet minister in one of our new African governments. He was a busy man; there were many people waiting to see him. He had never seen me before. I did not know just how he would receive me. But I did not have long to wonder. As his secretary ushered me into his spacious office he came from behind a large desk with his hand extended and a cordial smile on his face. He sat down with me in front of his desk in a relaxed manner, putting me entirely at ease by his gracious reception.
Instinctively I liked and trusted the man. Why? Because of his warm, friendly manner. Though he is not a Seventh-day Adventist, he is a Christian and his manner revealed it. I felt I was talking with a man who was a friend and one who would listen sympathetically to my problem.
"Let us have real warm affection for one another," the apostle Paul appealed when he wrote to the believers in Rome (Rom. 12:10, Phillips).* There is something about a warm friendly approach to people that breaks down barriers. Friendliness—sincere and unaffected—draws two people together and builds up mutual confidence and respect. Although on occasions this may not be easy, especially when others are a bit distant or abrupt with us, if we "speak pleasantly" as Paul admonished the Colossians (chapter 4:6, Phillips)* the ice will eventually melt and we will be drawn together.
The apostle mentions the manner in which the believers in Galatia received him. "You welcomed me as though I were an angel" (Gal. 4:14, Phillips).* Little wonder the apostle had a warm spot in his heart for the Galatian Christians. We too have warm spots in our hearts for people who greet us as the Galatians welcomed Paul, don't we? Yes, sincere friendliness in our approach and in our relations with others will break down barriers and wonderfully cement the bonds of Christian human relations.
Jesus Was Thoughtful of the Feelings of Others
Centuries before He came in person to our world Isaiah foretold the thoughtfulness of the coming Messiah: "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench" (Isa. 42:3).
Jesus never added the straw that broke a struggling burden bearer's morale or crushed his aching heart. The Saviour was constantly in contact with those who were bruised with care, with pain, with temptation, with sin, with grief, with discouragement. He never laid that extra burden of thoughtlessness, or criticism, or of censure that broke the bruised reed or quenched the smoking flax. Jesus was thoughtful. His thoughtfulness helped draw people to Himself and to His gospel.
When the people around Him were hungry, Jesus gave them something to eat. When they were weary, He gave them rest. When they were disheartened, He encouraged them, and when they were grieving, He comforted them. In every need or mood of their lives the Master was thoughtful of the feelings of those with whom He associated.
Of the Master, the messenger of the Lord writes: "He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul."—Steps to Christ, p. 12. He was thoughtful of the feelings of all with whom He came in contact. The people loved Him for it.
A few years ago I was attending an important union session here in Africa. During one of the hours devoted to the business of the day a question involving human relations arose. For a few minutes racialism reared its ugly head. Then one of our African workers, untrained as a psychologist, arose and poured oil on the troubled waters.
"Many years ago during the depression," he began, "appropriations from overseas were drastically reduced. Salaries that were already too low had to be further cut. The workers found it extremely difficult to live on their meager income. Many who could not make ends meet were forced to give up employment with the mission and work their lands or do some other work outside in order to support their large families. Many times when I was struggling to make ends meet I was tempted to do likewise. Do you know why I did not?"
The elderly man of God paused. We all waited eagerly to learn the reason why he had stayed by the stuff.
"I remained in the work during those difficult days," he explained, "because of the thoughtful, understanding, and Christlike attitude of the European workers. They were having a difficult time financially too, but they did all they could to help us. Their thoughtfulness compelled me to stay by the Lord's work!"
Yes, thoughtfulness breaks down barriers that have been erected between races and between brethren. Thoughtfulness is a Christlike thing. The servant of the Lord counsels us: "Look to Jesus as your guide and pattern. . Study how you can be like Him, in thoughtfulness for others. . . Thus may you 'grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ;' you may reflect His image, and be accepted of Him as His own, at His coming."—Ellen G. White in The Youth's Instructor, Dec. 5, 1883, p. 207.
"When Jesus is comprehended by faith, and brought into the inner sanctuary of the soul, the Holy Spirit will mold and fashion the character after the likeness of Christ. Lessons will then be daily learned in the school of Christ. . . . The Christian will shine as a light amid the moral darkness of the world. He will be tender of heart, and considerate of the feelings of others."—Thid., Sept. 20, 1894, p. 297.
"A Christian . . . will be . . . considerate [thoughtful] of others."—My Life Today, p. 193. Christian thoughtfulness of the feelings and the problems of others will go a long way toward maintaining cordial human relations with those around us.
Jesus Taught His Followers Not to Condemn or Criticize
"'Don't criticize people, and you will not be criticized,' " the Master said (Matt. 7:1, Phillips).* Dr. Luke records these words of Christ: "Don't condemn and you will not be condemned" (Luke 6:37, Phillips).*
In the life and ministry of Jesus there was no place for cold condemnation or carping criticism. How well He knew that condemnation and criticism never cement human relations. It may be true that critics find themselves drawn into the same orbit, and birds of a condemning feather flock together, but they will exert little influence and will cultivate few friendships among men and women of real character.
I knew a leader once—a strong, capable leader in many respects—but this man vitiated his influence because of a critical attitude. As he traveled throughout his territory he spoke freely of the faults and the shortcoming of other workers in the field whom he had but recently visited. You know well what happens to a leader with this weakness, no matter how capable he may be. He could not understand why he was eventually asked to take up other work where his critical spirit would do less damage. When he left the field the workers breathed a sigh of relief. Men are not drawn to leaders who are critical.
"You cannot weaken your own influence and standing more than in trying to weaken each other," the messenger of the Lord reminds us in Sons and Daughters of God, page 331. People know that if we criticize others we will criticize them when the opportunity presents itself.
May God help us as workers to spare our brethren! May He stifle any breath of destructive criticism that may ever seek to pass our lips. In this matter, not only our human relations but our eternal destiny is at stake, for Jesus, the Revelator, said: "The abominable . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire" (Rev. 21:8). What is more abominable than harsh, destructive criticism?
"Instead of criticizing and condemning others, say, 'I must work out my own salvation. . . . I must watch myself diligently. I must put away every evil from my life. I must overcome every fault. I must become a new creature in Christ. Then, instead of weakening those who are striving against evil, I can strengthen them by encouraging words.' "—The Ministry of Healing, p. 492.
Criticism and a condemning spirit badly fray Christian human relations. "Let us therefore stop turning critical eyes on one another. If we must be critical, let us be critical of our own conduct and see that we do nothing to make a brother stumble or fall" (Rom. 14:13, Phillips).*
Jesus Taught That the Touchstone of All Human Relations Is the Golden Rule
"The whole circle of our obligation to one another is covered by that word of Christ's, 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.'" —Education, p. 136. J. B. Phillips puts it this way: "Whatever measure you use with other people, they will use in their dealings with you" (Luke 6:38, Phillips).* "Treat men exactly as you would like them to treat you" (verse 31, Phillips).*
If the principle of the golden rule were truly practiced there would be no worker personnel problems to settle, no church misunderstandings to clear up. Every administrator and pastor knows that personnel problems are some of the most difficult cases to deal with. Workers or members are incompatible. They cannot get along with one another. They cannot work together. Their personalities or their methods of doing things clash. There is friction and sometimes real trouble. All of these misunderstandings could be cleared up and all of these grievances would disappear if we as Seventh-day Adventist Christians would only practice the golden rule.
If others come at us with clenched fists it is natural for us to respond by clenching our own fists. If others come at us with arms opened wide it is easy for us to open our arms to them. If others speak kindly to us we usually will speak kindly to them. If we receive harsh words it is the natural thing to respond in kind. Our human relations quotient stems directly from our treatment of others. We attract or we repel by our own attitudes and actions.
In Give Us this Day I told the following story: "A wealthy man had died, leaving most of his estate to a group of fellow townspeople. His rightful heir was to be given only such a portion as pleased them.
"The group of citizens informed the judge that a tenth part of the estate would go to the heir. 'And,' they said, 'we will retain the other nine tenths for ourselves.'
"'Then,' declared the judge, 'you may take the tenth part for yourselves and leave the rest for the heir. According to the will he is to receive the portion that pleases you.'"
If we wish to cement cordial relations with those with whom we associate we