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TEXT: Hebrews 12:14
SUBJECT: Baxter on Getting Along with Others #2
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll continue our study of Richard Baxter on Getting Along with Others. Last time, we learned that, if you want to have peace with other people, you must: (1) Humble yourself, (2) be content with what you have, (3) love your neighbor as yourself, and (4) control your emotions.
I urged you last week, to pray for these things. Have you done it? Well, have you? And not only pray for them, but to work on them. Have you? Remember, it is not hearing the Word that God wants--or even agreeing with it. He wants you to be "Doers of the Word".
Humility, contentment, love and self-control. You must have and develop these graces if you're to get along with others. May God give them all to you--and me too--for Christ's sake. Amen.
Now, we'll pick it up from there. Richard Baxter says, if you want to keep the peace, you must...
"Be careful to maintain that order of government and obedience which is appointed by God...If you break this vessel, peace will flow out and be quickly spilled...If you do not make conscience of your duties to your superiors, the banks of peace will soon be broken down and all will be flooded with turmoil and confusion".
The wording is a little awkward, but the meaning is clear: God has appointed authorities in your home, job, church, school, and society. If you don't respect them, you'll have nothing but problems. The verse in Judges comes to mind,
"In those days, there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes".
If you read the Book, you see it wasn't freedom they had, but chaos and conflict.
"Respecting authority" does not mean blind obedience to anything your husband or boss or pastor or teacher tells you to do. That is idolatry! "We ought to obey God rather than man". What it means is this: (1) Recognizing the person's authority over you; (2) thinking as highly of him as you can; (3) not grumbling or defying him; and (4) doing what you're told whenever it doesn't violate you conscience.
If you do this, you'll contribute to the orderly peace God so loves. But if you don't--if you're the kind of person who won't let anyone tell you what to do--you'll be a problem wherever you are. No matter how gifted you are--or how "right"--you'll be troublemaker at home, work, school, church, and everywhere else.
If peace is good and respect for authority promotes it, you've got to respect authority. Even if you're stronger than your husband or holier than your pastor or smarter than your boss. I Peter 2:13 has it,
"Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake..."
There are practical reasons to respect authority. "Go along to get along" is a good saying. But there's a deeper reason than this one. The primary reason to respect your husband or boss or president or landlord is because--Romans 13:1-2,
"There is no power but of God and whoever resists that power resists the ordinance of God".
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY
"Avoid all revengeful and provoking words. When the tongue is as a sword and when it is purposely whetted, it is no marvel that it pierces and wounds [other people]".
I don't need to develop this one very much, do I? A couple of Scriptures will do:
Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answers turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger".
Proverbs 18:6: "A fool's lips enter into contention and his mouth calls for blows".
Be careful what you say at all times. But especially when you're mad! To help you do that, meditate on the example of your Savior. He was "Hated without a cause", yet
"When He was reviled, He did not revile; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously".
In other words, He didn't defend Himself, but let God defend Him! The nursery rhyme is a good one,
"O be careful little mouth what you say".
STAY OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE'S CONTROVERSIES
"Engage not yourselves too eagerly in disputes, nor at any time without necessity. And when necessity calls you, set an extraordinary watch on your passions".
Let's face it: People are going to fight. And some of them will try to get you to come down on their side. Whenever possible, stay out of it! If Mr. Jones tries to tell you what a bad guy Mr. Smith is, change the subject. If you can't, tell Mr. Jones what he can do to make things right--or at least better. Siding with someone without hearing the other side is unfair. And may well hurt the person you side with. And make things harder to fix.
Proverbs 26:17 is worth memorizing,
"He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears".
Think about a vicious Rotweiler or Doberman standing over his bowl, gobbling down his food. Now think about yourself sneaking up behind him and picking him up by the ears. If you think that would be good for you, then get involved in other people's fights! The results will be about the same!
Is there ever a time you can do this? Yes there is. "Blessed are the peacemakers" our Lord once said. But three qualifications are necessary: (1) You've got to be the right person--respected by both sides and not obviously on one side or the other; (2) You've got to choose the right time--when they're likely to listen, not when they're shaking with rage; and (3) You've got to be wise, patient, and humble in bringing them together.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT MONEY
"Have as little to do with matters which their [money] is concerned in, as you can...for few men are so just as not to expect that which others account unjust; and nearest friends have been alienated thereby".
Richard Baxter wrote more than a thousand pages of double-columned, small-print advice, but he never penned a line more practical than this one.
The wording is awkward. But here's what he means: Be very careful about lending or borrowing money from friends; or going into business with them.
I've known quite a few people who've done these things. And, in almost every case, everyone ended up burned.
We're good friends. I lend you a thousand dollars. You don't pay me back. How does it not come up? I feel cheated. If I bring it up, you feel harassed. In either event, our friendship suffers.
Or, we buy a restaurant. I'll do the cooking and you'll wait tables. Until summer. For the dining room is air-conditioned but the kitchen is not. It seems to me, I'm doing all the work and you're getting all the tips and compliments. The set-up is perfectly fair--for we agreed to it. But it's not very conducive to warm feelings and lasting friendships.
In a perfect world, friendships and money would go together beautifully. But this is not a perfect world. If you remember that you'll live more peaceably than if you don't.
"Buy peace at the price of anything which is not better than it. Not with the loss of God's favor or a bad conscience, but you must often part with your rights for peace and put up with wrongs in word and deed. He is no true friend of peace, who will not have it unless it is cheap".
This needs saying. What is peace worth? It's worth a lot! It's not worth going to hell for it or sinning or hurting others. But it is worth giving up a few rights and suffering a few wrongs.
Yet these are the very things for which we give up peace. We fight for our rights! We demand satisfaction! We must have our way! And we get these things, but at a very high price. The loss of peace. These things are not worth it.
We know it--not because I say so--but because Jesus Christ gave up these things to make peace. II Corinthians 8:9.
CLOSE AND APPEAL
Baxter has a lot more to say, but we'll stop here for tonight. If you want to get along with other people, you've got to:
1. Respect authority,
2. Be careful what you say,
3. Stay out of other people's fights,
4. Be careful about money, and
5. Put a high price on peace.
If we do these things--with God's blessing--we'll have more peace than we have right now. And the joy that goes with it.
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity".
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