Special to Valley News
Have you ever noticed how mean people are to shopping carts? If you haven’t, let me explain. There are several steps people take in choosing, using and discarding their shopping carts.
Step one: While walking into the store, you automatically judge the cart by its looks because you always choose the nicer looking one. It means the older, uglier cart never has the chance to win your love.
Step two: You wipe down the cart handle with sanitizer. Essentially telling the cart, it’s not good enough for you just the way it is. It needs to be better.
Step three: You push the cart through the store while loading it with all of the stuff you don’t want to carry. And from time to time, you run it into things, not caring about the scars you might be leaving. The damage doesn’t bother you. It’s not your cart.
Step four: You finish shopping and unload your items from the cart to your car. Happy with your purchases and finished with your faithful cart, you leave it, push it to the curb or shove it violently into other used and abused carts. You never care to see that cart again. You’re probably going to see other carts from here on out.
Does that sound about right?
If carts were people and had feelings, they would have left every store on the planet by now.
The sad part is we can sometimes treat people like we do our shopping carts. It’s why relationships can fall apart so easily.
Thankfully, God has a lot to say about how to have strong, healthy relationships.
Here are four common sense steps for good relationships straight from God.
Look at the heart of a person, not the appearance.
Yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve heard it all before. But do you do it?
When the prophet Samuel was sent by God to anoint a new king for Israel, he didn’t know who it was. So he kept looking for the one that looked most kingly. But looks were never God’s criteria; it was the heart.
He told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” in I Samuel 16:7.
If this is how God looks at people, then shouldn’t we do the same? The world puts great value on who is the most beautiful, athletic or wealthy. God looks at the heart because that’s what really matters.
Love people where they’re at right now.
People often struggle with relationships because others aren’t where they want them to be. And because they’re not rising up to presupposed levels, people get frustrated and angry.
Here’s a tough truth. You can’t change anyone. You can only change yourself. But you can influence positive change by loving people without strings attached.
1 Peter 4:8 said, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Tell them you are thankful for who they are.
People live in a generation where common courtesy has gone almost out the window. I believe it’s because they’ve lost a lot of care for one another.
God teaches us that saying thank you can and should go much deeper than we think. No one understood it more than the apostle Paul. He told his friends in Ephesus, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” in Ephesians 1:16.
Sadly, we’re only thankful for people when they do something that benefits us. What would happen if you were just grateful for that person in your life simply because God placed them there?
Do the work to develop lasting relationships.
Let’s be honest, lasting relationships – I mean the ones that go on for years – take effort. They never happen by accident.
When the apostle Paul was in prison, he said, “Everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes,” in 2 Timothy 1:15.
How sad is that?
But he went on to say, “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me,” in 2 Timothy 1:16-17.
I believe God wants you to be an Onesiphorus and search out those who need your friendship. Stop waiting for friends to appear magically. You be the friend; you do the work it takes for lasting relationships.
If you do, you’ll build the best relationships you’ve ever had in your life, ones that last a lifetime.
Zachary Elliott is the lead pastor of Fusion Christian Church in Temecula. For more information, visit https://www.fusionchristianchurch.com, https://fourminutefaithbuilder.com or find them on Instagram.