What does the Bible have to say about getting along? Quite a bit, actually.
Paul said, “If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” Romans 12:18 (MSG) A more straightforward translation: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV) The John Maxwell translation goes like this: “Do the best you can to get along with everyone. Yet realize that once in a while you are going to have a relationship with a difficult person that may fall short of the ideal.”
“If it is possible” reminds us that it is not always possible, at least not completely. We can get along with most of the people most of the time, but you can’t get along with all of the people all of the time. Paul said he tried to, “please everyone in every way,” (1 Corinthians 10:33) while acknowledging that he couldn’t—at least not and be a servant of Christ. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
Proverbs 18:1 (GNB) says, “People who do not get along with others are interested only in themselves; they will disagree with what everyone else knows is right.” The NIV calls this man “unfriendly.” God’s Word Translation calls him a “loner.” The sense of this verse is that the loner will cut himself off from wisdom. He didn’t need to cross-reference his opinion with yours; he always has all the information he needs.
The person who can’t get along with others stands in opposition to the Proverb that says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14 NIV) People who don’t know how to get along cut themselves off from many advisers and, thus, from wisdom.
Hebrews 12:14 points out that getting along with others is hard work. The writer commands that we work hard at getting along and connects getting along with holiness. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) The Message has this: “Work hard at getting along with each other.” Indeed. It is hard work.
This word dioko is usually translated “persecute.” It was used for an animal chasing down its prey or a runner pushing his chest toward the tape. As a secondary meaning, it came to refer to chasing down Christians or persecuting them. It is a strong word. A.T. Robertson said, “Give peace a chase as if in a hunt.” It is the word Paul used in Philippians when he said he “pressed on toward the mark.” We are to chase down the ability to get along with others. Perhaps he was thinking of the Psalm that says, “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34.14) Paul probably had a similar thing in mind in 2 Timothy 2.22. He exhorted Timothy to flee a list of things and pursue a list of things. One of the things he was to pursue (dioko) was peace.
The writer connects getting along with holiness. In other words, we are to pursue getting along with the same diligence we give to pursuit of holiness. Jerry Bridges wrote a classic book by that title: The Pursuit of Holiness. Great read. Perhaps he needs to follow up with a book on the pursuit of getting along.
He goes on to lament the fact that husbands and wives can’t get along. God says, “I hate divorce.” I hate it when man and wife can’t get along. He hates divorce because He has experienced divorce. “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.” (Jeremiah 3:8 NIV) God is pictured in the Bible as a broken-hearted, jilted lover. He knows the pain of not being able to get along.
In Romans 1:29, Paul has a long list of characteristics of sinners. One of them is that they are hard to get along with. Whatever else is true of sinners is that they are hard to get along with. “They are evil, wicked, and greedy, as well as mean in every possible way. They want what others have, and they murder, argue, cheat and are hard to get along with. (Romans 1:29 CEV)
In contrast, God has called us to be easy to get along with. God has called us to be gracious, winsome and kind. One of the first verses I memorized was, “Be ye kind one to another.” (Ephesians 4.32 KJV) Paul said, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4.5)
Paul was quite intense in this desire for the churches to get along. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 (CEV), we read, “My dear friends, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to get along with each other.” Eugene Peterson paraphrased it this way: “I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other.” (1 Corinthians 1:10 MSG)
The God of the Bible is deadly serious about the work of getting along.
Excerpted from How to Get Along With Almost Anyone, 2014.