When others don’t do their part

When others don't do their partYears ago, it dawned on me that when Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20-21 teach that children should obey and honor their parents, it doesn’t add any qualifiers. Those passages, as well as the ten commandments in Exodus 20, don’t say “Obey your parents if they are Christians” or “if they are perfect” or “if anything.”

Some time later, I noticed that these passages mentioned responsibilities on both sides of relationships.

  • Wives submit to husbands as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18); Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19).
  • Children, obey and honor your parents (Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:20); Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
  • Servants, obey as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25); Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). (I wrote about slavery in the Bible here. Generally we apply these verses to employee/employer relationships these days.)

Beyond these, the Bible speaks of relationships between people and rulers. When Paul in Romans 13:1-6 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-17 spoke of obeying and even honoring rulers, do you know who their ruler was? Nero, one of the worst rulers ever.

Then, most of the epistles speak to how we’re supposed to act towards our fellow church members.

Now, as an aside, we know from other passages of Scripture that we obey authorities unless they ask us to do something sinful. Then we have the right to refuse. And this passage does not give parents or spouses or anyone else the right to be abusive. If you’re suffering from abuse, please let a trusted teacher, doctor, neighbor, or someone know.

But for the purposes of this post, we’re just talking about everyday normal interactions.

In all of these pairs of relationships, it’s easier for one side to do their part if the other person is doing theirs. It’s generally easier for a wife to submit to a husband who loves her like Christ loves the church. It’s easier for a husband to love a wife who isn’t always at cross purposes with him. It’s easier to parent cooperative, obedient children; It’s easier to obey parents who are loving and nurturing. And so on.

But the Bible doesn’t say to do your part only if the other person does his.

It just says to do your part as unto the Lord.

That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss what’s wrong in a relationship. That’s healthy to do, even to call in help when needed.

But sometimes the grace shown by doing our part even when the other person doesn’t can lead to conviction, restoration, and encouragement.

We’re not only to love and do good to our friends and closest loved ones. Jesus said we’re to love, pray for, and do good even to our enemies.

God exemplifies this for us. In most of His relationships with His people, they fail. There are a very few people in Scripture against whom no sin is recorded. That doesn’t mean they never sinned, because we’re all sinners, except for Jesus. It just means their wrong-doing wasn’t pertinent to the narrative about them. It may mean they sinned less than others. But the point is this: there is no fault, no failing, on God’s side. We fail Him often. But He doesn’t stand apart, arms folded, rescinding His promises because we didn’t keep ours. He pursues us in love, drawing us to Himself, leading us in His goodness to repentance. Jesus died for us when we were His ungodly enemies. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act first. He knew that was impossible. Yes, God disciplines and chastens, but in love. He’s always faithful to His own.

And, by His grace, He calls us to be faithful to Him and to the others we have relationships with.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25, NKJV).

It’s natural to want to strike back or withhold love or respect or obedience when the other person fails to hold up their end. Doing so only widens the chasm. And as Christians, we’re not called to react naturally, but supernaturally—something we can only do with God’s help. We seek His grace do the right thing. “Do not be overcome by evil,” or failure or disappointment, “but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:12-14, NKJV).

Romans 12:21, overcome evil with good

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32 thoughts on “When others don’t do their part

  1. Such a good post, Barbara! Doing our part is easy when others do theirs. The easy way is not always the best way. Several years ago, I committed to praying for our leaders whether I agreed with their political views or not. It hasn’t always been easy but I have done it. It made me think of nice things to say about people I don’t agree with.

    • That’s a Scriptural command, to pray for our leaders. It seems like people pray for them when they like them and criticize them when they don’t. But perhaps we need to pray for the ones we don’t like or disagree with all the more.

  2. Such good thoughts! I struggle when I feel like I do my part and others don’t. You have, as usual, given such good verses pertaining to that and I need to pray to have a better attitude!

    • Thank you, Susan. I was definitely talking to myself in this post. I tend to have the wrong attitude first and then have to remind myself of truth to get to a better attitude. Hopefully some day the better attitude will come more quickly.

  3. Here’s another question for you to ponder, Barbara: What is the difference in “submit” and “obey”?
    Also, how far does a wife go in submitting when there is abuse involved or when she is being asked to basically be a “doormat”?
    I’ve been pondering both of these for years. 🙂 –Ann

    • Those are loaded questions, Ann. 🙂 I purposefully didn’t go into what submission is for this post–I figured I’d let it go at face value.

      I think if a wife or her children are in immediate physical danger, they need to seek help to leave safely. Where to draw the line is harder when the abuse is verbal. Some men can be very controlling and threatening and demeaning with their words, and when a wife seeks intervention with a pastor or someone else, the husband takes it out on her all the worse. I don’t think any of the relationships roles I mentioned. imply that we let someone get away with sin. But how, when and whether to confront are hard to figure.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in terms of mask-wearing. Some of us feel like we’re bearing the burden of preventing covid by doing the mask-wearing and quarantining (if we have the privilege to), while others feel free to go about and enjoy life as normal as if nothing is going on. I know it’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s where my mind was going. 🙂 So nonetheless, I’m to do what I’m called to do, regardless of what others do or don’t do.

    • I’ve been amazed at otherwise peaceable Christians locking horns over this on social media, with each linking doctors and medical advice on their side. I believe in erring on the side of caution and safety and protecting ourselves and each other, so I wear a mask when I’m out. I don’t understand people who have a problem with that, but, as you said, we can only do what we feel is right before the Lord.

  5. Barbara,
    This line really jumped out at me: “But sometimes the grace shown by doing our part even when the other person doesn’t can lead to conviction, restoration, and encouragement.” Their is not an “expiration date” on the number of times I keep extending the olive branch of peace. Thanks for the nudge to keep being obedient!
    Bev xx

    • That’s a good point about there being no expiration date, Bev. When someone doesn’t call me on the carpet when they could have, it melts me a little and makes me more willing to do what I am supposed to do.

  6. Such a thorough explanation of how we are to respond to the Lord and to the other relationships in our life! Great scripture truths that clearly show us that we are to do our part….period! Love God and love others. #instaencourage link up

  7. A variation of this that I’ve often heard, “Why do I have to forgive when So-and-So doesn’t have to say they’re sorry for their part of the conflict?” Just as you’ve said, we have to do our part whether they do or not.
    But the great thing is … if we do our part, we have a clean conscience! It’s worth everything to have peace!

    • That’s true–at least we have a clear conscience when we’ve done the right thing. And often, our doing the right thing makes it easier for the other person to do theirs as well.

  8. We are required to act supernaturally. That is key….for with His indwelling help (and often only by His grace and help) we can act, and react, how He has commanded us. Even when it seems impossible (and there are a few of those for all of us) we can offer grace, forgive, work toward peace and even love as He asks! I’m glad it isn’t up to my best intentions or strong willpower:)

  9. Oh these can be such hard commands to obey with a willing, open heart! Thanks for this gentle reminder of how God wants us to live. There’s just no way we can do it without grumbling and complaining without His powerful help.

    Thanks, Barbara …

  10. Great and thought-provoking post. There is so much tit for tat these days. The question is will I do my part just because it is the right thing to do? I like what Lisa said above about mask-wearing. There is so much division over to wear or not to wear. Let’s just do our part.

  11. Phew, Barbara … this is a convicting post. I wrote once about how hard it is to die to self in an effort to show love to others when nobody seems to be dying to self to show love to me. I agree with other commenters about the need for divine help with all that you’ve written. 🙂

  12. Great post Barbara! Yes, there are no qualifiers in what we are required to do! And our actions & reactions need to be supernatural not natural but with His wisdom & strength.
    Bless you,

  13. It’s so well put Barbara. I think it’s one of the most difficult things in the world to continue to love people who are not showing us love in return. It takes great patience and strength. When I’m feeling tested I always tell myself ‘treat others as you would like to be treated yourself’ and that reminder generally gets me through those challenging times. Thank you very much for sharing with us at #globalblogging

  14. Pingback: End-of-July Reflections | Stray Thoughts

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