People are looking to the Bible for answers to questions like, “How can I get my husband to pay more attention to me,” “How can I get my friend to stop talking about me behind my back,” and “How can I get my boss to pay me what I feel like I deserve?” The Bible certainly gives a lot of principles about how to interact with others. But we must understand, the Bible is not a guide to get people to do what you want them to do. Jesus never once gave a lesson on how to get people to like you and treat you well. In fact, Jesus often taught told His disciples if they followed Him, people would inevitably hate them (John 15:18-19).
This isn’t to say it’s bad to look to the Bible when we have questions about relationships, but we need to understand this simple truth: the only person you can change is YOU! Don’t look to the Bible to figure out how to change others; look to the Bible to figure out how to change yourself. There is no magic formula to get people to like you and treat you well.
But here are some of the things Jesus did teach:
1. Jesus Taught the Golden Rule
In Luke 6:31, Jesus taught, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31). We often call this “The Golden Rule” and we tell children, “If you want your friends to be nice to you, be nice to them first.” But that’s not what Jesus said!
In fact, in context, Jesus is teaching His disciples to treat their enemies well:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back” (Luke 6:27-30).
2. Jesus Taught Not to be Motivated by Reciprocation
We often practice The Golden Rule in hopes we will get people to reciprocate love and kindness. That’s the wrong motivation. Jesus never promised such a thing. In fact, in the same context, Jesus was teaching His disciples not to be motivated by this hope.
He specifically said to do good and “expect nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). But we do expect something in return, don’t we? We expect people to love us back and treat us well when we treat them well. In fact, we often act as if Jesus’ instructions don’t work when we love someone and that person continues to treat us poorly.
In reality, it isn’t Jesus’ instructions that are broken, it is our understanding that’s broken!
3. Jesus Taught a Better Motivation
Jesus taught that we should do what’s right…because it’s the right thing to do. Jesus promised – not that people would love you and treat you well – but that our Heavenly Father will reward you. Jesus said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35b-36).
So we should be loving, kind, and merciful – not to manipulate people into doing what we want them to do – but because that is our Father’s nature and His will for our lives. God wants us to be loving, kind, and merciful no matter how other people treat us.
But It Does Help Sometimes
All that being said, many people will see your love, kindness, and mercy and they will reciprocate it. That’s a nice side benefit of doing the right thing. But let’s always remember, our love and kindness should be motivated by a desire to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9) and not by a desire to manipulate people into liking us and treating us well.
I love you and God loves you,