Day 270

Six Keys to Good Relationships

Wisdom Psalm 112:1-9
New Testament Ephesians 4:22-32, 5:1-2
Old Testament Isaiah 63:7-16


When she was nineteen years of age, Chiara Lubich gathered with a few friends in northern Italy. It was 1939 and, as bombs fell, they asked this question: ‘Was there an ideal that bombs could not destroy?’ Their answer was, ‘Yes, the love of God’.

They had experienced God’s overwhelming love and they wanted to share it with others. They imitated God by living a life of love (Ephesians 5:1–2). They helped those in need. They shared what little food they had. They found clothing for those who had none. They comforted the bereaved.

Such a warmth emanated from Chiara and her friends that people gave them the name ‘Focolare’, which means ‘hearth’ or ‘fireplace’. Focolare now has 2 million members in 182 countries. Members of the Focolare community make it their rule of life, 24 hours a day, to live by the golden rule of Jesus: ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12).

Love is practical. Chiara said, ‘Love the other person as yourself… Imagine how the world would be if the golden rule were put into practice not only between individuals, but also between ethnic groups, peoples and nations, if everyone loved the other country as their own.’

How can we imitate God and live a life of love?


Psalm 112:1-9

1 Praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
   who find great delight in his commands.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
   for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
   who conduct their affairs with justice.

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
   they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news;
   their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear...

9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
   their righteousness endures for ever...


Be filled with the Holy Spirit

It is the Holy Spirit in you who produces a life that imitates God. In this psalm, we see the kind of life God wants you to lead, and it includes all the fruit of the Spirit described by Paul in Galatians 5:22–23. It is a life of:

  • love (‘compassionate’, Psalm 112:4)
  • joy (‘delight’, v.1)
  • peace (‘they will have no fear of bad news’, v.7)
  • patience (‘their hearts are steadfast’, v.7)
  • kindness (‘generous and lend freely’, v.5b; ‘they have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor’, v.9)
  • goodness (‘the righteous will be remembered for ever’, v.6b)
  • faithfulness (‘their hearts are secure’, v.8a)
  • gentleness (‘gracious’, v.4b)
  • self-control (‘surely they will never be shaken’, v.6a).

All this stems from knowing God – spending time reading and meditating on his word: ‘Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands’ (v.1).


Lord, help me today to live a life overflowing with the fruit of your Spirit.

New Testament

Ephesians 4:22-32, 5:1-2

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

5 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


Be transformed into the likeness of Jesus

Jesus Christ set the supreme example of love by giving up his life for us. St Paul writes, ‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (5:1–2). As St Athanasius wrote, ‘God became like us in order that we might become like God.’

What does this ‘life of love’ look like?

Paul writes about how the Ephesians came ‘to know Christ’ (4:20), and how knowing him they were taught to ‘be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’ (vv.23–24).

What is ‘holiness’?

Paul gives six practical examples of holiness – six keys to good relationships in a holy church (4:25–5:7):

  1. Authenticity

    ‘What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretence. Tell your neighbour the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all’ (4:25, MSG).

    Live a life of honesty and integrity. The danger of talking about ‘holiness’ is that it leads to intensity. But there is a fine line between holiness and being ‘holier than thou’, between being pious and being poisonous! Authenticity frees us to admit we’re far from perfect. We can be vulnerable with one another. This leads away from hypocrisy.

  2. Passion

    ‘Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry – but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life’ (vv.26–27, MSG).

    Although anger is not intrinsically sinful, it often leads to sin. In anger, the devil sometimes finds a foothold in our lives that easily becomes an addiction. Anger is an emotion that we need to handle with care.

    On the other hand, there is a positive side to anger. It can be a God-given emotion. God expresses anger (5:6), but of course he does so under control. Jesus’ anger was a righteous anger towards sin. It was Wilberforce’s passionate hatred of slavery that eventually contributed to the abolition of the slave trade.

  3. Work and generosity

    ‘Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work’ (v.28, MSG).

    Holiness is often mistakenly understood as the need to separate ourselves from those we consider unholy. Perhaps work colleagues, for example. Paul’s point is very different. He sees work as part of a holy life. Work in itself is good for the satisfaction that it brings but there is also toil, struggle and effort. So why do people go to work in the morning? One answer is: in order to be holy.

    Paul finds it necessary to say do not steal any longer, which hints that some members of the early church came from a life of crime. The church clearly welcomed and rehabilitated them.

    Rather than taking from others, they should now contribute to those around them. The best way to do that is by working. Work in itself is ‘doing something useful’, as well as enabling them to ‘share with those in need’ (v.28). Work is, for everyone, a part of being holy.

  4. Encouragement

    ‘Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift’ (v.29, MSG).

    Words matter. What you say is of vital importance. It can either build people up or drag them down. Use your mouth for good – for encouragement and for building others up.

    Encouragement is not flattery or empty praise; it is like verbal sunshine. It costs nothing and warms other people’s hearts and inspires them with hope and confidence.

  5. Grace

    ‘Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you’ (vv.31–32, MSG).

    Paul’s vision of a holy church is a community that rids itself of all bitterness, anger and slander, and that welcomes ex-offenders, those struggling with lifestyle issues, those who are divorced, those who have messed up. It is a community of people in need of forgiveness and a place where forgiveness flows freely because forgiven people forgive.

    Churches are not supposed to be museums that display perfect people, walking around looking holy. They are called to be hospitals where the wounded, hurt, injured and broken find grace and healing.

  6. Purity

    The church welcomes everyone, because it is kind, compassionate and gracious. At the same time, you are called to a life of purity without ‘even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people’ (5:3).

Rather than self-centred sins (vv.3–4a), you are called to God-centred thanksgiving (v.4b). There is also a strong warning here from Paul. There is forgiveness of sins, but those who end up setting their course against God’s ways will not inherit his kingdom (v.5).


Lord, help me today to live a life of love and to become more like Jesus.

Old Testament

Isaiah 63:7-16

7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
   the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us—
   yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
   according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
8 He said, “Surely they are my people,
   children who will be true to me”;
   and so he became their Saviour.

16, Lord, are our Father,
   our Redeemer from of old is your name.


Become like the compassionate father

God’s love for Israel was like that of a father: ‘You are our Father’ (63:16; 64:8, MSG). ‘You’re our living Father, our Redeemer, famous from eternity!’ (63:16, MSG).

Just as God loved the people of Israel in the Old Testament, so God loves you as a father loves his children. Isaiah speaks of the kindnesses of the Lord: ‘… all the Lord has done for us – yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”’ (vv.7–8).

God loves us in spite of the fact that ‘we’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags’ (64:6, MSG).

God, like any human father, suffers when we suffer or go astray: ‘In all their troubles, he was troubled, too’ (63:9a, MSG). ‘In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old’ (v.9b).

God has plans for you that no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has conceived (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9).


Lord, thank you that you love me more than any human father. Thank you that because of your love for me, I am able to love those around me.

Pippa adds

Ephesians 4:26

‘Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.’

In other words, don’t go to bed grumpy!

Thought for the Day

Churches are not museums that display perfect people. They are hospitals where the wounded, hurt, injured and broken find healing.



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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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