1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 (NIV)
11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
The story goes like this:
A long time ago, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn't get along with her mother-in-law at all. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law's habits. In addition, she criticized Li-Li constantly.
Days passed days, and weeks passed weeks. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish.
All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing the poor husband great distress.
Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law's bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it. Li-Li went to see her father's good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all.
Mr. Huang thought for awhile, and finally said, Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you.
Li-Li said, “Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do.”
Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs. He told Li-Li, “You can't use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I have given you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body.”
“Every other day prepare some pork or chicken and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you when she dies, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. Don't argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.”
Li-Li was so happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-in-law.
Weeks went by, and months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother.
After six months had passed, the whole household had changed. Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn't had an argument in six months with her mother-in-law, who now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.
The mother-in-law's attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in-law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter. Li-Li's husband was very happy to see what was happening.
One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again. She said, “Dear Mr. Huang, please help me to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law! She's changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.”
Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, there's nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. All of the herbs I gave you were simply to improve her health.”
“The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.”
It is easy for us to pray and ask God to change someone who is not acting the way we wish, but if we take a moment and look at ourselves, I am sure we will find a way to better the situation by our acts that will make a positive impact towards that person who was not treating us the way we wished.
Dear Lord, we pray that today we would be the one to make a bad situation better. Help us treat others the way we ourselves want to be treated. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.