March 8th, 2013: The Twenty-First Day of Lent

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

~Matthew 7.12~

After ending the teaching section on persistent prayer, Christ gives us the familiar “Golden Rule.” I grew up hearing it as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Not as they have done unto you.” That’s a bit much for a six-year-old to wrap his mind around, but fortunately Adventures In Odyssey (remember that radio show?) came to the rescue with this interpretation on the lips of John Avery Whitaker: “Basically, treat others how you want to be treated.”

Throughout the ages, Jewish rabbis have interpreted the Torah and taught that it should be applied in particular ways. As time has gone on, the interpretations and applications have multiplied. Teachers of the Law have responded to this trend by trying to boil down the intricate rules into teachings that are more memorable or easily applied. Here, Christ uses this same rabbinic approach. Rather than ask his audience to memorize hundreds of individual teachings, he distills it into this easily remembered phrase: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

Easily remembered; not easily applied, however.

This rule’s difficulty lies in the fact that it is always up to us to apply it first. We can’t wait for others to treat us properly before we begin treating others as we want to be treated. It starts with us, oftentimes in difficult situations when we are on the receiving end of some bad treatment. However, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, we know that we are bringing the Kingdom to places where it needs to be. We will experience friction and pushback; you can count on it. Unfortunately, as Christians, we do not have the right to hold grudges or withhold forgiveness; we cannot antagonize, discredit, blackmail, or otherwise interact with others in ways that compromises God’s coming Kingdom. Talk about difficult! Easily remembered, not easily applied.

It starts in a moment-by-moment realization that you are living in God’s loving care: the care that makes it possible to live without worry, in the knowledge that the Almighty has not forgotten you, hears you, and will respond to your requests. Maybe today, you can remember that truth once, and treat someone differently. Perhaps twice tomorrow, and so on. If we release our tendency to treat others as they have treated us, we can allow the Holy Spirit to help us to treat others as we would like to be treated, and as how Christ has treated us – with forgiveness, grace, and redemption.

Lord Christ, I confess that I often live in retaliatory ways. I wait to see how others treat me before I decide how I will treat them. Please remake  my heart so that I can treat others the way I would like to be treated – the way you have treated me. Amen. 

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