Real Love: the golden rule

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we continued our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount, we looked at the one verse that summarizes the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Law and the Prophets:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

This one little verse, known as the golden rule, is perhaps one of the most famous statements of Jesus, even if many do not attribute it to Him.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

The Summary Statement

  • Summarizing the Law and the Prophets
  • Summarizing the Sermon on the Mount

Living with Love for Others

  • Echoes in the Gospel of Matthew
  • Echoes in the Scriptures
  • Echoes in other sources
  • The resounding positivity of Jesus’ command

In Everything

  • Our actions
  • Our words
  • Our thoughts
  • Our non-thoughts

Living in Love as Jesus’ Disciples

  1. We need to live in God’s love for us.
  2. We need to cultivate God’s love for others.
  3. We need to let God change us more and more through His love.

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on real love in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 7:12 this week.
  • Take time to pray through your relationships (e.g., friends, spouse, family members, coworkers, neighbors, classmates), asking God to help you love them more fully. Then consider people you find it difficult to love, whether in these relationships or not. Ask God to change your heart and help you put love into action.
  • Put love into action this week by spending time with or serving someone in a practical way: make a meal, stop by to visit, make a phone call, listen, help with a project, or some other way.
  • Consider reading an article with background on this passage by John J. Collins, “Love Your Neighbor: How It Became the Golden Rule”

7 Ways to Lose Our Saltiness as Disciples

This past weekend I continued our series on the Sermon on the Mount by exploring our “Real Identity” as the salt of the earth and the light of the world from Matthew 5:13-16. In verse 13, Jesus says, “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” In our small group on Sunday afternoon, we discussed what it might mean to lose our saltiness. I’ve continued to think about this over the past few days and decided to compile a list of seven ways we can lose our saltiness as disciples. So, here we go.

Seven ways we can lose our saltiness as disciples:

  1. Stop reading Scripture. Scripture is a vital guide for the Christian life. It is “a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). When we stop reading Scripture, we can easily lose our way, thus faltering in the disciple-life. Without Scripture’s guidance we lose the salty savor of God’s life in and with us.
  2. Stop praying. If Scripture is the guide for our life as disciples, prayer is the lifeblood of our disciple-life. Prayer is our communication with God, but it is also the way in which we abide in Christ. The same way that branches abide in the vine, our discipleship is rooted in the life of God through prayer (John 15:1-17). If we want our lives saturated with the flavor and preservative of God’s life in us, then we must be people of prayer.
  3. Live so close to the world that no one can tell you’re a disciple. We sometimes talk of disciples as in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-15). While we understand that Paul wanted to become all things to all people so that he might bring people to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-22), this did not mean he hid his distinctiveness as a Christ follower. Salt becomes less salty by being diluted. So, too, if no one can tell we’re disciples of Christ, then we may be on the pathway of losing our saltiness.
  4. Lack integrity and Christlike character. Disciples of Jesus are called to look like Jesus. We are to resist sin and exhibit the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:13-26). Peter said that the godly behavior and character of disciples will lead people to an encounter with God (1 Peter 2:11-12). If our daily lives does not point to Christ, then we may lack saltiness.
  5. Never talk about Jesus. Jesus called His disciples to be witnesses to Him (Acts 1:8). While we want our lives to be a witness to Christ, we also want to give witness to Him with our mouths. If we never say a word about Jesus to anyone else, then we lack what Paul describes as grace-seasoned speech: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
  6. Think only about your own needs. We lose our saltiness when we stop thinking of others’ needs and only think of our own needs. When Jesus was asked how He would summarizeGod’s law, He said it was loving God with all of who we are and loving our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Salty disciples are aware of others’ needs, both material and spiritual, and reach out to care for those who are in need, both within the church community and beyond.
  7. Let other interests become more important than God and His kingdom. Just as love for neighbor is part of the summary of God’s law, so, too, is love for God for all of who we are—”all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). If people know more about the hobbies, sports teams, foods, political allegiances, causes, or even family we love, but never know our love for God, then there may be a lack of salt evident in our lives. Jesus said, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

What Must Happen If We Want to Love Others: Encountering the Heart of the Golden Rule

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In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summarizes all the Law and the prophets—the entire Old Testament guidance from God—with a simple sentence known as the golden rule: “do to others as you would have them do to you.” In some ways, this is even more concise and straightforward than another of Jesus’ well-known teachings about what God is looking for. In that other setting (Matthew 22:36-40), after beings asked what the greatest commandment is in God’s law, Jesus sums up everything by calling human beings to love God with all of who we are and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Here, however, the golden rule calls us immediately into action, forcing us to avoid abstraction with the emphatic: “do to others as you would have them do to you.” The place of reflection begins with the question, “Am I loving so-and-so as myself?” And so we may begin to think about others and what holds us back from loving them. But here, reflection is immediately plunged into the much more measurable question, “Am I doing toward so-and-so what I wish so-and-so was doing to me?”

This is why the golden rule is not only memorable but powerful. Quickly, in Jesus’ statement we are confronted by many issues we otherwise might avoid. Not only are we forced to consider, “Should I call that person facing difficulty today because that is the sort of care I would like to receive from someone?”, but the more emphatic call to action, “If that’s what I wish someone would do for me, then that is what I should do by  God’s grace and power.” It is not contemplation of the act of love that counts, but moving to action in love. Jesus tells us “this is the law and the prophets.” In other words, all the previous guidance of God was to force us into the encounter with the love of God that leads us into the activity of love toward others.

Living the Golden Rule.002Here is one of the places where the golden rule is more than just activity, however. Jesus’ words push us into the territory of our hearts, where we encounter both the beauty and the deficiency within. As Jesus says in another place, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart” (Matthew 12:28, NLT).  What we do flows from who we are.

If we struggle to live out the golden rule the cause is not because we do not know something or are missing the right techniques or skills. It is fundamentally a heart problem pointing to what we love and desire.  Human barriers within me stand in the way of love’s action. Because I do not see others as human made in the image of God as I see myself as human, I fail to love. Because I fear that my love given to others will not be reciprocated to me, I fail to love. Because I do not really want really good things to come to others in ways that outpace good things coming to me, I fail to love. The possibilities are as various as the human heart is unique, but all of them lead us into a deep encounter with ourselves and our hearts. Each of these examples are not failures of technique or action, but heart failure. The fundamental problem in our failure to love is a that love has not transformed our desires at the most basic level.

And so, Jesus’ teaching brings us ultimately into an encounter with the God who is love. When we find—or perhaps, better, are found by—God’s love, that love begins to transform every sphere of our lives and dark corner of our hearts. As that happens, our desires in life, and specifically the way we see and loves others, also is transformed. The more we know the love of God, the more our lives are changed.  Jesus’ words in the golden rule takes us on a journey of transformation that begins by looking outward toward others, leads us inward to our own need for God, and then takes us back outward to engage with others. Changed from the inside out, we steadily become people who love others, not just in contemplation or abstraction, but in the tangible doing that the golden rule invites us into.

Lord, help me to love others like You do and to love in action even as I desire for myself to be loved in action. Transform my heart, bring order to my desires, and shape me to reflect You in this world.

Living Like Light in the World

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As I concluded our series, “Will You Be My Neighbor?”, this past weekend at Eastbrook, I took a practical look at how John 8:12 and Matthew 5:14 fit together in our faith and practice. In these two verse, a theme of light from God shining through Jesus and His people come together, yet in different directions:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world.’” (John 8:12)

“You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) 

There is a lot in here, but as it was a family worship weekend for us, I tried to use more story-telling and practical application to our lives. Maybe that worked and maybe it didn’t. You can watch/listen and let me know.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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When God Became Our Neighbor

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This weekend at Eastbrook, we began a new 4-week series entitled “Will You Be My Neighbor?” This series is an extended reflection on how Jesus’ call to love God and love our neighbor works its way out into the ordinary context of our neighborhoods.

I began the series this weekend by looking at the call to love our neighbor through the lens of Jesus’ arrival as our neighbor and Messiah. This message was centered in John 1:14:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Of course, Eugene Peterson’s rendering of this text in The Message really drives the point home memorably:

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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