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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The Unselfish Way of Jesus

 

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others….I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:24, 33; 11:1)

The Apostle Paul’s theme in this section is the importance of thoughtfully seeking the good of others in our actions. We are not to selfishly pursue an individualistic good in what we do or how we live. This is Paul’s example, which he learned from Christ. The way of Jesus is the unselfish way.

Jesus’ Selfless Example
First, it is important to grasp Jesus’ selfless example. He endured the Cross for the joy set before Him, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrews 12:2). He did this so that He could bring many people into the glorious family of God. Jesus’ aim was to lead many to Himself by laying down His life. He aimed for a greater, selfless goal and we, too, should live selflessly for the greater aim of God’s purposes in this world and our lives.

Letting Go of Individualistic Good
At times this means, secondarily, that we must forego some apparent ‘goods’ that come into conflict with the good of others. For the believers in Corinth this meant considering certain freedoms they enjoyed, such as the eating of meals, in light of how those freedoms would effect others and their life of faith. When we see that certain actions or ways of living that we enjoy are inhibiting others from experiencing God, then we must reconsider what we are doing or how we are living. With that consideration in view, we may even need to let go of those actions or ways of life either temporarily or permanently. This, of course, flies in the face of self-actualization or the pursuit of total freedom so strongly promoted in our world today. In God, our grace-given freedom is a liberation from sin into a new sort of life characterized by God’s truth and righteousness. That way in God does not release us from all the demands of others but intricately binds us together with others under God.

Should We Seek Ill for Ourselves?
Third, we must understand that seeking the good of others does not mean seeking ill for ourselves. Pursuing ill for ourselves is not helpful for anyone. Without a doubt we may face trials and endure hardship in life, but seeking the good of others must also include good for ourselves. Paul’s words here are aimed at a sort of godless selfishness which does not take into account the lives of others. He is not asking the Corinthians – or us – to set aside helpful self-awareness or self-care. It is important that we move beyond guilt-ridden lies from the evil one that say any thought of ourselves is selfish and not honoring to God. It is important to note that the interpersonal element of the ‘Great Commandment’ given by Jesus reads: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The equation here means acknowledging what we would like to seek for ourselves, yet placing it on the table of consideration with the needs of others before God’s caring and purposeful eye. Ultimately, we must say with our Savior, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.” Then we move forward, like Jesus, for the joy set before us in obedience to God with appropriate love for others in the unselfish way.

The Greatest Thing

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I concluded series “Remade” this weekend at Eastbrook Church with a look at Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:28-34. “Remade” is the third part of our Gospel of Mark series (see also “The Real Jesus” and “King Coming“).

My message was entitled “The Greatest Thing,” and looked at this central teaching that many of us have encountered before about what the greatest commandment is. In the question, I took us through some key questions:

  • how can we tell if we are growing in love for God?
  • what is love?
  • who really is my neighbor?

You can listen to my message at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow the RSS feed for Eastbrook sermons or follower Eastbrook Church on Twitter or Facebook.

The outline for the message is included below:Read More »