“In Everything”: the comprehensive call to love our neighbor

“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)

Now, even though it could feel like Jesus’ summary statement in Matthew 7:12 is the sort of thing you would find in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, there is one little phrase that makes that impossible. It’s this phrase: “in everything…” This little phrase, just one word in Greek, captures so much.

Now, think with me about what it would look like for all of our actions to reflect this:

  • what actions would we take in order to love others: our spouses, our colleagues, our children, our parents, total strangers, those in need?
  • what actions would we hold back from in order to truly love and serve others?

Consider what it would look like for all of our words to reflect Jesus’ guidance:

  • what words would we speak in order to truly love and serve others?
  • what words would never cross our lips in order to truly love and serve others?

And then there are our thoughts, our inner meditations. Jesus once said,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

We often talk about having a filter on what we say or do. It is good to have a filter, but what would it look like to let our thoughts and inner, unexpressed desires reflect Jesus’ teaching about treating others the way we would want to be treated. Consider with me:

  • what do our inner thoughts say about how much we truly love others?
  • what do we say in private about others that we would never speak in public? Why is there a difference?

And what about one more category that may seem strange. What about our non-thoughts; the ways we naturally see and evaluate people and situations without even thinking about it? What do our non-thoughts—our prejudices, assumptions, and non-cognitive ways of assessing people—say about our love or lack of love for others? How might our lives and interactions with others be transformed as we let God reach into and transform our non-thoughts?

Jesus tells us:

“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)

From top to bottom, from the inside to the outside,Jesus’ disciples live in God’s love and live with God’s love for others.

Our Mind and Our Choices

This past weekend in my message from Psalm 1:1-2, “Roots,” I specifically mentioned the power within our thoughts and interior life in relationship to discipleship. Here are some further comments on this point from Dallas Willard, one of the most influential writers on discipleship in our current time, in his book The Divine Conspiracy. I am interested to hear your comments on Willard’s words:

Now we need to understand that what simply occupies our mind very largely governs what we do. It sets the emotional tone out of which our action flows, and it projects the possible courses of action available to us. Also, the mind, though of little power on its own, is the place of our widest and most basic freedom. This is true in both a direct and an indirect sense. Of all the things we do, we have more freedom with respect to what we think of, where we will place our mind, than anything else. And the freedom of thinking is a direct freedom wherever it is present. We need not do something else in order to exercise it. We simply turn our mind to whatever it is we choose to think of. The deepest revelation of our character is what we choose to dwell on in thought, what constantly occupies our mind – as well as what we can or cannot even think of….

When we come to the task of developing disciples into the fullness of Christ, we must be very clear that one main part, and by far the most fundamental, is to form the insights and habits of the student’s mind so that it stay directed toward God.