As we enter Advent in the Gathering, we do so finishing up our series on the Sermon on the Mount. Chapter 7 in Matthew concludes the Sermon on the Mount with some of the most powerful and direct messages. This Sunday we will explore how we as disciples are to treat one another; next Sunday we will see how we are called to go out and make disciples.
When I was reading the passage this week I thought about a time when I was in, I think, third grade when I got in trouble for something really silly, leaving my book bag next to my desk causing a girl to trip. The teacher pulled me out of the class, I did not know why, and proceeded to scold me for my careless action. Being that I rarely got in trouble, the tears were welling up in my eyes. The teacher stopped, knelt down and said “Bryan, you need to think about others. Our classroom is small and the desks are close, if there were a fire or a tornado and we had to get out, how would you feel if you had to get around everyone’s backpacks?”
It was a simple lesson, kind of silly when you think about it, but I learned that day that my actions affected others, even when I did not mean to. This is the crux of the Golden Rule. As it says in The Message version of the Bible: “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.”
This is the route of courtesy and really the central teaching about how we are supposed to live as Christians. Think about it this way. A man was out in his front yard blowing leaves so that his yard looked immaculate. In doing so, he accidentally blew his leaves onto his neighbor’s yard. Instead blowing the leaves where they belonged, he sat back and admired his beautiful work. Later his neighbor came home from work, tired and beaten, to see that his once clean lawn was full of leaves once again. He knew where they came from, so after he went in to change from his work clothes he went out with every intention of blowing the leaves back to his neighbor’s lawn.
As the first leaf hit the pristine lawn, he thought of how frustrated he was when he got home and thought to himself, “what am I doing? What will this really do?” so he finished his lawn and pushed the leaves into the street for their pickup the next morning. The man realized that all retaliation would bring is more retaliation and what good is that? More than that he thought of how he wanted to be treated and demonstrated that to his neighbor using his action to teach Christian love.
Think about it; when you show love and forgiveness even when it is hard, often you see people change. When you think of others first, often you begin to see things work out much better and often you see that your life will work out better. Think of it; if you followed an eye-for-an-eye mentality, the retaliation would only lead to something worse.
Think about all the wars and death that are a result of simple acts of selfish motive. I think about it with many people that I counsel, how if someone along their path just thought to reach out and treat them kindly, their whole lives might have been different. When we treat each other with respect, even though it is hard sometimes, we embody what it means to be a Christian and a disciple.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen