“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.Matthew 7:12, The Message
I don’t have any data to support this, but I still believe that Matthew 7:12 is one of the most misquoted texts in the Bible. Called “the Golden Rule,” it sometimes gets quoted as “don’t do unto others what you don’t want to be done to you,” or some version of that.
It comes out entirely passive in its expression. “You’re good as long as you don’t mistreat others; you can ignore them, but don’t mistreat them.” But look at this as quoted in the Bible and you get an entirely different picture of this “rule.” The Message translation gets it right when it says, “…grab the initiative and do it for them.”
Jesus puts us in the driver’s seat when it comes to loving another person. So Jesus uses an active rather than a passive verb form. He’s telling us to “take the bull by the horns and love other people. “Treat them,” meaning don’t sit on the sidelines of human connection.
People who grasp the significance of this instruction hold the door for others, say hello without prompting, notice and show courtesy to others, write thank you notes, send flowers, go to the hospital to visit, share the plate of cookies, and in a thousand other ways show other people that the Kingdom of God is in the room.
Jesus was saying to the crowds, and to us, that indifference, passivity, and rudeness have no place in the life of his disciples. You can’t go to church on Sunday morning and then expect that you’ve fulfilled your obligations as a follower of Christ. No. The Christ of the Cross expects his followers to interact positively with our world.
Earlier in the sermon, Jesus said we are to be salt and light. The way salt and light are distributed is not complicated; it is simply to love the world, one-person-at-a-time.
It’s hard to do this if we are preoccupied with ourselves. It’s the difference between, “Wow. I sure like this gift” and “That was so kind and generous of you to give me this, and I am indebted to you.” A huge chasm lays between being trapped in one’s own head-space and actually noticing and acknowledging the other people we rub shoulders with.
Being a person who loves, switches on our humanity, and we radiate Christ wherever we go.
Prayer: God of the Cross, throughout time you have shown us what love looks like. When you created us. When you led Israel through the wilderness and visited them in cloud and fire. When you gave audience to David’s prayers for forgiveness. When you sat on a well to talk to a Samaritan woman and had lunch with Zacchaeus. Your love is extraordinary, and we pray that you will help us to become like you in that regard. In Jesus’ name. Amen.