The No-so Golden Rule

by admin on May 24, 2015

Reflections for 17 May 2015
Luke 6: 27-36

OK, are there any questions about what Jesus said here? Good. Your assignment for next week is to act this way in your life and we’ll all report back next Sunday. Fair enough?

This God thing would be a cinch if it weren’t for other people, right? As I’ve said before: God and I get along great—it’s just when other people show up in my life that things get fouled up.

That’s why these words of Jesus are so hard. Impossible, some say. If it weren’t for others, life would sail along pretty smoothly. But that’s not the case; which makes these words of Jesus so hard. I would say that this reading is probably the most difficult one in the whole Bible.

According to a recent poll by Hallmark cards and other people who measure this stuff, 950 million valentines are sent yearly and untold amounts of money spent to express our love to others. How much was spent of sharing love with our enemies?

Enemies. We all have them. People we dislike, distrust, talk about. Think of the people you think about negatively. Your enemy list begins there.

Learning how to live with other human beings is one of the grand problems of human be-ing. Most of us just tolerate others. We seek out people with whom we share strengths; we avoid people who annoy us, bother us, hurt and insult us.

In the classic conditioning we call “growing up” few, if any, of us were taught directly Relationship 101. By and large this is a hit and miss learning experience. And we come off with the well-honed skills of
—Blaming everyone else for our problems
—Being defensive as an art form
—Taking every suggestions toward improvement as a personal attack
—Being a victim with distinction

Yet the common denominator is all this, is yours truly. Pogo was right: we have met the enemy and they are us.

Let’s look again at the word of Jesus. I know they are difficult. Every time I say that I really want to weasel out of them; sidetrack them; excuse myself from any ability to perform them. G.K. Chesterton: it’s not that Christianity has been tried and found difficult; but found difficult and largely left untried. I think he read this Bible passage.

This is Jesus’ short course of relationships. A sort of Relationships for Dummies. There are two movements.

1. The word “enemy” grates us. But that’s the place to start. Love your enemies; pray for them. Don’t retaliate, give more than you’re asked, give to people who need it.

This is being proactive instead of reactive. What’s interesting here is that enemies don’t expect this.

Yet what happens is the potential of changing personal relationships. It was these very words of Jesus that laid the foundation of the civil rights movement in this country. Dr. King enunciated very clearly that Jesus’ was to be taken at his word—literally.

I wonder how I would have reacted if the dogs and firehoses were turned on me. What I want to say here is that human relationships changed because of these words. And when relationships change, so does the world.

We call this the Golden Rule. But that rule isn’t original with Jesus. In fact it was a large part of the cultural ethics of the ancient Greco-Roman world. It’s just plain good Ann Landers’ advice.

But Jesus makes a twist here—a radical turn; a stupendous claim. That’s the second move.

2. So what if you treat others according to the Golden Rule? What’s so golden about that? What’s so unique? What’s so earth shattering?

Here I was all ready to line up for awards and medals on that one. So what? Jesus says. Don’t other people deserve you to be nice to them?

“What credit?” is really asking: “what kind of grace is that in you?” What kind of picture of God do you give when you do that? Interestingly only Luke has this idea.

Here is what Chesterton meant when he said that Christianity was found difficult and left untried. Jesus is going beyond all moral appeal here. He’s not giving a new law. This is God’s reign and presence revealed.

Simply put: here is the incredible measure of God’s grace in the world.

Holiness is about pursuing a life we learn from God—God who is kind and compassionate to the ungrateful and wicked. The difficulty in all this is that first God behaves with favor toward people I sure wouldn’t have on my “friends of Bill” list. And then, secondly, God invites and empowers us to do it, too!

“Be merciful” isn’t a wish, nor command—it’s reality.

One of my leadership mentors is John Maxwell.. He does CDs and podcasts. One of the most impressionable was “Adding Value to Others.” In a stunning piece of teaching John said it was important to find value in difficult people; and to see them as divine instruments. Wow. John Maxwell’s ministry is to raise and empower leaders. Jesus’ ministry was to train his followers to be leaders.

People who study leadership say there are two kinds of leaders:

Transactional—Golden Rule
Transformational—changing of relationships

John Maxwell says that average people treat other people in kind. Great people help difficult people to grow.
How? Praying for them; loving them; allowing God to fill their heart with compassion, instead of resentment.

This is the stuff of leadership. I know I harp about this topic. But you know there is quite a collection of leaders in this little place. Real leadership is out there in your everyday relationships.

Are you a transactional leader? Or do you want to be a transformational leader? If you transform a relationship, you change the world.

John Kerry and Vladimir Putin could be a test case of this. But we don’t have to go that far. Let’s see what happens to us by noon.

Perhaps if we stopped ordering our lives around our value of security at any cost, we can be free to order life around God’s economy.

This is exactly what everyone says we need, but doesn’t know how to get. But we know. Simply nothing can compare to the Body of Christ—the church—under its head, Jesus. No other religion. No other ideology. No other political system…can deliver this—no other.

Love your enemies—be merciful—for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

I’ve talked enough. Just one more thing: Do not think about this. Don’t try to think your way into a new way of acting. Won’t work.

Just do it. Act your way into a new way of thinking. I could give dozens of times when I’ve finally just given up on hating someone—and guess what? Well, you know….

There’s enough of God’s grace and kindness to cover everything.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: