The Golden Rule in Scripture teaches us to treat others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12). Unfortunately, the contemporary refrain seems to be either “Do to others before they can do to me,” or “Treat others as they treat me.” We often justify our actions like kindergartners, “He touched me first,” or “She did it too.”
The Bible handles things very differently. Look at what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,
“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.”
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (Luke 6:32-36 NLT)
As somebody from the 60’s might say, “Whoa man that’s heavy!” The call and duty of Kingdom citizens is heavy indeed.
Although there are many questions we can and should ask before engaging our vocal chords or fingers, we are going to wrap up this series with the question, Is it about us or is it about them? If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, I hope you will check out the first four parts:
Part 1: Is it About God or is it About Me?
Part 2: Is this Kingdom or Is this Personal?
Part 3: Is My Attitude in Line with God’s Heart?
Part 4: Why Do I Feel Compelled to Convey This Message?
Question 5: Is it about us or them?
This question is probably the most telling of the five. The Pharisees had a continuing habit of pitting themselves against others. They saw their views as perfect and incorruptible while everyone else’s were suspect. They saw their motives as pure and righteous while everyone else’s were polluted and shady. There is a saying that goes back to at least the 1800’s that says, we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Hmmm… that says a lot.
The approach of the Pharisees contrasted sharply with those of the Prophets. One of the greatest Prophets and godliest of men was Daniel. Unlike most biblical characters, there is no scriptural evidence of sin or compromise in his life. Still when reading the prophesies regarding the Jewish captivity in Babylon, Daniel prayed, “…we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:5-6 NASB)
Notice that Daniel does not point his proverbial finger at the people who were sinning, but instead included himself among them. He recognized that it was far more important to come together before God in unity than it was to play the blame game. This is especially significant when we note that there is little evidence that the others were praying with him. He was willing to prophetically speak into the future, identify with his people in both sin and repentance, and seek God on behalf of his nation.
This would be notable if Daniel alone had done it, but it is even more significant when we see this kind of identificational repentance in the lives of Moses, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and at least one of the Psalmists. In the New Testament, Paul went so far as to say, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” (Romans 9:3 NASB) Who of us would love others so much as to be willing to go to hell for the sake of others?
When we identify with and pray for our brothers and sisters instead of attacking them we live out Paul’s exhortation, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2 NLT) Thank God! How many of us are living up to Paul’s standard of faith and discipleship? If anyone could take in pride in godly work, Paul certainly would have been among them.
Distilling it down, we are not called to stand on a mountain and spit into the valley. We are called, like Jesus, to care for and love those who are captive to the enemy. It’s easy to forget that even after our spirits have been saved when we accept Christ, our souls and our bodies still need to catch up. Salvation and Sanctification are progressive. That’s why throughout the Bible there are different passages that say, “We were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.” There are areas where our mind still needs to be transformed, (Romans 12:1-2) and our bodies won’t completely get there until we are resurrected or translated (1 Corinthians 15:52).
If we are strong, praise God! But this is not a reason to look down upon those who are weak. Paul speaks plainly, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1 NIV). Before we engage others, let us ask ourselves, “Is what I’m about to say for their benefit or mine?”