Do Unto Others
Posted in Grace/Forgiveness
Scripture: “[Jesus] said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’” – Luke 13:18-19
I need your help. This week a friend and mentor I’ve known for 35 years was in town. He said something that got my attention. He said, “Brad, I look at the disrespect, the denigrating of people, and the general nastiness that is rampant in our culture, and it scares me for our future.” Then he said, “I ask myself who is in a position to speak to this; to offer a different way, a better way? And the answer is the church…. The Christian church, along with other faiths that honor at least the Old Testament, need to speak up, but I don’t hear that happening.”
Would you agree that civility and respect have declined? That mocking and maligning have become all too normative? Would you agree with my friend’s contention that the church, the Body of Christ, has a better way to offer?
Scripture speaks clearly against disrespecting and denigrating others. Proverbs 11 says, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a person of understanding remains silent.” Matthew 5 says, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye?” Ephesians 4 says, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths but only what is good for building up….” James 1 says, “If any think they are religious and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.”
In Jesus Christ, there is a better way, a more life-giving way. So, I’m asking for your help.
You and I are claimed by Christ and set apart to live differently. We’ve got to respond. Our words and actions should honor God. Even when others start down the slippery slope of socially acceptable slander, we should take the high road, lest we become like the frog in the kettle that acclimates to the rising heat to the point that it never jumps out and boils to death. The topics can be social or spiritual, political or economic, national, statewide, or local; they can be schools, church, family, or friends.
Differences of opinion happen, but disagreement can happen without being disagreeable, and it can certainly happen without denigrating other people. If we followers of Jesus don’t stop the madness and take the high road, who will?
One of the greatest quotations of all time is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The full sentence, found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, reads: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This used to be known as the Golden Rule, and nearly every child knew it. What percentage of children do you think know it today– not just out in the world, but in churches… in our church? Better yet, what percentage of children are hearing their parents talk about it or model it?
My old friend is right. The church is uniquely positioned to bear witness to a better way, the way of Jesus. All we need to do is individually be the people that our Lord has created us to be. Like the mustard seed, we are sent out into the world to bear witness.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, help us be your people who choose to live differently. With your guidance, we can take the high road even when others may start the downward spiral. Help us seek to be people who model decency and respect, build up, and encourage others. In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.
Submitted by Rev. Dr. Brad Smith
(This devotional is comprised of excerpts from Dr. Smith’s sermon, originally delivered on Sunday, June 26, 2022.)