“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
The “golden rule.” We’ve all heard it. You, like me, were probably taught this little rule in elementary school. Did you know it comes from the Bible? Here in this passage, near the end of what we call “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus tells the listeners that treating another as you would want to be treated is so important that it “sums up the Law and Prophets.” If you’re thinking, “I know that phrase,” it’s because Jesus also uses it in Matthew 22 when he explains the greatest commandments - to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. How can both be true? Because love is at the core of both instructions, of course. When you love God deeply, when you love others deeply, you automatically treat others as you would want to be treated. And Jesus tells us that this sort of love supersedes all other rules, norms, and differences.
The question is - how do we love so deeply? How do we fall in love with God and others.We learn to love God by studying God in scripture, prayer, silence, listening, worship and reflection. We pay attention to the places and faces where we see God’s image. We grow to love others in much the same way. If we want to learn to love our neighbor as ourself, to treat others as we would want to be treated, we have to first seek to know and understand our neighbor. We have to be intentional in creating relationships with those who are different from us. Just as we study the scriptures to learn about God, we should study books, podcasts, articles, and other sources with the intention of learning about those who are different from us.
Our country is in a unique place and time. Something is happening. People are waking up to the truth of racism, like never before. Our friends of color have always known this truth, but those of us who are white, have mostly seen the world from our own point of view exclusively. But if you follow Christ, it is your responsibility to seek to understand our brothers and sisters of color. Yes, I hope that understanding goes both ways, but right now, it is more important to allow people of color the spotlight for a while. Abraham Lincoln is known to have said, “I don’t like that man—I must get to know him better.” With God’s help, as we come to know and understand another, we come to love them as well.
It is natural for humans to seek similarity. We tend toward people who are like us. That is a developmental truth from birth. But as we mature, we are able to overcome our natural tendency toward sameness, and begin to value difference. Just as we are able to overcome all other developmental milestones, it is time we overcome our biases and prejudices as well. And in doing so, may grow in our love of God and neighbor.
Do you have any unknown prejudices? Do the systems and institutions around you have prejudices embedded in them? Ask God to root out these evils in your heart and in our society. Repent of your ways and seek to grow in your love of one another.
Dear Lord of all creation, please open our hearts and minds to our own prejudices and biases. Open our minds to learning and understanding people who are different from us. Forgive us for the ways we fail to see your reflection in every human being. Forgive us for not loving as we should. Show us the way forward. Let us lead with grace in all that we do. May we grow in our love of you, God, and of our neighbors. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.