Posts Tagged ‘golden rule’

Collage art by Tema Okun

Collage art by Tema Okun

Before Mike died, I struggled with “loving” others who were in grief situations. I kept thinking, I don’t know what to do, how can I help? But then, I saw the simple truth of it. Jesus already told us what to do, not only in the “golden rule” [Matthew 7:12] but in one of the greatest commandments: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40, CEB]

So, this is what others did for me while I floundered about in the days and weeks after Mike’s death:

  • Sat in my house and waited for me the first night, so I wouldn’t be alone.
  • Dog-sat my pups in their home while the household was in chaos.
  • Cleaned my house.
  • Stocked my pantry with paper goods.
  • Not just brought meals, but coordinated them.
  • Created to-do lists.
  • Made phone calls. Filtered phone calls.
  • Went grocery shopping for me.
  • Filed my paperwork and cleaned my home office.
  • Kept my kitchen clean and clear.
  • Made meals for extended family.
  • Offered guest rooms for extended family.
  • Drove to the airport. Again and again.
  • Made breakfast.
  • Stocked me up with breakfast foods and coffee.
  • Shoveled snow. Again and again.
  • Took me out to lunch.
  • Created memory posters and organized photographs.
  • Offered to create a scrapbook of sympathy cards.
  • Took truckloads to the dump.
  • Delivered donations.
  • Sold two of my cars and found a replacement.
  • Stocked us up with pet food.
  • Took pictures.
  • Gave me rides, even when I could have driven myself.
  • Listened.
  • Sat with me.
  • Cried with me.
  • Sang to me.
  • Sent follow up cards to check in.
  • Invited me over for dinner. Just me. Even though, it was just me.
  • Brought over little kids who made me laugh.
  • Took the little kids home again.
  • Fixed my toilet. And then the second one. Oh, and the third one.
  • Came over to play games just for fun. Played cards.
  • Did my laundry.

The list goes on actually. There are still many people teaching me what to do the next time. The things people did were simple and often times, quick. But they all meant so much. They still mean so much.

Yup. I get it. I can love you like this too. It’s another way to serve one another. And maybe, just maybe, once I find to strength to love my near neighbor, my heart will reach further away.

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St. John is obsessed with love and its power. But to speak of it in today’s world sounds trite and cliche. Love has been relegated to movies and teenagers. Do people really believe love is a power so strong, so rich, that it can change a life, a culture, a world, a civilization? Or is it just a Valentine?

I John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I don’t really feel qualified to write about this topic at length, mostly because of my own anemic love life, and by that, I mean loving the unlovable, the unlovely.

It’s not that I don’t believe God is in the love of family, friends, and loved ones, but I have a sense that loving in the hard places, the paradoxical times, the nontraditional people, the unexpected situations: this is where God manifests more profoundly. These would be the occasions I might actually experience the same God who loved me when I was deeply entrenched in life-killing habits (drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and the like). That love turned me around. That love upended my perceptions. That love was conscious and real, almost tangible. It was one of the reasons I committed my life to becoming a follower of the Christ: I saw God by being loved unconditionally.

For whom can I do the same? Why am I so afraid? There was so much grace in being on the receiving end and yet, it has become so difficult to get out of my safety net and love others the same way, without judgment, without expectations, without strings attached.

Our current church has a lot of buzz phrases, some more meaningful than others, but without a doubt, the one that resonates the most with me is that we offer love and service to others “with no strings attached.” I know that our pastor, Jess Bousa, pulled this mandate out of his own experiences, out of the God-love that was given to him when he least deserved it. The church, Good Cause Foundation, the open door policy he has established, are all an outgrowth of seeing God and thereby showing God through himself. Jess got it and he’s one of the reasons I’m hanging around this young pastor, I want to catch the fever.

It’s all simple: love others if I want to see God. And as I see God, I will want to love others. Infinity. Circle. Mandala. Synergism.

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I have never noticed the phrase, “royal law” before. A brief swing through the commentaries explains its use: coming out of the kingly era, a pervasive and useful thing, a suitable thing for everyone. Nothing has changed.

James 2:8
If indeed you [really] fulfill the royal Law in accordance with the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as [you love] yourself, you do well.

This “royal law” continues to be as powerful today as it was in biblical times. And yet, I don’t follow even this basic of basic mandates from God as I should.

There are personal kindnesses that I give to myself that I withhold from others.

And despite my tendency to be hard on myself, pushing myself to limits of time and energy, I still extend more grace to myself than I do to others.

The “royal law” restated is similar to the “golden rule” or “golden law” to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” [Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31]. But Jesus was not the first to speak this law, nor were the Jews in Leviticus 19:18. These can be found in ancient manuscripts of the Babylonians, Chinese, and Greeks.

This is a human law. This is a foundational law to people living and working amongst each other.

There was a time when it was very popular to wear wristbands and jewelry with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) and ultimately, the answer would be the “royal law.” This law is for everyone: for every religious belief. It holds no boundaries.

And so, I wonder, why don’t humans use it, live it, abide by it? It’s not just evil in the world that throws this law under the bus. It’s regular people too, who have lost faith in the simplicity of kindness, generosity, and good will.

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