So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 7:12
In a recent sermon, on this passage, our pastor remarked, “This wonderful rule from Jesus requires imagination and creativity and initiative.”
H’m—is it all that hard, really? Sometimes it is. For one thing, there are some philosophical or theoretical complexities; do unto others as I want done unto me—or as they want to be done unto?
Even without that, there’s the major question of, ah, telling people things. Suppose “Ken” sees his friend “Harry” doing something destructive to his financial future or his health or his marriage or his kids. If Ken were in his place, would he want to be confronted, and how?
Let’s be concrete. Suppose Ken is something of a health nut. He exercises regularly, follows all the advice you’ve heard about keeping up with his medical conditions, watches what he eats, and so on. Now let’s say Harry’s problem is that he’s been gaining weight, he eats way too many barbecued ribs, he hasn’t had a physical exam in a decade, and he doesn’t exercise at all. Ken sees this, but it’s really hard to put himself in Harry’s place. I mean, he would just never be there!
So Ken doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know how he’d want a friend to confront or challenge him (if he were in Harry’s place), but he does know this:
- He’d want his friend to love him, to care–not just throw up his hands.
So this wonderful rule requires Ken to take some initiative. He’s got to pray! He also might consult a pastor or counselor on how to help Harry. He might read books, or talk to people he knows who have faced this sort of thing before. He needs to be sort of, well, cagey, because he really doesn’t want to gossip. Talk about needing to be creative!
He needs imagination, too, because “If I were in Harry’s place” really also means “…with Harry’s particular history, hopes, fears, personality, worries, stresses, joys, plans, dreams.”
Here’s another concrete case. Maybe you have a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus. I have a few. If I were in their place, would I want my Christian friend to tell me about this wonderful Jesus, the God-Man? Would I want my Christian friend to tell me how I could have my sins forgiven, how I could become part of something bigger than myself, how I could get rid of the guilt and shame that pops up from I-don’t-know-where?
And if so, how would I want my Christian friend to approach that topic?
This sort of thing takes initiative and creativity and imagination from all of us. Our friends and colleagues and neighbors want us to care about them and love them, not just throw up our hands. We might get it wrong, we might come across as too vague or too pushy. I know I’ve done that!
This isn’t just about evangelism. You have friends that want you to care about them. Maybe they have issues they need to be supported with or challenged on. Those issues might be some of the same ones you deal with, or you might be a “Ken” to your friend “Harry”–you just can’t imagine how anyone could have those issues.
That’s where we need more imagination! And we need help from Jesus, strength and wisdom and love. So let us ask, early and often. Let us not give up or grow weary, in Jesus’s name.