Saturday, 11 February 2017

How can I be like Jesus?

Jesus said…
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (NIV)

“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! (The Message)  Luke 6:31

Great words! Great words!

But hang on a minute… What would I like others to do for me? How do I want others to act towards me? There’s not a lot of point in reading this verse if we don’t ask ourselves that question, is there?

I’ve pondered it and boiled it down to four things – I suspect that if you were to do the same you would probably come up with much the same list. So… What do I want from others?…
  1. Forgiveness when I’ve done wrong.
This must come top. We are all sinners. That means that as well as displeasing God, we also displease one another. We hurt one another, we speak ugly words, we act spitefully, selfishly, cruelly. That’s human nature, fallen and sinful. So how grateful we are when that other person extends forgiveness!

Am I quick to extend forgiveness?
  1. Patience when I act stupidly, thoughtlessly or insensitively.
There are times when we honestly don’t mean any ill, but we just rub the other person up the wrong way. Perhaps our wonderful, side-splitting, rolling-about-on-the-floor sense of humour isn’t quite as brilliant as we thought. Perhaps we let them down without meaning to. Perhaps an attempt to be helpful or smart rather backfires. So how grateful we are when they show us patience!

Am I patient with others, or do I just get irritable and cross?
  1. Help when I need it.
We all need help: none of us can cope alone. Perhaps, like me, you’re pretty clueless when it comes to computers, so how grateful you are when that friend gives up valuable time to advise you. Perhaps you’re short of money, and someone helps you out a bit. Perhaps you’re lonely and sad, and they come and spend time with you or give you a call. Perhaps… oh, I could go on for ever couldn’t I?

Am I quick to help, to support, to encourage?
  1. Correction when I’m losing my way.
Ah, this is rather different. Do I really want others to correct me when I have gone wrong? Knee-jerk answer, if I’m being honest: no. And yet if I stop to think about it I can see that this is indeed a true mark of friendship. It may not be easy to receive a rebuke – but, boy, it’s a whole lot harder to deliver one!

This, of course, is why it so rarely happens – in my experience, anyway. As I look back over my life I can think of hardly any times when some kind friend has taken me to task for something I’m doing or some danger I’m sliding into.

I’m not blaming them, of course. They didn’t want to risk hurting me, or perhaps jeopardising our relationship. But I can’t help wondering how much better a person I might have been if they had (assuming, of course, that I would have been humble enough to take it). “He that won’t be counselled can’t be helped,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, the eighteenth century American statesman and scholar. And that’s very true. But by the same token we might also say, “He that won’t offer counsel is denying help.”

Do I have the courage, the concern – oh, let’s call it plainly what it is, the love – to offer counsel even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done?

There’s my list, then: Forgiveness, patience, help, correction. No doubt I could easily extend it; but I think that covers most of what this is about. And when you stop and think, don’t these four words pretty much sum up the way God deals with me? Don’t they boil down in essence to the greatest word of all: love?

I’ve picked just one tiny verse out of Luke 6. The next thing to do, I suggest, is to flesh it out by reading – very slowly, thoughtfully and prayerfully – the rest of the passage, verses 27-42.

What kind of person would I be if I took these words seriously? What kind of world would this be if we all did so?

Lord Jesus, help me always to treat others the way I would like them to treat me. Amen.

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