We have seen an inordinate amount of distrust, division, hatred, and revolting behavior in our society over the past few years. As followers of Christ, this can cause a lot of consternation, sadness, and maybe even guilt because of our own actions. So these questions arise: Just exactly how are we supposed to act? And how are we supposed to treat others? Especially those who treat us badly?
I think the answers to these questions can be found in God’s Word as contained in the Scriptures.
Matthew 7:12 says: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
We know it as the “Golden Rule”. This should be our starting point. Most of us have heard this all of our lives. And we understand it to means to only do things to others that we would want done to ourselves. But do we really follow this rule? There are times when each and every one of us can become angry and lash out. Or can speak harshly to someone else. These things only serve to cause more trouble. And they solve nothing.
I think there is a deeper meaning here that goes beyond treating others as you would like to be treated. I think it also means that we should love others as we would have them love us. We all want others to love us, right?
Now this love isn’t the same you have for your spouse, family, or friends.
This type of love can be referred to by it’s Greek word: “Agape”. Essentially “Agape” love is benevolence, goodwill, faithfulness, commitment, and a willful act of love. The Apostle Paul does an excellent job of describing this type of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
I think we could boil all of this down to two words: “unconditional love”. We want others to love us unconditionally, so we should love them unconditionally as well. That is not always easy to do now, is it? I think that’s because we are born into a sin nature. And sin is mankind’s default behavior. Why is that true, you ask? It is because the sin nature is diametrically opposed to the divine nature of God.
When we become believers in Christ, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within us. The Holy Spirit can guide us in our decisions, actions, and words. It is through the Holy Spirit that God speaks to us. Does that sound like something you would like? Sure it does! All followers of Christ want to hear God speak to us. Is there something that is required of us to make this happen? The answer to that question is, yes there is. We must be able to listen to what God is saying through the Holy Spirit. This is of the utmost importance.
Now, what does it mean to listen? Maybe we should define the word before we go any further. The dictionary gives us several definitions. But I think we can focus on two of them: “make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something”; “take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request”. These are two interesting concepts.
I think to be successful in listening to God, we must follow each of those concepts in the order that I listed. First, we must be ready to hear. And second, we must act upon what we hear. This may sound easy, but I can assure you that it is not. We are constantly bombarded with distractions in our society. There is news on the television 24 hours per day, seven days per week. There are all the different types of social media. People are constantly looking at their phones. All of these things can impede on our ability to be ready to hear God. And if we cannot hear Him, we cannot act upon what He says to us.
You may ask how can we be ready to hear God and then to act? I think it starts with something very simple that can be summed up in one word. Prayer. Prayer is the way God has given us to talk to Him through Jesus Christ. We just need to ask Him to help us to listen. If we are willing to give up control to Him, He will give us the ability we need.
Leviticus 19:18 says: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
This is a direct commandment from God. God loved us enough to send his Son to die on the cross for us. We see this in John 3:16. This is probably the most famous verse of the Bible. We even see people holding it up on cardboard signs at football games.
The word “love” is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. For example, in the NIV translation it appears a whopping 551 times. And in the NASB translation 348 times.
Now that I’ve talked about all of this, do you feel like you’ve learned anything? Has this moved you in any way? Please feel free to let me know by commenting below. Thank you for reading!