Looking at Matthew chapter 7, and as I prepare to preach on the Golden Rule, I am still wrestling with what happened this week. My daughter’s boyfrien, is a fine young Christian man who has been known to try and help out anyone he can. He is also African-American. His car wouldn’t start and he needed a jump for his car. He was in the parking lot of a restaurant which is a self-professing Christian establishment (although my understanding is that no one from the restaurant knew what was going on). As he went to people (who were white) to see if someone would help him out, some gave excuses that didn’t make sense, and others failed to acknowledge that he was even there. He ended up having to wait an hour for his father to come and help him. For a jump (something that would have taken someone a couple of minutes).
Matt. 7:12 states, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
Robert Mounce points out that although the golden rule has been seen throughout history, Jesus is the first one that he knows of to put it in it’s positive form (found in his commentary on Matthew). He states that
“in its negative form the Golden Rule could be satisfied by doing nothing. The positive form moves us to action on behalf of others… we have just moved from justice to active benevolence.”Newe International Biblical Commentary – P. 66
It is not good enough to just avoid doing what is wrong, we are called to do what is right! Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about this in his letter from Birmingham Jail over fifty years ago.
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”
If you had a child in the same place, would want to hear about your child not receiving basic help, especially because of something like skin color or religion? I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t one Christian among the people whom my daughter’s boyfriend asked for help. It makes me think of Jesus’ word in Matthew 25, in the parable of the sheep and the goats :
“I came to you and my car needed a jump, and you would not help me. When Lord? When did we see you in need of assistance and not give you help. Surely if we knew it was you, we would have rolled down the window and stepped out to give you a hand.” And then Jesus said, “I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me (Matt. 25:45).”My adaptation put in into today’s context, along with Matt. 25:45 (NLT)
It isn’t simply enough to do nothing wrong, we need to be a people who stand up and do what is right.
To treat others as we want to be treated… to love others as we wish to be loved… to help others as we would want our children to be helped if they were in similar circumstances.
This is why it is important that we seek to see the church become multiethnic. I will be honest, I’ve heard about challenges of discrimination throughout my life, but it’s sad to say that they have rang hollow at times because I didn’t personally know those being affected. But something changes when you develop friendships with people, and you hear their struggles… and you hear their stories. When you go to visit someone in the hospital and all of a sudden they get treated better because you have entered in (and the only difference being that you are white).
We need more multiethnic churches, because it makes it harder to stand on the sidelines when you see injustices happening to people you care about. It shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it does. Their problems become your problems, and you are more inclined to get involved.
In Christ we are not just called to not do anything wrong, but we are called to do what is right.
We are called to stand in the gap. We are called to be the watchmen on the wall. Pastor Martin Niemöller has a poem that words this a little different… it was about those who refused to stand up and fight against Nazi Germany,
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
He is speaking about people who weren’t necessarily doing something wrong, but were unwilling to do what was right. If you’ve ever seen Schindler’s List, you get a glimpse of what happens when you develop relationships we those who are not like you.
Once again, we are called to do what is right, and the more we develop relationships with those who are not like us, the more compassionate we become.
We are not to call that which is sin, “not sin,” but we must remember that in all things we are to be a loving people. We are to be loving, just as Jesus loves us, so are we to love one another.