Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (NIV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus the Christ, our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
The last line of today’s gospel reading is one my mother and my grandmother repeatedly told me when I was small, and actually, long after I was small too! I think it must have been my mom’s main rule for living. Only they said it, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Same thing…just an old fashioned way of saying it. I always thought it was an ‘old saying.’ Well, it is, but imagine my surprise when I discovered it came from the Bible!
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
I think our society would benefit if more people would have said that to their kids, if more people had that as their personal credo, because right now, in our society, there is a different set of rules. Our society’s rules go like this:
- Do to others before they can do to you.
- Do to others as you expect them to do to you.
- Do to others harder and nastier than they can do to you.
- Do to someone else worse than what someone has done to you.
But this set of rules is ruining our nation. It isn’t making our country great by any stretch of the imagination. I am convinced it is this set of rules that is fueling this country’s problem with incivility, with divisive violence, and gun violence in particular. That, and the insanely easy availability of guns. The idea that if someone has hurt you then you ought to hurt someone else is rampant in our society. It is a virus that has infected every sector of the nation. We have got to stop thinking that way. There is no accountability in this way of thinking. If someone has hurt you, don’t pass that hurt on to someone else. The Jesus way is that you go to the person with kindness. Talk it out. Tell them how they have hurt you. Give them a chance to see their error and mend their ways. But all too often this is impossible because the person who has hurt you will just hurt you more. It’s too risky. So then you have to set up some kind of a protective distance so you aren’t hurt again, and then work on the forgiving process.
Forgiveness is incredibly hard. It is a process. And yet, the more you practice a lifestyle of forgiveness, the easier it gets. It doesn’t get less painful, but it gets easier… The thing is, once you have forgiven, the pain isn’t compounded the way it is without forgiveness. The longer you don’t forgive, the more the pain settles in. So you first have to recognize the need to forgive; realizing that you would be better off if you forgave. That’s a hard one for a lot of people. There is a feeling of power and superiority to cling to having been hurt. I is an illusion. That power is like a mirage in the desert. It isn’t real and cannot benefit you in the long or the short run. Letting go of that superiority feels like a loss, but it is really a gain, because in reality, it is dragging you down.
So once you have recognized the need to forgive, and the benefit you would gain from doing so, you have to work on the willingness to forgive. That is a big step sometimes because it is hard to let go of that sense of entitlement pain gives. The pain, and the anger which is its shield, make you feel powerful. Laying it down feels very vulnerable. The desire to forgive is a very important step, and it takes time and effort to get there. After you come to the place where you are willing to forgive, then you have the challenge of being able to. It is an ‘aha moment’ to realize you are willing to forgive, but you just cannot do it yet. Maybe you have some criteria that haven’t been met yet. Maybe you are still in regular contact with the one you need to forgive and you need to see certain evidence of change. That’s OK. Having criteria for repairing the relationship is important. It honors the hope of a healthy relationship in the future. Then somewhere along the way you will discover that you can forgive and still hold those criteria. Because the last part of the forgiveness process is the ability to do so.
So many times people get hung up over wanting a certain response from the person they need to forgive and sometimes that is just not possible. There are lots of reasons why the other person might never change, might never be able to acknowledge the harm done to you. Eventually you will learn, if you are working on forgiveness, that it is all for you. Forgiveness is for YOUR FREEDOM. It is not for the other person’s benefit. If they benefit, it is a bonus. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver. And that is why society’s rules are so damaging. There is no real and lasting benefit to ‘one upping’ our neighbor, lashing out at the other, destroying the character of a perceived enemy.
Do to others before they can do to you?
Do to others as you expect them to do to you?
Do to others harder and nastier than they can do to you?
Do to someone else worse than what someone has done to you?
No. Just no. None of these make us better. None of these make us stronger. None of these make us closer to God.
These are the name of the game in our public life in this country. In politics, in business, in entertainment… And we as a nation eat it up. It is poisoning us! We cannot bear it any longer. We have to spit it out. We have to demand something better. The 2020 election season is upon us. Now is the time we need to demand civility from our political leaders. Now is the time we need to demand truth rather than entertainment from our news agencies. Now is the time we need to demand our leaders work for the common good, not for their own gain. Now is the time we need to demand the businesses that supply us with goods and services treat ALL their workers with dignity and fair pay, safe working conditions and respect, and that they build into the system the process for protecting our planet. Those who make things have to be responsible for the disposal and recycling of those products.
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
I will love you and seek your best interest, and I hope you will do that for me.
I will forgive you and hold you accountable, and I hope you will do that for me.
I will treat you with respect and dignity, and I hope you will do that for me.
And having done it for me, then maybe you can do it for others in your life.
I know I am a beloved child of God. I know you are too. I know I am rich; in spirit, in friendships, in advantages, in hope and in financial resources. I will pay it forward. I choose to love my enemies, to be good to those who hate me, to bless those who curse me, to pray for those who mistreat me. I choose to make the world a better place. I choose to build up rather than tear down.
You might be wondering why this passage is chosen for All Saints Sunday. I think it is because we are saints already, even though we are in this troubled world. Our sainthood has been secured by the grace of God, so we are reminded to act like saints. When we do, the poor will be provided for, the weak will be protected, the sick will be given hope, the downhearted will be emboldened, enemies will be made into neighbors, persecutors will be disempowered, curses and disrespect will be seen for the manure it is and will be used to fertilize change rather than just piling it higher and deeper.
On this All Saints Sunday, we remember those who have gone before us, the lessons they have taught us in their lives and in their death. We remember the ways they made our lives better and brighter. We pledge to do even better with our lives because they lived. And so I offer you this old saying to live by…
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
silence for reflection
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world all the time. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.