Living in Community – Loving Others

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds;and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 7:7-12 NIV)

Jesus continues on with His teaching on living in the new righteousness in relationship to others.  If verses one through six were the negative example of how to treat others, verses seven through twelve are their positive counterpart.  Jesus does not leave His disciples with the negative example; that would be giving them another “rule” or man-made “law”.  The Pharisees had done that already, further weighing down and brow-beating God’s people.  Thus, the subject matter of self-righteous criticism.

So what is the positive counterpart to being critical of others?  What is the good example to follow?

Loving others.

In verses 7 and 8, Jesus emphasizes persistence when asking God for our needs.  Jesus ties persistence back to His earlier teaching on prayer (chapter 6, verses 9-13).  We must ask God for what we need, and be sincere and thoughtful and diligent about it.  Jesus knows our selfish hearts, and wants a real relationship with us, not just treating God like a divine vending machine that caters to our every whim and wish.

Jesus illustrates this principle of goodness and loving others at the family level, in how we treat our own children.  If they ask us for something to eat, we will not treat them badly and give them something of no nutritional value (a stone) or harmful to them (a snake).

Jesus goes on to say that if we can understand and apply this positive example, and our hearts are evil (selfish), how much more will God, who has a pure (unselfish) heart, meet our every need, if we but ask!

Jesus concludes this section by giving His disciples (and us) what is commonly called “The Golden Rule”:  do for others what we would like them to do for us.

Jesus reiterates the principle that God had laid out on the Old Testament:  to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18).  In fact, Jesus later teaches His disciples that loving our neighbor is second only to loving God (Matthew 22:34-40).

Living in community is messy,and it’s hard, and not for the faint of heart.  John Stott, the great theologian, writes:
“… Christian counter-culture is not just an individual value-system and life-style, but a community affair. It involves relationships. And the Christian community is in essence a family, God’s family…”
(from his book, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by John R. W. Stott. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979, p. 192)

Through His teaching on the Golden Rule (v. 12), Jesus is teaching us that the new righteousness allows, even commands us not to live in fear, but in faith.  The rest of the world lives in fear of punishment or retribution, and it’s reflected in their culture and relationships. Jesus teaches us to live in love and community.

G. Campbell Morgan, the British bible scholar and preacher, distinguishes the Golden Rule from all other principles of relational living, citing quotes from Rabbi Hillel, Socrates, Aristotle, and even Confucius, sharing their similar thoughts on relational living.  Morgan concludes: “These are negative and passive; Christ’s comment is positive and active.”  (G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Matthew, pp. 75-76, as quoted by John Woolvord in his commentary on Matthew 7)

So what can we take away from all this?  What is our check-up?

Jesus provided the ultimate example of living in community, not in fear, but in faith, and promises that God’s goodness toward us is so much more than we even give our own children.  But to do so, we must be both intentional and persistent in our relationship with Him.

How is my relationship to the Lord, as I seek Him first?
How is my relationship with others, as I live in community?