Friday, August 19, 2011

Grabbing The Initiative

I learned my first New Testament verse of scripture, from memory, when I was in elementary school.
To many of you, this may not be a very fascinating tidbit. I imagine it is a fairly common occurrence among those raised in the Christian faith.

But those who know me better perhaps find this fact rather perplexing. I was, after all, raised Jewish, not Christian. Memorizing the words of Jesus was not exactly on my, or my parents', list of productive ways to spend time.

Of course, the fact that I didn't even know it was a Bible verse probably had something to do with it.

You may have already guessed what this particular verse is (or maybe not!). But it's probably the best known verse in the whole Bible. Matthew 7:12, also known as "the golden rule."
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (translation I learned - beats me whose it is!)
Photo courtesy of Mathews
It wasn't for a good twenty years that I found out those were the words of Jesus. Made me wonder why my parents didn't get upset when I said it. (just like I STILL wonder, to this day, why they encouraged me to read "The Chronicles of Narnia" - though, of course, I missed every bit of Christian analogy!)

I think a lot of people try to live by the golden rule (and not "whoever has the gold makes the rules!"), whether they are Christians or not. At least among some, treating others as you'd like to be treated is a good "word to live by."

That is exactly how I have "interpreted" that verse since I first heard it before I'd even reached double digits in age. The other day, however, I was able to look at it with new eyes, thanks to the Bible version I was reading from.
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get. Matthew 7:12 The Message
Maybe it's just me, but by reading through this particular paraphrase, the golden rule takes on a different and new life to me. It becomes active. Proactive. It's not just a matter of being as nice to people as you would like them to be to you. It's about thinking about your own needs and wants, and then, out of love, meeting them FOR OTHERS--even if you don't have those requirements or desires met yourself.

In practical terms, it's giving your bratty little brother the last brownie on the plate, no matter how much you love chocolate. It's dreaming of winning the race, then slowing down to help someone who fell so he can win. It's providing compassion and grace for those you long to receive it from, without expecting reward. It's purposefully, deliberately aiming to put others' desires before your own, even (and perhaps especially) if it means yours will be denied or delayed. It is exactly what Christ did for us.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippans 2:3-8 NIV
Jesus healed others, but did not heal himself. He grabbed the initiative and met the needs of others before his own. And that is what He wants us to do.

Are you--am I--being proactive about the golden rule? Are we capturing the initiative and meeting the needs of others, no matter the price to us? Allow God to help you to do this.

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  1. That does give new meaning to that particular verse of scripture, Jo... and made me stop right in my tracks. You've given me the vision of another rung on the ladder of my faith that I need to climb. Thank you for this thoughtful and insightful post!

  2. Excellent word, Joanne, and great practical examples of how to apply a verse that sometimes is so familiar that we can say it without its meaning making an impact on our lives.

  3. Jo, I think your life is a revelation of these words as they appear in THE MESSAGE. You are blessed, indeed, to be a Christian, as well as one of God's chosen people. And you are a blessing to many!

  4. Thanks so much, ladies! I needed this today too :) Love you!

  5. Wonderful perspective that gives us immediate opportunity to put Jesus words into action. Love it.

  6. A great challenge to us putting our faith into action, Sweetie! Something to consider every moment from now on!

  7. *tears of shame*
    I never thought of that verse that way. What a humble and loving attitude! I've been on the receiving end of this kind of action, and I truly felt loved.

  8. I sure needed to read this right now! Thank you, JO, you've blessed me beyond measure!

  9. What a different world it would be if each one of us would practice these special words. Great reminder, Joanne. Thanks!

  10. oh yeah, that really does put a bit of a different spin on it, doesn't it? Wow. Good one, JoDear. Thank you.



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