Jesus said, “So in all the ways you would like people to treat you, you are to treat them. For that is the Law and the Prophetic Writings.”
— Matthew 7:12 (USC)
Overall themes are something we all want to understand as we read any biblical text. And as we consider the entire Sermon on the Mount as the Matthean synoptist has written it for us, we can easily come to this actual verse above, in unison with Matthew 5:17, and land on two facts:
1. Jesus came not to abolish what is specified in the Old Testament; he came as its fulfilment! The ‘Law’ is seriously misunderstood. A heart of obedience to his Law is what God seeks.
2. In context of our relationships, everything relies on us treating others as we would have them treat us. This reframes our entire worldview and existence. No longer is selfishness going to cut it.
Jesus is challenging the very ideas that are popular in our age. Grace doesn’t seek to free us from the Law — it’s the very power behind the Law. We cannot hope to obey God without relying on his grace; by his grace we have the heart to want to obey. The Law will finally come into its own when we see why is should be obeyed.
When we understand that Jesus came as the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophetic Writings we no longer have a problem with the Law. We see it as once and for all, God’s.
Then we are able to see the relational imperative in the Law’s achievement.
Life can only sensibly work when we have committed to treated others as we would like them to treat us. We don’t ever want to be hurt. We don’t ever desire to be rejected. We always want to be respected. We always want to be considered. Yet, when others are the same way we see them being unreasonable; a human disparity.
In other words, we need to be loved perfectly, so we need to love others perfectly.
Not that we’ll ever get there; and where we fall short, we always have the recovery of apology, within the multiple ‘languages’ of apology. Because we can see how impossible it is to love others perfectly, we are convinced of the grace that should exude from us toward others in the form of forgiveness. We find it hard to love people, yet we are horrified that others find it hard to love us. These are crucial truths that need necessarily to be dwelt upon. Meditate on these and we are blessed with empathy for the human condition — theirs and ours. We forgive them and us more readily.
The more we understand grace as a free gift of God — that we are forgiven! That we have done nothing to deserve grace — the more we understand the reciprocal invocation of God: “love others as I have loved you; forgive others as I have forgiven you. As you want me, through grace, to love you,” says the Lord, “that’s how I want you to treat others.”
There is nothing more fundamental to justice in life than to love others as we love God to love us.
If we have experienced God’s merciful grace — his forgiveness — we are convinced of the value of extending his grace to others. We forgive them. And it is no big deal.
But if we haven’t experienced the forgiveness of God we are less likely to give to another what we haven’t ourselves ever known.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. How hard is it for you to love someone who ‘doesn’t deserve it’? Have you asked yourself recently, “Have I got a problem with my own being forgiven by God?”
2. Do you feel forgiven? Have you experienced God’s grace? What connection is there between our personal experience of grace and our ‘ability’ to forgive another person?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.