We have probably heard of the Golden Rule. (And, I don’t mean the one that says, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules”.) Regardless of our upbringing, over time we accumulate some sense that it is appropriate to treat people the same way we want them to treat us.
Here is how Jesus put it:
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 NASB
This is a fairly easy command to follow when those around us generally reciprocate. Maybe we have friends or colleagues who are great people, and we find ourselves being better by “osmosis”, just by being around them.
What about those people who don’t follow the Golden Rule, though? What about those who seem to have never heard of it, or maybe understand it and intentionally choose to live very differently?
Jesus doesn’t seem to be limiting his command with conditions or constraints. He specifically talked (as recorded a couple of chapters earlier) about not limiting who we show love to.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matthew 5:46-47 NASB
But, as we try to show love to those who haven’t shown us the same courtesy, perhaps there is another reason for us to do so: Maybe those that don’t show love back to us, or don’t treat us the way we want to be treated, don’t actually know how.
We can promote and preach and pontificate and plead all day, but sometimes, words only go so far. Before I went to college, all kinds of people told me what it would be like. They weren’t wrong, but I didn’t actually comprehend the experience until I actually went off to college, myself. I had heard that Grand Canyon is big (no kidding), but I couldn’t appreciate how big it was until I stood on the rim and looked out at it. At some point, instruction must give way to demonstration and illustration.
Let us all strive to be able to say, like Paul, the following simple message:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB
Maybe your example of loving those who don’t currently show you love in return, is exactly the instruction that someone else needs. Something to think about.