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How Would You Like It?

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Matthew 7:121

Introduction

As you probably remember, this Tuesday is Election Day. People all over the country will be going to the polls to select the next President of the United States.

Some will be voting for John Kerry, some for Ralph Nader, some for George Bush, and there will probably also be some write-in candidates. So with that in mind, I thought that it might be a good idea to review the

Top Signs Your Presidential Candidate May be Under-qualified

9. Promises to improve foreign relations with Hawaii.

8. Runs a series of attack ads against Martin Sheen's character on "The West Wing."

7. His #1 choice to work on his cabinet is "that Bob Villa guy."

6. Outstanding record as President of his lodge is nullified by the fact that no one really cares.

5. Anybody mentions Washington, he asks, "The state or the DC thingie?"

4. At the debates, he answers every question with a snarled, "You wanna wrestle?!?"

3. Vows to put an end to the war in Pokemon and free the Pikachu refugees once and for all.

2. Says the Pledge of Allegiance as quickly as possible, then shouts, "I win!"

1. On the very first question of the debate, he attempts to use a Lifeline.

We want to have our country in the hands of capable leadership, so remember to vote on Tuesday. Please.

OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system, in all seriousness, I’d like to encourage you to vote this Tuesday. The Bible says that God will place in the presidency the man He has chosen. Daniel 5:21 says, “The Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and he sets over them anyone he wishes.” However, in this country, God has also given us the privilege of participating in the process of choosing our leaders. In our country, we are not only citizens, we are also rulers. And, like all rulers, God wants us to acknowledge his sovereignty and to rule wisely and justly. So this Tuesday is your chance to rule well and you can do that by acknowledging His sovereignty over our election and by voting as God leads you.

With that in mind, I’d like us to take a moment to pray for our nation and for the outcome of the election this week.

Series: Living With Difficult People

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about living with difficult people. And we all know that some people are more difficult to get along with than others:

[clip from “Planes, Trains…”, Owen]

See what I mean? Some people truly are more difficult to get along with than others. Jesus had something to say about living with difficult people. His words on the subject are found in Matthew 7, part of the Sermon on the Mount.

We’ve set aside three weeks to examine three biblical principles—three secrets for successfully living with difficult people. The first thing Jesus told us about getting along with each other is that we need to guard our thoughts.

1. Guarding My Thoughts.

It’s easy to judge each other hastily, to assign motives, and to focus on everything we don’t like about another person.

But when we judge hastily like that, the Bible says that we create an environment of unfair criticism and that we’re very likely to experience unfair criticism directed back at us. Sometimes we judge each other before we’ve had a chance to examine our own hearts and to deal with any sin in our life that could be warping our perception of other people’s faults. There is a place for making judgments—for discernment and discretion. That requires evaluating other people. But those judgments must be made carefully, looking at our own sin, giving other people the benefit of the doubt, asking questions, focusing on their actions, and exercising grace. The judging that is condemning, hasty, that makes generalizations about a whole group, that is based on gossip, assumptions or appearances, and that tries to divine someone’s motives or read their mind—those kinds of condemning judgments have no place in our relationships. And Jesus tells us to stop it. To get along with other people—even difficult people—we need to guard our thoughts and not allow ourselves to make inappropriate judgments.

2. Fulfilling My Desires.

Last week we talked about the second principle. We all have desires and sometimes when other people get in the way of our desires, we find it difficult to live with them. So in order to get along with each other, we need to give our desires to God. The Bible tells us to ask, seek, and knock. Pray. Tell God what you want and He will give it to you. But the Bible also tells us that God gives us good gifts. So what that means is that sometimes God will not answer our prayers the way we want Him to, because He wants to give us the very best—and very often that is not what we are asking Him for. So when we want something, instead of fighting with each other to fulfill our desires, we should simply ask God for what we want and then trust that He will do what is good. Other people, even difficult people, can’t stand in the way of God giving us what we should have and what He wants to give us.

Today we come to the third and final principle about getting along with difficult people.

3. Planning My Actions.

If we want to live in harmony with each other, then we need to plan our actions. We need to think carefully about how we should treat each other and we should make a plan for how we want to act towards each other. Basically, Jesus says, that when you sit down to write an action plan for dealing with difficult people, you really only need to ask yourself one simple question:

How Would YOU Like It?

In other words, if it was you and somebody else was writing up an action plan for how to treat you, what would you like? How would you like to be treated? What would you like other people to do for you? What would you prefer? The best way to get along with difficult people is to treat them just as you would like to be treated. How would you like it?

In verse 12, Jesus sums up all three principles here in just one simple phrase. In fact, he sums up everything he’s taught in this sermon in one simple phrase. In fact, he sums up everything God wants us to do in this one simple phrase. Almost everyone has heard this phrase—even people who have never once been to church. It’s a principle that has shaped human relationships for centuries. It is short and simple, but incredibly profound. We call it:

“The Golden Rule”

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Similar sayings had actually been around for years before Jesus said this. But they were all stated negatively, like, “What is hateful to do—don’t do to someone else”. Jesus is the first one to say it positively. So it’s more than just refraining from doing something evil against someone else. It’s actually taking deliberate steps to do something positive to them.

You might have also heard this expression as, “Do to others before they do unto you.” And of course, that’s not what Jesus is saying here. But there’s another way this phrase is mistaken—which is a little more subtle. Jesus is also not saying that you should do something nice for others so that they will return the favor and do something nice back to you. In fact, the order of the words is actually different than it is in English: “What you want others to do to you, do that to them.”

So let’s take a look at each part of this verse and talk about what it means. The very first step in implementing this principle from Jesus is to

Think about what you would like.

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

You must begin with self-examination. Don’t start with the other person. Start with yourself. What do you like? What would you like? I don’t mean “What do you want?” I mean, put your self in their shoes. If it was you in their position, then what would you want? How would you like it? That’s what you should plan to do for others.

Please notice something important here. This doesn’t mean that you become a doormat. It doesn’t mean that you cease to have an opinion and just do whatever everybody else wants you to do. For example, you’re not supposed to end up like this:

[clip from “Coming to America”, Whatever You Like!]

This “golden rule” doesn’t mean that you lose yourself in the desires of other people. In fact, look at the words closely. It actually means the opposite! First, get in touch with your own desires. Figure out what you would want and then make your plan according to your own wishes, your own desires, your own needs, your own longings, and your own hopes. If it was just the way you wanted it to be, what would it look like? You don’t lose yourself. You begin with yourself.

I find it really interesting that the Golden Rule begins with self. I think there’s a reason for that. God knows that the one thing that we are all really, really good at is watching out for ourselves. In fact, we’re born that way. We don’t need to read books or take classes or get personal coaching. We just naturally know how to take care of number one! And as we grow older, we become even more skilled at looking out for number one and identifying our own needs and desires.

So God gives us an assignment that we can all relate to. He starts off with a question that every one of us has a natural talent for answering: “What would you want? How would you like it? What would be your ideal scenario? What would be your perfect outcome?”

Once you have that idea firmly in hand, now it’s time to move on to the next step:

Do that to others.

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Whatever it is that you would want to see other people do for you if it was you in that situation or in that predicament or if it was you who had that need—that’s what Jesus wants you to do for them.

Start with yourself. Project yourself into the other person’s need. Ask yourself what it is you would want. And then do that for the other person.

See how deliberate that is? That’s why I say that if we want to get along with each other, we need to plan our actions. We need to think about how we should be treating each other. It isn’t just trying to keep from hurting each other or trying to avoid sinning against each other. What Jesus actually means is that we need to actively plan to treat each other great—just the way we would choose to be treated ourselves.

You know, that brings up one important exception to the Golden Rule. Here it is. Not everybody likes the same treatment. So as we’re thinking about how we would like to be treated, sometimes we have to make adjustments and ask ourselves, “If we were that other person, what would we want?”

E.g., kissing my father-in-law.

Julie and surprise parties, staying up late or getting up real early.

Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of “Love Language”. The idea is that everyone doesn’t share the same idea of what feels like a loving thing to do. So when we’re trying to “do unto others”, we also have to think about not just what we would want, but what we would want if we were them.

Well, really, that’s it. That’s the whole principle. That’s the phrase that sums up all of Jesus’ ethical teaching in a nutshell. This is the summary of the “kingdom righteousness” that Jesus tells us to pursue as a priority. In fact, Jesus says that this one principle actually is the law.

That is God’s law.

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Literally, the phrase is, “this IS the Law and the Prophets”. The Law and the Prophets was an expression that meant the whole Old Testament—everything that God had taught them up to that point. Jesus says, that this “Golden Rule” is, or is a summary of, everything God wants us to do.

He’s probably thinking back to Lev 19:18 which says,

Leviticus 19:18 Love your neighbor as yourself.

Here in the Old Testament law was the seed of the Golden Rule. Notice that it has the same idea. You need to begin with loving yourself—something we all have at birth as a natural ability. Now treat your neighbor as well as you would treat yourself.

This brings up an important point, because although I believe we all are born with the natural ability to love ourselves, in some people that natural ability has been destroyed. Some people have been so hated or so abused or so mistreated that they don’t love themselves and don’t believe that anyone does love them or anyone could love them. When that happens, do you know what that means? It means that you will also have trouble loving other people.

There is a type of self-love which is inappropriate, arrogant, and self-centered. But God made us to be loved by him, to be loved by each other and to be loved by ourselves. There is also an appropriate type of self-love which recognizes that I am God’s beloved. I am his special creation. And if God loves me, then I must be lovable and it is appropriate to love myself and recognize that I am loved and lovely. That doesn’t mean that everything about me is lovely. It means that as someone made in God’s image and as someone who is the object of his love, I am valuable. If I don’t recognize that and appreciate that about myself, then I’m going to have a very difficult time recognizing that and appreciating that in other people.

If you’re going to love your neighbor as yourself, then you need to love yourself—or otherwise your neighbor’s not going to be very loved either.

If you are someone who finds it difficult or impossible to love yourself, then I’d like to encourage you to meditate on everything that Jesus has done for you. He loves you so much he gave his own life so that he could live with you forever. Think about the love that God demonstrated in planning you, making you, choosing you, chasing you, finding you, wooing you, winning you, forgiving you, guiding you, comforting you, helping you, protecting you, and providing for you. He loves you. And he wants you to love yourself so that you’re equipped to love others.

Let’s go back to this idea about the Golden Rule summarizing everything God wants for us in our relationships with each other. There was another time in Jesus’ life when someone asked him point blank what was the most important thing that God wanted us to do. Here’s what he said:

Matthew 22:35-40 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: [36] "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

[37] Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [38] This is the first and greatest commandment.

[39] And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' [40] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Once again quoting from Leviticus 19, Jesus said that everything God had revealed to mankind hung from these two commands: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Do you think that this simple phrase might be important to God?

Paul describes the same thing in

Romans 13:8-10 He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. [9] The commandments…are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

[10] Love…is the fulfillment of the law.

Conclusion

How Would You Like It?

Do you want to know what God wants you to do with your life? or for that matter, what he wants you to do with this afternoon? Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. And that means you need to begin by thinking about how you would like to be treated and then finish by making a specific action plan to treat others the same way. If we want to get along with difficult people, then we need to plan our actions to reflect the way that we would want to be treated. Let me show you what I mean:

[clip from “Planes, Trains…”, Just come on in.]

[kids sing, “Treat others like you wanna be treated.”]

On the way out, we’d like to take an offering for our Love Fund which is used to help people that have significant financial needs. If you’d like to be a part of that, the ushers are going to be at the back door.


1 Copyright © 2004 by Lewis B. Bell III. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 3 in the Kingdom Relationships series delivered by Chip Bell at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho in Dallas, TX on October 31, 2004. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with credit.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Fellowship, Love