Friday, January 21, 2011


Commentary for the Sabbath School Lesson dated 1.22.11 
“Watchman Nee tells about a Chinese Christian who owned a rice paddy next to one owned by a communist man. The Christian irrigated his paddy by pumping water out of a canal, using one of those leg-operated pumps that make the user appear to be seated on a bicycle. Every day, after the Christian had pumped enough water to fill his field, the communist would come out, remove some boards that kept the water in the Christian's field and let all the water flow down into his own field. That way, he didn't have to pump.
“This continued day after day. Finally, the Christian prayed, ‘Lord, if this keeps up, I'm going to lose all my rice, maybe even my field. I've got a family to care for. What can I do?’
In answer to his request, the Lord put a thought in his mind. So, the next morning he arose much earlier, in the pre-dawn hours of darkness, and started pumping water into the field of his communist neighbor. Then he replaced the boards and pumped water into his own rice paddy. In a few weeks both fields of rice were doing well—and the communist was converted.”[1]
Ya know, stories like this one, to me, pretty much confirm that God exists and is interested in our lives, don’t you think?  Our human response to the communist stealing the water from us would almost certainly not been to fill his field and then our own.  Left to our own devices, we might have spent considerable time, if not money devising some way to keep our neighbor from moving those boards.  One of the many things, in my opinion, that evolution cannot do is explain the Golden Rule.

You remember the Golden Rule:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12   It’s one verse even non-Christians can quote.  They may not even realize it comes from Jesus’ own lips.

Unfortunately our earthly behavior sometimes seems to defy the Golden Rule:  
“Have you ever felt that a driver was really slow in pulling out of a parking space for which you were waiting? It turns out your imagination may not be playing tricks on you. A recent study of 400 drivers in a shopping mall found that drivers took longer to pull out of a space if someone was waiting than if nobody was waiting there to claim the space. On average, if nobody was waiting for the space, drivers took 32.2 seconds to pull out of a spot after opening a car door. If someone was waiting, drivers took about 39 seconds. And woe to the person who honks to hurry a driver: drivers took 43 seconds to pull out of a space when the waiting driver honked!”[2]
Why, in the world, would anybody do that?  Why would we try to irritate people we don’t even know? Maybe that explains why we sometimes hear the Golden Rule misquoted like this: “Do unto others before they do it unto you.”  Now that makes worldly sense, doesn’t it?  It feels much more natural to our worldly natures.  In fact, living by Jesus’ Golden Rule is often a struggle, isn’t it?  Returning good when we have received evil just doesn’t feel natural!

As Christians though, we are called to set a different standard in our behavior.  “In your association with others, put yourself in their place. Enter into their feelings, their difficulties, their disappointments, their joys, and their sorrows. Identify yourself with them, and then do to them as, were you to exchange places with them, you would wish them to deal with you. This is the true rule of honesty. It is another expression of the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And it is the substance of the teaching of the prophets. It is a principle of heaven, and will be developed in all who are fitted for its holy companionship.

“The golden rule is the principle of true courtesy, and its truest illustration is seen in the life and character of Jesus. Oh, what rays of softness and beauty shone forth in the daily life of our Saviour! What sweetness flowed from His very presence! The same spirit will be revealed in His children. Those with whom Christ dwells will be surrounded with a divine atmosphere. Their white robes of purity will be fragrant with perfume from the garden of the Lord. Their faces will reflect light from His, brightening the path for stumbling and weary feet.       
“No man who has the true ideal of what constitutes a perfect character will fail to manifest the sympathy and tenderness of Christ. The influence of grace is to soften the heart, to refine and purify the feelings, giving a heaven-born delicacy and sense of propriety.”[3]
It’s almost impossible to build any kind of mutually beneficial relationship without using the Golden Rule in making your choices.  Nobody wants to be friends with someone who always puts him (or her) self first.  In fact, we’re probably going to stay away from a person like that.

One of the most amazing things about the Golden Rule seems to be the answer to many of our problems.  If you’re feeling depressed, start trying to help others.  Feeling overwhelmed by cares and anxieties in your own life, start putting the needs of others before your own. 
“It is the little attentions, the numerous small incidents and simple courtesies of life, that make up the sum of life’s happiness; and it is the neglect of kindly, encouraging, affectionate words, and the little courtesies of life, which helps compose the sum of life’s wretchedness. It will be found at last that the denial of self for the good and happiness of those around us constitutes a large share of the life record in heaven.”[4]
Living by the Golden Rule may not be the easiest or the natural way to live, but it’s the way Jesus asks us to live and He set the example for how to do it.
“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
“If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
“The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Be good anyway.
“Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
“What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
“People need help but may attack you if you try to help them. Help them anyway.
“In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”[5]

[1] Making Things Right When Things Go Wrong (Howard, 1996)
[2] M. Raphael, "It's True: Drivers Move Slowly If You Want Their Space," Raleigh News and Observer (5-13-97), p. 1A; submitted by Jeff Arthurs, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
[3] E.G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 134, 135.
[4] E.G. White, The Adventist Home, pp. 108, 109.
[5] Kent M. Keith, "The Paradoxical Commandments," from The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Student Agencies) 1968

No comments:

Post a Comment