One of our core values in Interserve is building community. Building community in a fallen world with fallen people is sometimes challenging. People (not us of course) are not perfect.
Well, Jesus understood the challenges we face and he wanted us to know what steps to take so we can build healthy communities. Jesus tells us about some of these basic steps in Matthew 7:1-12.
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
Verses 1-12 comprise one section. It took me years to see this. I had always seen it as three or maybe four disjointed sections. And I could not see the thread that tied them all together. Recently I was finally able to read the passage with new eyes and I saw how these verses actually provided a continuous and harmonious unit. Each section gives us a different angle, providing depth and balance to the final point: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
Yet, the final point is so much richer when seen in light of the previous verses. And in following Jesus’ instructions, we would be doing what helps build healthy communities.
Initial Point (7:1-5): Do not judge others! I think Jesus means that we are not to accuse or malign others in your thoughts or in our conversations. Certainly we are not to gossip about them. If we do these things it will come back on our heads. And if we think of it, the reason why it will come back on us will be because we will be developing a community of intolerance, of meanness, or putting others down instead of building a community of graciousness. In contrast, to help us build healthy communities Jesus asks us to focus on ourselves and our own faults. It’s not as if we didn’t know this already; but, we have them, plenty of them, and they are really obvious to others. Since this is the case, Jesus wants us to focus on our own issues and give others a generous amount of space to be imperfect. Oh, giving others space to be imperfect is so easily said- doing it is problematic.
The Balance (7:6): Jesus didn’t want us to overextend or over-apply his point and proceed to be foolish. We live in a fallen world. So, he wants us to keep both of our eyes open. We are to be aware of who our neighbors are and protect ourselves from those who appear to be “evil” or malicious in intent.
An Example to Follow (7:7-11): These verses can appear to take us on a different tangent. However, we should understand that ancient Middle East cultures were often indirect in their communication strategies. They made points by examples. So, Jesus here provides us with one excellent example: God. So, he points out that we can and should approach God with complete liberty! This is because of what God is like. Therefore, since we are made in God’s image and called to be like Him, Jesus calls us to model our Father’s character and lavishly (generously) care for our neighbors as our Father does.
The Conclusion (7:12): Winding up all this, Jesus concludes by saying: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” Why? This is one of the main points of the Law and the prophets. The Law and the Writings of the Prophets teach us how to live well with others and build healthy communities.
So, as we follow Jesus’ guidance we will take the necessary and gracious steps that enable us to build heathy and godly communities!