A Prayer Prompted by Luke 6

Dear heavenly Father,

Help us to truly follow Jesus by renouncing all condemning, unloving and unforgiving attitudes that might still linger in us, even if we have held them for years.  And let us turn all of that into positive action, learning to love our enemies, doing good to those who treat us badly.  Teach us to pray for all those who oppose us, so that they might come to know your mercy even as we have.

Teach us to truly treat others just as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

May our lives be full of good works, all consistent with the teaching of Christ, and may the foundation of our spiritual house be built on the rock, so that it will stand when the inevitable storms of life pound against it.

In Christ,

Amen.

 

That golden rule – Luke 6:31

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Jesus mentioned this principle in the same breath with “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you,” and so on.  The evidence indicates he meant what he said.  This is extreme stuff.  

It isn’t easy to love enemies.  No matter how hard we try, or what action we take, they can possess the uncanny ability to treat us badly somehow once again.  That is just how it is with enemies, right?  

Yet, love in the truest sense needs to stay focused on others and their needs.  That’s why Jesus made this command a positive one – a “Thou shalt” rather than a “Thou shalt not.”  He didn’t want to give us an easy way out.

There is a story in the Talmud, in Shabbat 31a, that tells of a Gentile who came to a rabbi and said, “Convert me on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot.” That rabbi had no good answer.

The same Gentile came to the sage Hillel the Elder, who was grandfather of Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul the Apostle.  Hillel said, “That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” The man was converted.

It’s a great story and it is probably true, but with all due respect to the incomparable Hillel, we might say it is incomplete, based on this teaching of Jesus.  If we don’t do that which is hateful to people and stop there, we might possibly not do much at all – even nothing!  That’s the nature of the “Thou shalt not” in a command.  It is a prohibition rather than a positive task.  

Surely Hillel, if he had more time than the Gentile balancing on one foot was willing to give him at that moment, would choose to elaborate.  Jesus was still young when the aged Hillel finally died and, perhaps while not under time constraints, may have even thought of his improved version of the golden rule based upon the rabbi’s words.  

Again, he has us imagine what we might wish for ourselves in Luke 6:31.  And again our text, 

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Let’s leave that just as it is, without further elaboration.