Christianity 201

June 11, 2020

Do Unto Others

by Clarke Dixon

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (NRSV)

If we all did unto others as we would have them do unto us, the world would be in much better shape. Just imagine how the great toilet paper crisis of 2020 could have been avoided. On a more serious note, just imagine how race relations would be much different now had we been “doing unto others” all along.

“Do unto others” sounds like a simple concept, and it is . But it is not easy. We have a way of turning things around to still be about us. The selfish path is always the easy path.

But can the “Golden Rule” ever be followed in a selfish manner? Yes, let me give an example. Suppose I found that peanut butter squares give me great comfort during this pandemic. Wanting to do a good thing, I may want to do unto others as I would have them do unto me, and send all my neighbours peanut butter squares. But what if my neighbours are allergic to peanuts?

You see, I have just done unto others as I would have them do unto me as if they were me. I have not been sensitive to their situation and needs. I still managed to make it about me and my needs. Instead, I should do unto others as I would have them do unto me, if I were them, walking in their shoes, living their lives.

We can think we are “doing unto others,” yet still be oblivious to the needs of the others. To actually put into practice the teaching of Jesus we need to be sensitive to those needs.

There is therefore a step, which is not explicitly stated, but is necessary to fulfill the spirit of what Jesus is teaching us here. It is taking a step down a path of understanding. This is necessary if we want to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, if we were in their shoes, in their skin, with their history, with their experiences of life.

I don’t know what it is like to grow up in a home with alcohol abuse, or abuse of any kind. Being white, I don’t know what it is like to be man of colour and face racism. Being a man I don’t know what it is like to be a woman and face sexism. Being straight, I don’t know what it is like to be a gay person and face discrimination or bullying. I don’t know, and I can’t pretend to know, but I can set out on a journey of understanding.

With the COVID crisis and church gatherings being cancelled I had the opportunity to deliver the video version of this sermon from somewhere I have never delivered a sermon. I “preached” it while sitting in a pew. Sometimes we preachers need to sit in the pews. We need to grow in our understanding of the Bible, yes. We also need to grow in our understanding of people. People have sat in those pews who understand what it is like to live in a broken home, with an abusive partner, or with an alcoholic parent. People have sat in these pews who understand what it is like to experience racism or sexism, or both. People have sat in these pews who understand what it is like to be attracted to the same sex, and to pray for a change that never comes.

The path of understanding requires a posture of learning. Learning requires listening. Listening requires not speaking. Listening requires that we all get down from our pulpits, for we all preach, and listen intently to the people in the pews, and those who would not dare enter the sanctuary. Listening may require closing our Bibles for a moment, so that we give others our undivided attention as they teach us about themselves. Only then can we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, if we were them, in their shoes, in their skin, living their lives.

Doing unto others is the more difficult road, the “road less travelled,” to borrow an expression. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus says next:

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:12-14 (NRSV)

We are trained to automatically think of salvation in terms of eternal life when we read about the narrow gate and wide road. We then ask if we are on the narrow road that will get us to heaven. But consider if Jesus is telling us about a salvation that includes abundant life as well as eternal life. The question then becomes whether we are on a narrow and difficult road that leads to a greater experience of life in our world, or are we taking the easy road, the self-focused road, the one that leads to harm?

When we travel down that path of understanding others, it leads to greater life, in all areas of life. It lessens our tendencies toward racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. However, when we go down the broad road of self-centredness, an easy road that many take, we find that it leads to destruction within relationships and so much more.

Doing unto others is the more difficult path, the path Jesus took for us:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV)

You could say that in Jesus, God came down from his pulpit, and spent time in the pews. God understands our brokenness, our inability to get back to God. He brings us back to Himself. He took the difficult journey of the cross. He did unto others, He will do unto you.

“Do unto others” is not just a nice platitude we hang on a wall. It is difficult and narrow path, a journey of understanding that requires a posture of learning. It requires getting beyond ourselves. It is loving others as God has loved us.

Pastor Clarke Dixon is the calmest person I know. (I just thought that was worth mentioning!) His wife and three teenage boys are currently riding out the pandemic in a small town east of Toronto. This reflection comes from an “online worship expression” which has replaced their regular church service. Read more at

March 3, 2013

Defining Humility

James (NLT) 4:0 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

John (ESV) 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Last year at this time we visited the blog of Bill Williams, A Spiritual Oasis.  (You might want to read Bill’s story.) We return today for a recent post there originally titled Am I Truly A Humble Follower of Jesus?   As always, you’re encouraged to read featured articles at C201 at their original online source.

Humility tops the list of the virtues to be sought by God’s children. Jesus places it first on the list of blessed attitudes He endorses. The first beatitude begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

True humility is often an elusive quality. For most of us, becoming more humble is one of life’s most difficult challenges. We spend our lives endeavoring to more fully learn what it means to walk humbly with God. Tragically, the moment we conclude that we have “arrived” is the very moment we cease to walk in humility. One author jokingly conveyed this notion when he proposed the following title for his book on the topic: Humility, And How I Attained It.

Humility is also misunderstood. On the one hand, truly humble people are easily misused or abused. They will seldom complain or demand their rights. On the other hand, feigned humility can be used as an excuse for non-involvement in ministry.

This is illustrated by the response one church member made, when asked to help with a good work. He said something like: “Oh, I’m just one of the humble members around here. You should ask brother So-and-so. He’ll probably do it.”

Indeed, humility is often misunderstood; and, growth in humility is very challenging. Still, Jesus promises a blessing to those who are truly humble, stating “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore, we should all endeavor to walk more humbly with the Lord. To help shed some light on the subject, the following characteristics of a humble person are suggested. A truly humble Christian is:

Honest: The humble person knows his or her God-given talents and limitations. She is aware of both her strengths and her weaknesses. She admits to failure as readily as claiming success. She is aware that it is only by the grace of God that she is what she is and will become what she hopes to be.

Unpretentious: The humble person is a sincere servant of God. Whatever he does, he works with all of his heart for the Lord, not for men. He seeks only to serve, not to be seen. His heart’s delight is to hear others praise the Father in heaven.

Manageable: The humble person has taken to herself the “yoke of Christ.” She remains teachable. She is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God, the Master Potter, is constantly shaping her life. So, she remains soft and pliable and is continually being conformed to the image of God’s Son.

Bold: The humble person knows that serving God means he must dare to travel the road less taken. Because he marches for the Master, he must forge ahead when others shrink back. He also knows that standing with God often involves standing against those who oppose the will of God. He understands that a Christian must stand for something or he will fall for almost anything.

Loving: The humble person is one from whom others continually hear of God’s love. Love is in her heart, because the cross of Christ is always in her mind. She knows what it is to be loved, so her life is an expression of God’s love. She walks in love. Yes, she boldly stands with and for God; but she lovingly encourages others to do the same. She lives to show others God’s love.

Enthusiastic: The humble person remembers that someone once said that enthusiasm has a literal meaning of “God within.” He believes it! He is, literally speaking, an eternal optimist, always pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He is known for reminding others that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” When the doubters seek to throw cold water on great plans for the Lord, his response is: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Even when things look bleak and gloomy, he or she draws strength from God within and remains fervent in spirit.

Perhaps we all should ask: “Am I truly a humble follower of Jesus?”

In addition to great Bible studies like this one, Bill Williams has a great page of online study resources you should know about.