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 clarkedixon.wordpress.com.

July 23, 2017

The Humanity of Jesus, the Christ, and Eternal Salvation

by Russell Young

Before the sacrificial ministry of Christ can be understood, the fullness of his ministry as man must be appreciated since it is as man that he lived among humankind and that he died. It is easy to allow one’s mind to miss the extent of the Lord’s ministry on behalf of people and to fail to perceive the extent of his love, and even the means of eternal salvation without knowledge of his humanness.

Jesus was born from the womb of Mary possessing the human characteristics of all humankind. He had the same limitations and suffered the same temptations.  He came to help humankind, and to be effective in doing so he had to endure the flesh and its trials just as must all people. “For this reason [to help people] he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:16─17 NIV. Italics added.) There was nothing about the humanity of Christ that would distinguish him from anyone else. He was fully human. He hurt when his flesh was wounded and agonized over the death of friends.  He went hungry and became tired. His body exerted the same desires and demands as does that of all men.

The above passage goes on to say, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) The temptations that afflicted the Lord caused him distress and suffering. A temptation is something that has a draw on the flesh and motivates for its appeasement. The writer of Hebrews has revealed the effect of temptations on Christ. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) The Lord fought his flesh and its draws; his interest in living a holy life and in pleasing his Father was greater than interest in his body.

Christ experienced the humanity of people and he understands it. His experience was necessary so that he could become our merciful and faithful high priest.  A high priest offers sacrifices for sins committed “in ignorance.” (Heb 9:7) Known sin is to be confessed in order to be cleansed (1 Jn 1:9); however, unknown sin, that not recognized as sin by the sinner, must also be cleansed.  According to his knowledge of the flesh and his mercy, Christ offers his blood to meet one’s need in this regard.

The human body and its interests are so prone to evil that Paul calls it “the body of death.” (Rom 7:24) The Lord’s experiential understanding is a blessing for those who seek righteousness, but is a curse for those who are willing to submit to carnal interests.  Paul wrote, “Now if we are children [of God] then we are heirs—if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory.” (Rom 8:17 NIV Italics added.) The requirement for sharing in his glory is that people must suffer to gain victory over those unrighteous practices and thoughts that tempt the body and soul.  Paul taught, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (! Cor 10:13 NIV) John taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV) The Lord triumphed over temptations so he knows that victory can be gained and the redeemed need to appreciate that he knows their commitment, or lack of it, to defeat sin.

The Spirit of Christ is there to help during times of temptation (Heb 2:18), but they, like the Lord, must seek it.  “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” (Heb 4:16 NIV) Believers are not called to live a passive life. They are to contend for victory, just as Christ did, and they are to help one another in that battle.

Jesus came to defeat the Old Covenant requirements for righteousness’ sake and he had to accomplish these in his own flesh to be an acceptable sacrifice. The Lord now dwells in the bodies of those who have professed his lordship. The secret that had been kept hidden for so long is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) Just as he gained victory over the temptations that afflicted the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, a body like our own, he is able to accomplish such in the bodies of the remainder of humankind provided they are willing to listen and to obediently follow his leading. He has provided all that is necessary for victory (2 Pet 1:3) but just as he had to suffer to gain it, so must those in whom he indwells.  He does not over-rule a person’s will. Those who truly desire to dwell in his presence throughout eternity will strive with him. They are to put forth every effort (Lk 13:24), are to die to self-interest (Lk 17:33; Gal 6:7─8), and are to follow him. (Jn 10:27)

It was the humanity of the Lord that enabled him to be an acceptable sacrifice for humankind and it was his humanity that allowed him to appreciate the trials of the flesh arousing his mercy and grace so that he might intercede for those seeking to walk in the light and to pursue righteousness. Many accept that his ministry for them was completed at the cross, however, it is on-going and will only be completed when his life in the confessor is quenched, thwarted, or denied or when death occurs. He is the second Adam, the victorious one, and the one that enables victory.


After next week, Russell Young’s articles will appear here on alternative Tuesdays. We’re introducing a recurring feature starting August 6th with all articles appearing under the title Sunday Worship. Feel free to recommend any writers or articles you think would fit here.



Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

May 12, 2013

Jesus as Both Substitute and Example

Balance in doctrine is so important.  This is from the blog Radical and is written by David Burnette.  Click through to read more by him and other featured writers.  NOTE: This is part one of a two part (so far) series. Click here to read part one, and here to read part two.

I must admit that hearing someone go on and on about imitating Jesus can make me, well, a little concerned.

I’m concerned that the person sees the life of Jesus only as an example to be followed. Concerned that the once-for-all work of Christ on the cross is being downplayed. Concerned that I’m being called to imitate Someone who calmed a storm with a word and spoke the world into existence. And, at the bottom of it all, I’m concerned that a form of works-righteousness is being brought in through the backdoor.

But my concerns, while sometimes valid, aren’t always justified.

Regardless of the fact that preaching and teaching about Jesus is sometimes merely moralistic, and though some people like to trumpet Jesus as our example because they (sadly) find the idea of Christ absorbing God’s wrath on the cross to be cruel or beneath God’s loving character, looking to Jesus as our example is a biblical concept. After all, the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Of course, not every aspect of Christ’s suffering can or should be imitated; for instance, we aren’t sinless, so our death won’t atone for sin. Nevertheless, we are called upon and enabled by God to imitate the One who was faithful until death.

We could look to many places in Scripture to see this truth, but 1 Peter is especially clear on this theme of imitating Jesus. Peter points us to both the finished work of Christ and the perfect example of Christ.

In 1 Peter, the example set by Christ is primarily in the context of suffering and submission. To be clear, the call to imitate Jesus in the midst of our suffering doesn’t downplay the absolutely necessary and foundational role of Christ’s substitutionary death for our salvation. Without the cross, we could never persevere through suffering, no matter how much we reflected on Jesus’ perfect example. Yet, Scripture is not shy about telling us to imitate Jesus. Consider three different texts from 1 Peter that speak to this point:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (2:21)

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”  (3:17-18)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (4:1)

In the follow-up post, we’ll consider how the theme of imitating Jesus fits with His sin-bearing, substitutionary death. We’ll see that following Christ’s example in suffering requires being redeemed by His “precious blood” (1:19). Even still, we need to be reminded to fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfect pattern for trusting God through our own difficulties (Heb 12:1-4).

As we read 1 Peter and the rest of the New Testament, not least the Gospels, we ought to have an eye out for how Jesus responded to suffering. His prayer in Gethsemane is a great place to start: Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, knowing that this meant drinking the cup of God’s wrath (Matt 26:36-42). This was an utterly crucial step in the accomplishment of our salvation, but it was also a disposition of trust to be imitated by future disciples. Such an example gives us wisdom as we seek to obey the following exhortation in 1 Peter 4:19:

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Unlike Jesus, we don’t have to face the prospect of God’s judgment against sin; however, we are called on to persevere through the trials that God sends for our eternal good (1 Pet 1:6-7). Jesus’ obedience to and unflinching trust in His Heavenly Father is an example we are called to imitate. And, as we’ll see tomorrow, the cross makes that imitation possible.

Continue reading part two here.