Several years ago I had the blessing of attending the Calvary Chapel Des Moines Men’s Retreat at Hidden Acres Retreat Center located in Dayton, IA. It was a great time with the guys from my church. We took a look at some of the questions Jesus asked and also spent time in the Word, prayer, and playing games like volleyball and basketball. The focus was on how to build relationships between us brothers in the body of Christ, and that was my main reflection on this retreat.
The main thing that the Lord spoke to my heart was this…
To treat others the way you would want to be treated may not always be sound advice.
Why is this? For three reasons.
First, people may want to be treated differently than how I would want to be treated. Let’s face it, when I am going through some negative emotional feeling like anger, being upset, or nervous, the last thing I want is to be with other people. I just plain want to be left alone in my thoughts in silence, and meditate on the situation. I don’t want to talk to anyone or be with anybody. Now there is nothing wrong with that per-say, but other people may want someone by their side to comfort and console them. They may want people to come by and be with them. And because I would rather want to be left alone, that is not what others may want. The bad thing is that when people want me to come along side them when they really need me, I’m not there, and it may look like I don’t care when in fact I am giving them what I would want in that situation.
Second, I may need to be treated differently than how I think I need to be treated. Just because I would prefer to be left alone in certain situations doesn’t mean that’s what I need. My needs are way different than my wants. I may need someone to come beside me and comfort me or give me biblical sound advice. I may need people to pray for me when things are at their worst, put their arm around me and tell me its going to be alright. But what I don’t need is to become a hermit away from everyone and sulk in my own thoughts. That’s just what I want, and it’s not healthy.
Lastly, I am just plain ignorant of the situation at hand. One question from the retreat was easy to answer. “What does Jesus think about you?” Knucklehead was the first word that popped in my head. But in all seriousness, I’ve never experienced the pain of losing a child, or a parent, getting divorced, or losing everything I own in a house fire. I’ve never experienced the joy of my wife giving birth, having my son get married or even grandchildren for that matter. Since I’ve never experienced any of these things, I tend not to empathize with others in those situations. I have experienced the pain of losing a sibling, getting laid off from work, and trying to have kids and never will. I have felt the pain of having a spouse who rejected Jesus Christ only to experience the joy of having her come to know Him in a real “Paul salvation” kind of way. I have felt the joy of getting married, paying off college debt, and buying a home. I need to empathize with others in their joys and pains. I need to feel emotion when it comes to other people. I need to be there for others even though I don’t know what they are going through, but I feel as though I’m getting better.
So, how should I treat others? The way Jesus treated others. How I should respond to different people is how Jesus would respond. He responded and dealt with people in their needs, not their wants.
I tested this theory recently on a woman at church who lost her son; how this happened, I don’t know. In talking with her husband at church, he stated that she just wanted to be left alone and not want anything. No meals sent to the house, no phone calls, or messages. But I started to think about what she needed, not necessarily what she wanted. I did the bare minimum I could think of. I sent a card and donated money to the Gideon’s International to be used for bibles in his memory. Also, since she was on my church cleaning crew, I went ahead and cleaned her portion of the building while I was waiting for an oven to be delivered to the church. She was elated with the surprise and sent me a wonderful thank you card. It was exactly what she needed.
Jesus dealt with the Pharisees and Sadducees in what they needed too, not what they wanted. They needed a swift kick in the head (theologically speaking). But He also dealt with them different individually. Jesus treated Nicodemus with grace and kindness (John 3), while the others He called, “whitewashed tombs,” “hypocrites,” “blind fools,” and “brood of vipers”(Matthew 23), warning everyone of their schemes who could hear Him. The truth though is that Jesus gave them truth in kindness, and at this point He had had enough.
To love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself — we must speak the truth in love, (1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:15) be kind and tenderhearted, and forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32) first and foremost. Then I believe all will fall into place.