Do Unto Others

Everyone knows that Jesus taught us the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Many other religious traditions include a similar prescription. Even secular philosophers have suggested that such a practice is a good basic guide to moral behavior.

But there is a necessary element to following this rule that is sometimes missed as people try to apply the rule to life. For the Golden Rule to work, we must have empathy. Empathy means the ability to have some understanding of the other person’s position, to put one’s self “in their shoes.”

It’s easy to think that we know what another person should want or need, but unless we take some time to see the world from that person’s perspective, we can miss important details. Whether we are talking about our next door neighbor, or Central American refugee children, Palestinians or Israelis, or our own family members, we need to make the effort to understand their situation before we pronounce moral judgments.

This is Jesus’ standard for treating people. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The world, our human nature, tells us to do unto others as they do unto us. Jesus commands us to treat people the way we would want to be treated whether they treat us right or not.

It’s a tough standard by which to live. At first, it got Jesus crucified. But it also brought resurrection and glory. We trust that the same will be true if we are obedient and faithful to what Jesus tells us.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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The Glory of God

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If you are around church very much you probably have heard these words at some time or another. This verse from the New Testament letter of Romans, are often used by preachers to remind us that none of us is perfect. We are all sinful. We all need God’s salvation.

These points are true. When Paul penned these words, He was emphasizing that point. But we should not fail to notice the important point that is also made in the latter half of the statement. The first half says that we are not where we need to be. The second half says that God is all that and more!

“The glory of God.” God is perfection. No matter how you envision perfection, that is God. God is the height of artistic beauty, moral goodness and complete knowledge.

As many have understood, God’s glory is so great that it is almost impossible to talk about. We do not have words to express the glory of God.

God knew that even the fancy words of philosophers would not be enough to tell people what His glory is. So He sent His Son. The New Testament letter of Hebrews says about Jesus: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory.” When we watch Jesus heal the sick, we are seeing God’s glory. When we hear Jesus pronounce blessing on the poor, we see God’s glory. When we marvel at Jesus’ pronouncing forgiveness to His executioners, we see God’s glory. When we weep with joy, seeing Jesus rise from the dead, God’s glory reveals itself to us in Him.

The verse in Romans says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Without Jesus, this statement would simply remind us that we are separated from God without any hope of reconciliation. But the verse that follows reminds us that God does not leave us separated. “And all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

The glory of God is demonstrated most perfectly by His love. He would not leave us alone and separated. His glory is beyond words, but expressed perfectly in the life and redemption of Jesus.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Full of Beautiful

The world is full of ugly. Many of you will have read the horrifying and moving story of the abused elephant who, while being rescued from many years of abusive behavior, actually wept. I am heartbroken over the bitterness and hatred that is the constant news headline in places like Gaza and Sudan. The Pope met with victims of Roman Catholic clergy abuse in the same week that highly-acclaimed Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Vines is in the news for whitewashing his role in covering up abuse by one of his protégés.

The world is full of ugly. So full, it makes it hard to notice that the world is also full of beautiful. I cannot ignore the ugly. We need to look at it, acknowledge it, heal it when we can. But we must not allow ourselves to stare too long into it without the Sabbath rest that comes from seeing the beautiful.

Sometimes the beauty is not easy to see, but I see it most in the people that I love, in their smiles, hugs, kindnesses and quirks. In my church family, in my relatives, in colleagues and friends, there I see the beautiful things that make it possible for me to look at the ugly too.

Of course, I could name other beautiful things as well. For some of us, gardens and plants, for others, animals and children. A well-crafted sentence or a lovely song. A memory.

Come to think of it. The world is full of beautiful. If we can allow God’s Spirit to help us see past the ugly and appreciate the beautiful, we will have strength to face the ugly. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to keep our attention “fixed on Jesus.” In Him we see the beauty of God’s love reaching out to us through the ugliness of His crucifixion. The world is full of ugly. Don’t let that prevent you from seeing that the world is also full of beautiful.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Discerning Judgment

“You therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1

We often read or hear people criticizing any attempt to encourage morality by invoking the words of Jesus, “judge not, or you will be judged.” The words of Paul in Romans 2 can also be used in this way. Critics of moral exhortation seem to suggest that we cannot make judgments about other people’s behavior.

It doesn’t take much thinking to understand the fallacy of this argument. It is impossible to live without making judgments. And it is impossible to live well without making moral judgments. I believe Christians should be in the front lines of moral decision making in every place where they have the chance to do so. Of course, we need to encourage the morality of Jesus, not the morality of some group that we like or a tradition that we want to preserve.

And the warnings of Jesus and Paul should always season our judgments. Every Christian judgment should be rendered with the recognition that we have the same monstrous evil in our own hearts that everyone has. If we had been born in Gaza, we would likely be cheering the launching of rockets into Israel too. If you cannot see that in yourself, then you fall under the judgment of Paul in this passage, “because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Our loyalty must be first and only to Jesus. When we get this relationship right, every judgment will be rendered by His Spirit in us. We will make judgments based on humility and righteousness and love, not fear, anger or self-righteousness.

We cannot live without making judgments. We cannot make Christ-like judgments without the humility of Christ. In another of his letters, Paul gives us the key. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:3-5).

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC