Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.
Today’s reading, when viewed alongside the readings for the next two days, is the beginning of a road map. It begins an itinerary that will lead us through the highways and byways of the Christian way of living with and for others.
At first glance it seems a simple instruction to follow: ‘Be nice to people because you would like them to be nice to you.’ But … is it really that simple?
What do we mean when we think of people being ‘nice’ to each other?
We know that we are all individuals with likes and dislikes, preferences and revulsions. Surely, these very human qualities present us with the first stumbling block to mutual and universal ‘niceness’! Even at this superficial level we catch a glimpse of the effort that might be involved in carrying out Jesus’ instruction. It is no good thinking of what we might be happy with and then passing it on to others. We need to develop a sensitivity to the likes and dislikes of those others, and then plan how we might adapt our preferences in order that those others might experience the same level of delight as we do. Even at this stage there is work involved.
Another issue that could give rise to problems as we strive to do to others as you would have them do to you lies in our ability, or inability, to love ourselves.
Over the last year there has been much talk of the mental issues resulting from lockdowns, isolation and sheltering. A symptom of these mental issues has been a growing sense of self-pity, even self-loathing. If we have fallen into that trap we could easily find ourselves struggling to do good for others because we are struggling to remember what it is like to feel ‘good’ ourselves.
Of course, these are just potential problems when it comes to putting Jesus’ words into action. There are so many other negative human traits that might get in the way: greed, anger, apathy … Sadly, the list can go on and on.
But … today’s reading opens with the key which will unlock the door and level the rocky terrain for us. Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Jesus makes it clear that if you want to know the true joy of living in mutual Christian fellowship you just have to ask, or search, or knock. The full joy of Christian love and fellowship, for ourselves as well as for others, is available to all … you just have to really want it. You have to take your need, and your inadequacy, to God in prayer. Then you have to work in the way he directs you. Then you can experience the profound joy of doing and receiving according to God’s divine model of love and service to all.