The Gospel St. Luke 6.36
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
The Golden Rule. How many of us know it by heart, and can repeat it accurately? I’ll bet that many of us will occasionally get it wrong and say, “Do unto others as they do unto you”; as if the Golden Rule were some variation on the old “eye for an eye” tenet from the Old Testament. No, the Golden Rule actually says, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. In other words, treat others not as they have treated you, but as YOU would want to be treated by them. Quite a difference, wouldn’t you say?
But even if we do know the proper interpretation of the Golden Rule, how many of us also realize the extent of that responsibility? “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. Think about all the interactions that you have with people on any given day or week. How often have we been moved to impatience or annoyance? How many times have we ignored someone because we consider them to be foolish or irritating; or worse, somehow “beneath” our social status? Is this how WE would want to be treated? Would WE want to be dismissed, ignored, or treated rudely?
Well, of course we wouldn’t. But we sometimes fall into such behavior nonetheless. And when we do, we are not just failing to follow the Golden Rule, but we are also neglecting our larger responsibility as Christians; to teach others about what it means to be a Christian. The disciple is not above his master.
OK, it might seem odd that I picked that particular line from today’s Gospel at this particular point. You might ask, “is he saying that I’m supposed to believe that all of these people who annoy and irritate me every day are disciples; and further that I am their master”? Well, in a way, that is exactly what I’m saying.
As Christians, our responsibility lies not only in our duty to come to Mass every week, but also to live our daily lives as true followers of Christ. (Matthew, 7, v 20) “Wherefore, by their fruits, ye shall know them”. In other words, we cannot claim to be Christians simply by showing someone our Baptismal certificates or by having a magnetic crucifix attached to the dashboard of our cars. No, our Faith, our Christianity, must always be on display in the way we think, in the way we act, and in the way we speak. We must all be ready examples to the world around us. We must all be teachers.
Now I’m not talking about being a teacher in the traditional mode that many of us are familiar with, though this parish has had more than a few examples of those who have taken up that honorable profession; These people represent the traditional definition of a “teacher”; ”a person whose occupation is teaching others”. But the type of teacher that I am referring to, the type that we all must be, is better described by another definition; “a personified concept that teaches”.
Do any of you recall the TV commercial that depicted someone doing some small but good deed for another person; be it stopping someone from walking out into traffic, or simply picking up and returning an important article that another has dropped. And in the commercial the process continued full circle, until everyone involved had been inspired by and benefited from the generosity of another.
“a personified concept that teaches”. An impression or perception that comes to life and educates, instructs, and edifies. In other words, we teach by how we live. We teach if we show the love of Christ to all those with whom we meet. We teach if we demonstrate our Faith in our actions and deeds. We teach if others see us as a caring, charitable, thoughtful, and loving people. We have truly taught, if those who witness our actions likewise begin to emulate those actions. We have truly taught if others are moved to seek God as a result.
But we cannot truly teach if we have not first become strong in our own Faith. If having Faith means to us simply showing up on Sunday and writing the occasional check to the Church, and little else, then we are in serious trouble. We are violating the command we receive from the Apostle James; “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
If we think that mere weekly attendance at Mass is all we need do to prove our Faith, then we have closed our eyes to the Truth. If we think that simply making our tithes to the Church fulfills our obligation as Christians, then we have not seen or understood the message of the Gospel. If we think that we have no responsibility to be teachers to those who annoy us, to those who irritate us, to those who infuriate us, then we have blinded ourselves. If we think that we need not care for, never mind associate with, those whom we think are of “lower status” than us, then we have truly lost our sight. We can never be teachers of the Word. For, as Christ says, “Can the blind lead the blind“?
This is where things become perilous for us. Shall they not both fall into the ditch? We may be tempted to think that each of us is responsible only for our own Faith, and to a certain extent, that is true. But that does not mean that we have no responsibility to others or for their Faith. More to the point, we are liable, in certain circumstances, for the Faith of others. I have heard people say, “I don’t want to become a Christian and start acting like THEM”! “Wherefore, by their fruits, ye shall know them” (Matthew, 7, v 20). By our fruits, by our actions, how are we known? How are we teaching?
“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. We here in this Church have been given a multitude of gifts; the gift of the Gospel; The gift of the Sacraments; The gift of the writings and witness of the Fathers of the Church; The Gift of our Anglican Catholic history and patrimony; The gift of the lives of the Saints. All passed on to us by those who have personified the concepts that they taught. It is now time for us to accept our responsibility to likewise become the teachers; to do unto others, as has been done for us.
Like it or not, we are all of us teachers. We accepted that responsibility the moment we became members of God’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Aside from committing apostasy and declaring that we are no longer Christians, we cannot escape that commitment. Our challenge now is to become so strong in our Faith that no one can question that commitment. Indeed, if we are to fulfill that commitment, if we are to accept the responsibility to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only”, then we must also become masters of that Faith. We must become like one of the dictionary definitions of a master; “a highly regarded teacher or leader whose religion or philosophy is accepted by followers”.
We become masters of the Faith when we begin to treat others with all love and charity. We become masters of the Faith when we live our daily lives full of the joy that comes with the knowledge of Christ’s Sacrifice and for the Salvation that it brings. We become highly regarded teachers of the Faith when others see in us the embodiment of the Christian life and seek to emulate it themselves. We become masters when others are edified by our witness and example. We become masters when others achieve that state of joy and love that comes with the realization that God so loved the world that he gave His only Begotten Son.
We become teachers not only when our own Faith matches the Faith of those who have gone before us, but also when the Faith of those with whom we meet, and who learn from us, equals our own; because The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.