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How to Treat Others as you Want to be Treated

In his (tough, but brilliant) book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard describes a "Community of Prayerful Love: How to treat others as you want to be treated."

It's a great vision not only for us as individuals, but for us as a church.  

It's also impossible for us, or for a church to actually live this way. 

Absent the Holy Spirit's help, that is. So as a way of continuing our series on the Holy Spirit, I want to offer Willard's observations.

A "Community of Prayerful Love" behaves in at least three ways:
  • Not condemning or blaming those around us;
  • Not forcing wonderful things upon them; and
  • Asking what we want from them...and from God.
The first part -- not condemning or blaming others - is of course based on Jesus' command in Matthew 7:1-3 not to judge.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Or as the old saying goes, "whenever you point a finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you..."

Willard says that if we (as individuals and as a church) really want to help those close to us, and if we really want to live together with our family and our neighbors in the power of the Kingdom, "we must abandon the deeply rooted human practice of condemning and blaming. We should and we can become the kind of person who does not condemn or blame others." As we do so, God is more available to guide.

Could we, Willard wonders, really negotiate personal relations without letting people know we disapprove of them and find them to be in the wrong? Well, look at what is happening when we condemn others:

First, condemnation is the plank in our eye. "Condemnation, especially with its usual accompaniments of anger and contempt and self-righteousness, blinds us to the reality of the other person," Willard writes.

It's important to note that giving up condemnation is not the same thing as giving up "judging" in the sense of separating, making a distinction between, or appraising, as a dentist or doctor does. We still distinguish and discern, we still hold people responsible, and we still even discuss their failures with them and hold them accountable. But with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we do this "without attacking their worth as human beings or marking them as rejects."

It's true, Willard says, that "some people, so desperate for approval, with little or no sense of themselves as spiritual beings, or their place in a good world of God, regard any negative appraisal of what they do as condemnation of themselves as persons. 'I am my actions,' they say, 'how can you say you disapprove of my actions but love me?' This can be a manipulative device to get you to approve everything I do."

But what we need to realize is that "what we are actually doing with our proper condemnations and our wonderful solutions, more often than not, is taking others out of their own responsibility and out of God's hands and trying to bring them under our control." (p. 230) 

Willard's most brilliant observation is this: "As long as we are condemning others, I am their problem. They have to respond to me, and that usually leads to their judging me right back. But once I back away, maintaining a sensitive and nonmanipulative presence, I am no longer their problem. ...As I listen, they do not have to protect themselves from me, and they begin to open up. I may even appear to them as a possible ally and resource. Now they begin to sense their problem to be [not me] but the situation they have created, or possibly themselves. Because I am no longer trying to drive them, genuine communication, real sharing of hearts," becomes possible.

And then -- through the power of the Holy Spirit -- God's Kingdom can come, and God's will can be done, in and through us.   

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