Christianity’s Neglected Horizontal Arm

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

The word “therefore” in Jesus’ familiar “Golden Rule” verse is very significant. It lets us know that this verse does not stand on its own, in isolation, but points us back to something to which it is related.  When you read back, you find that Jesus has just been speaking of our requests to God: “Ask, and it shall be given to you …” (:7) and “your Father who is in heaven (will) give what is good to those who ask Him.” (:11).  So the “therefore” links together two aspects of Christianity that God’s people sometimes erroneously separate.

In the important context of asking God our requests, Jesus says: “THEREFORE” treat others the way that you want them to treat you.  In other words, He is saying  because you want God to give YOU what is good,  you should also make sure that YOU are rightly related to others too, and that you are also giving THEM what is good.

This is a needed reminder for many of God’s people that our Christianity is NOT merely a “vertical” thing: “just me and God.”  Our walk with the Lord is also intrinsically intertwined with our human relationships as well.  Thus our relationships with other people matter to God. How we treat those around us is of concern to Him (see how much the prophets of the Old Testament had to say about our duty to the poor, our business ethics, etc.).  We need to realize that our prayers to God can be hindered by what we do or do not do to/for other people.  Jesus’ “therefore” here means it is all connected — a surprising “horizontal element” to Christianity that more of God’s people need to pay attention to!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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