When I was a boy, I used to fight with my younger brother over who would get the biggest piece of cake or pie. This used to annoy my parents and then one day during one of these squabbles my father, in his wisdom, said to me… “You cut the cake in half, but your brother gets to have the first pick!” I remember the stunned silence as I realised that I would never again get the biggest piece, but that my only chance of parity was to cut the cake in two exact halves. So, with much approximation and a steady hand I proceeded to cut so that I had the best chance of getting the full measure. For as Luke 6:38 says, “the measure you give is the measure you get!”
My father knew me. He knew my propensity to want to receive my fair share. He also knew that I was mathematical and calculating and motivated by food! My brother had the easy part – he just had to choose first – but I knew that if wanted to get a fair return I had to be fair in the first place. The problem is, that to be fair towards others you must put some of our natural human tendencies to the side. So, when Jesus says, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you, pray for those who mistreat you’ (Luke 6:27-28), it runs contrary to our natural inclination to protect our interest and look after ourselves first.
In recent times there has been a phrase coined that says to, ‘pay things forward’. This term simply means, rather than ‘pay back’ people for things have hurt you – do good deeds for others, with the only expectation that they would do the same for others. Sounds like a good theory and many of us have been blessed by the good deeds of others. But when Jesus says do good to others, it’s because God has done good for us. Jesus says, love your enemies because in our fallen state, we act as enemies to God and God still loves us; so, in response to God’s love for us – love everyone without prejudice. Do good to others, because God has done good for us – he has continued to offer blessing to humanity when all we could do was curse him.
What Jesus said was a radical way of living and many found it too hard. Our natural tendency is to give back what we received – to fight fire with fire. But Jesus’ way was to do the opposite. Instead of anger choose kindness and prayer – instead of retribution choose mercy and love. This is the measure that God has given to us. We deserve judgement and condemnation but receive forgiveness and grace.
So, how do you measure up? I know that I sometimes forget that, without the love, compassion and grace of God, I am miserable sinner – I demand what I think I deserve – I still want my fair share. But when I stop and reflect on that Jesus has done – all that the Holy Spirit is doing in my life and all that God has promise in the future; I am reminded that Jesus example is the only way that leads to life and I will get my just reward in God’s time and God’s measure.