There’s Gold in Them There Hills…
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12 (NRSV)
Alchemists for centuries have been looking for ways to “make gold”. This idea is one of mythology… of having the ability to take some common, plentiful element and to make it rare and precious… to make it gold!
And this of course is why this simple little verse that Jesus offers in His sermon has become so powerful, it has the ability to take something that should be common and make it Gold. I say should be common because we are living in an age where civility and good manners are becoming less and less common while self-serving and self-indulgent behaviors more and more the rule. But I digress…
Most of us have stories where we have seen this “Golden Rule” lived out in our lives. For me, the most poignant were times during my first pastorate in Canaan, Indiana. Canaan is a small village in SE Indiana. Debbie and I lived there while I served as pastor of Indian-Kentuck Church – the second oldest Baptist church in Indiana. I served there just a little over 2 ½ years and during that time I saw several incidents of this being lived out in the lives of my people.
On at least two occasions I saw the community rally to the aid of individuals in the community who were in crisis and needed help to harvest their crop. Now the cash crop there at that time was tobacco, and it had to be cut and hung in the barns during late summer/early fall to cure. In one case, a horrible auto accident that left a member of the family in ICU for weeks and in another a heart attack threatened to leave the crops in the field of community members. In one case, the family was a long-time resident of the area with lots of extended family, but in the other it was a newcomer that the community came together to help, cutting the tobacco and hanging it in their barns. The turnout to help was amazing in both cases.
Then another timer, the community came together to put a roof on the house of a family who might have lost the house if it didn’t get completed by a certain time. The house was being purchased “contract for deed” that required a number of improvements in order for them to own the house. The last item was the roof, but when the man fell off the house while trying to roof it and complete the contract, he was in danger of losing the house and all that he had invested in it. The person who held the contract was actually the one who organized and led the two to three days of work to complete the job. People came in the evening after their work-day to strip off the old metal roof, resheath it in plywood and put down a new asphalt shingle roof on this older home.
In all of these cases, the actions turned to gold for the recipient: to literal cash in their pockets. But the greater gold was found in the community. What a great place to live, a place where you are treated like family whether you are a new-comer or a longtime resident. And it was all based on the simple principle, the rule behind all the laws, rules and regulations that the Hebrews were supposed to live by: to treat others as you want to be treated!
It seems then that whether a person is documented or undocumented (legal or illegal), whether they are straight or gay or profess some other form of sexuality, whether they are old as the hills or wringing wet behind the ears, we should know how to treat them. And for some reason, we have forgotten. Instead of treating them with love and respect…treating them as gold… we treat them as if they were common, ordinary clumps of dirt. And maybe they are… but here in the west, we above all others should know that there’s gold in them there hills!
Prayer: Lord, let me see the worth of every person I encounter and treat them as lovingly and as carefully as I wish to be treated myself. Guide not only my actions towards them, but my thoughts and words about them. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran