“Therefore”: what’s it there for?

I’ve been reading and rereading Matthew 7, and I feel like I’m putting together a puzzle that looks perfect–but I find there’s one piece still sitting on the table, unused. There’s another side to this puzzle, a perspective I fear I’ve neglected.

I love verses 7 and 8. Ask…seek…knock. Just put yourself out there. God longs to answer our questions, give us wisdom, open the door to righteousness. Don’t worry about figuring it out myself. Instead, just continually put my questions and my longings out there for my Father to respond to. He loves me so much and will never leave me without answers. In my confusion, He is there. In fear, doubt, anguish, or need, He is there.

He’s a good Father.

Verses 9 through 11 just get better. You know how you are such a good and loving parent? Well, if you think you’re great, just imagine how fabulous God is. Nothing we do as earthly parents can compare to the good He does for his kids. So far, so good. This vertical relationship is so beautiful, and my heart overflows with peace and love. It’s so easy to bask in this part of the puzzle. I am cared for and all my needs are met when I reach out to God in adoration and expectation.

“In everything, therefore….” Wait, what’s the “therefore” there for?

Yes, there’s another part to the story. Just like the cross, with its long vertical piece, there’s a horizontal piece. The piece that links me to my fellow man, the piece that is my responsibility, mine alone–to connect with other human beings and to be the hands and feet of my Creator.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you….” It’s easy to almost get spiritual whiplash the way Matthew yanks me back to earth.

Because He answers, gives, and opens; because He “gives good gifts”; because my vertical relationship with the living God is one of overflowing supply, I must “in everything” treat others the way I want to be treated. I must ascribe tremendous value to the horizontal.  My actions and reactions, therefore, must be godly. How can I possibly receive the beautiful goodness of my Father and then treat others with less than holy love? It would be hypocrisy of the highest level to joyfully receive His pure goodness and then dole out anything other than kindness, compassion, and harmony. He gives and I must give in return.

I don’t ever have a day where I think, “I should just be a pompous jerk today. I should mistreat people on the street, and take my loved ones for granted. I should ignore my children when they call, and be negligent toward my husband.” That, however, doesn’t stop me from behaving badly on far too many occasions. My focus is too inward, too concerned with my own needs, wants, laments…too quick to ask for God’s help without likewise looking for areas where I can horizontally reflect His goodness.

“In everything, therefore….”

So that’s what it’s there for: as a bold reminder that it’s not all about me and my needs. That I am Jesus to someone in my world, whether through a huge intentional effort or a simple smile on a hard day. The puzzle isn’t so hard to see clearly when I put the horizontal piece in.

It’s what it’s there for.

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