Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Consideration

Today in chapel at TBS we talked about 'consideration'. The Oxford Dictionary defines ''consideration' as thoughtfulness and sensitivity to others, and as a word it is found in some interesting places in the New Testament (TNIV). For instance it occurs in Titus 3:2 where Christians are told how to conduct themselves in the church. It is part of 'wisdom from heaven' in James 3:17 and mentioned as a characteristic of a 'good master' in 1 Peter 2:18. The Greek word which is translated 'considerate' in the preceding passages (in the TNIV) is translated 'gentle or gentleness/reasonableness' in the TNIV and ESV in 1 Timothy 3:3 when Paul is describing church leaders and in Philippians 4:5 when he is challenging the church to have a faithful testimony in difficult circumstances.

However the text that carries the theological freight, even though the word 'consideration' is not used, is Matthew 7:12 "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Theologically the verse is important because it brackets Jesus' exposition of himself as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (cf. Matthew 5:12-7:12). Jesus says that this 'golden rule' sums up the entire Old Testament revelation. However, it is important to understand that the basic concept articulated by Jesus did not originate with him. Confucius, Tobit 4:15, Stoics and Rabbi Hillel are all on record as saying something similar before Jesus came along. Nevertheless Jesus gives the 'golden rule' his own twist. He does so by stating positively what everyone else states negatively, and by so doing he vastly expands its depth and reach. He tells us that we are to positively do to others what we would like them to do to us, not merely refrain from doing to them what we don't want them to do to us! This makes all the difference in the world!

Consideration, or the practice of the 'golden rule', applies to all human relationships. It involves respect for the feelings of others as well as for their time, their strengths and weaknesses. If we are going to live like this we must humble ourselves, contemplate the image of God in others and look to the example of Jesus and others like Timothy who distinguished himself by his genuine concern for others (Philippians 2:20). Consideration goes a long way! It is one of those things that makes human interaction sweet even among redeemed people. It brings a little of heaven to earth!

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