And now, continuing the thoughts about not condemning and manipulating through judgment and our “helping” them. Exactly how in the world do we go about actually “helping” someone if we can’t, don’t and won’t condemn them and their behaviors, and if we don’t force our will upon them by showing and telling them our more correct ways of living and doing things?
Jesus’ answer to this question is concise, stunningly effective, and infinitely powerful. And all the self help books, counseling sessions, and therapeutic drugs fall far short of the answer Jesus gives us.
Just as “turning the other cheek”, forgiving those who have hurt us, and praying for our enemies radically changes our relationship to others, this too radically changes how we relate to others. It’s another step in the process of learning to live in the kingdom Jesus brings. We need to accept and understand that as long as we condemn our friends and family, or are constantly pushing our “pearls of wisdom” on them, we are their problem. And they will respond to their problem, usually judging us right back, and “biting” or “attacking” us in the process. We remember what we had just read in Matthew 7:6 “”Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
But when we back off, when we give up condemnation, manipulation and seeking our own will in someone else’s life, we are no longer the problem. We don’t judge them, and they aren’t forced to judge and attack us in return. They don’t have to protect themselves from us. And maybe, we can be a potential ally, a resource, a friend and not an enemy. Maybe they can open up. Maybe they can begin to see the situation they have created as the problem instead of you or me. Maybe they can begin to see themselves as the problem. And because we are not trying to force them into a solution of our own creation before we (or they) actually understands the problem, maybe we can actually have real communication and work with one another, not against one another.
And so Jesus gives us his answer to what plagues so much of our interpersonal relationships and our lives in general. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
When we are living in and for the Kingdom of the heavens, we don’t judge, we don’t condemn, and we don’t manipulate. We ask. If we have a friend or loved one in whom we see something that needs to be changed, how often does it work if we just demand the change we seek? How well does it work when we force our will and good intentions upon them? How effective is it to simply point out their shortcomings and tell them all the things we think they need to change? Even if we get our loved one to submit to what we think or know is good and right, very often we know it is like the little boy whose mother hounds him to sit down when he is darting around like little boys do – “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!” And we all know it’s just a matter of time before he’s standing up again, whether his mother likes it or not.
So just as we go before God and ask in prayer for what we need, so we ask our loved ones to change, and are willing to help in any way we can. We ask them to change, and we go in prayer and ask God to help them make the changes that need to be made. One is a natural extension of the other.
We will find that as long as we respect them before God, are thoughtful and considerate, we can keep asking, seeking and knocking on the door of their lives. Jesus’ teaching here is first applied to our dealings and relationship to others, not to God. The heart lies within a man, and the way to the heart is through a simple request, not demanding they make the changes we want or condemning them for not doing so.
“Asking is indeed the great law of the spiritual world through which things are accomplished in cooperation with God and yet in harmony with the freedom and worth of every individual.” – Dallas Willard
“”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:7-11 ESV