Maya Dillard Smith, interim director of the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, resigned recently over that group’s stance on who could use the women’s bathroom.
She is the mother of young daughters who have experienced firsthand the trauma of men barging into the girl’s bathrooms. Mrs. Smith thought the position to be a bridge too far. She was fine promoting the ACLU’s many progressive battles until they finally picked a battle that stepped on her toes.
One recalls stories of a preacher of the gospel who preached for many years on the biblical stance on marriage and divorce, upholding the words of Jesus in Matthew 19 that it was a sin to divorce and remarry, except in cases of adultery. Then his own child divorced and remarried and then, suddenly, his views on the subject became more “modern.” He was fine supporting the position until it stepped on his familial toes. And then he wasn’t.
There’s an old saying, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. That is, what’s good for one person is good for another. The way you want others treated is a fair way to treat you and you should not seek to apply a standard to others that you don’t want to live up to yourself.
Jesus said something very similar. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3; NKJV)
This is not, as some presuppose, a blanket condemnation of all judgment at all times. Elsewhere Jesus also said, “judge with a righteous judgment,” (John 7:24) and in the same context as Matthew 7:1, Jesus tells His followers not to cast their pearls before swine, a definite command requiring a judgment of character (cf. Matthew 7:6)
What Jesus was meaning was that one should not seek to apply standards to other people that one is unable to, or unwilling to, live up to. If you’re going to make it a habit of stepping on other people’s toes, make sure you are willing to step on your own. If you are going to encourage others to have high standards, be willing to have them yourself.
Jesus would, in a similar vein, criticize the scribes and the Pharisees for not being willing to live according to the standards they expected of others. He would say, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:2-4; NKJV) It was because of such behavior that Jesus judged them, and denounced them, for being hypocrites
We might notice that Jesus did not expect His followers to live down to their lowest expectations of others. Quite the contrary. Note that Jesus did not tell His disciples to learn to be content with their planks and specks, He expected them to progress to a place where they would be able to remove specks from eyes. Likewise, He did not criticize the Pharisees and the Scribes for what they were teaching; He told the people to make sure and obey Moses’ Law when it was taught. Rather, Jesus wanted people to be willing to apply standards to themselves before applying them to others.
God does not have double standards. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. He applies the same standards of high moral conduct to all men, and expects men to do the same. (cf. Acts 10:34-35, 17:30) There is not one standard for preachers and another for non-preachers. There is not one standard for believers and another for non-believers. There is not one standard for people related to us, and another standard for those who aren’t. God judges all men equally.
Our duty as the Creation is to learn the standards of God and then apply them to ourselves, and to others, regardless of how they step on our toes. Or maybe, especially when they step on our own toes.
If you would like to learn what standards God expects of us, the church of Christ invites you to come study and worship with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.