“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets."
-Jesus, Matthew 7:12
It was one of the best Christmas present ideas that I've ever had. In fact, given my track record, months later I was fairly certain that it wasn't even my idea, but my wife told me that indeed it was (picture me patting myself on the back right now in a truly satisfied way).
We do these things called "gifts of love," a tradition my parents started when I was young. Because of the nature of these "experience gifts", they often don't happen for many months after Christmas. This one took until mid-summer.
My daughter is obsessed with all things feline. So I decided to take her to a "Cat Cafe" for our gift this year. Let me explain.
It's a cafe.
But there are cats there.
That's really it. Honestly, it's a pretty simple concept. You can drink coffee or tea or cider, and it's..... with cats. So many of them.
If you've heard of Goat Yoga, the concept is really similar. But it's cats. And coffee. With a side of cat hair.
Now, we do have a single cat at home. And Ted and I have a solid relationship. But this was a little different. There were a dozen here. It was a lot to take in.
Just between you and me (do NOT share this with my daughter), I could have lived 90 years without this experience and not really missed out on the good life. I never would have put this on my list if Bethany asked me what I wanted for Christmas (it's running shoes, honey. It's always running shoes).
But my daughter loved the cat cafe.
And because she did, I did too. And that was beautiful.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 7 are often called the Golden Rule. It's a powerful statement, intended to help us treat every person with love, respect and dignity. Treat others in a way that you would want to be treated. That's a timelessly appropriate teaching. And if we hear it right, it will lead us to a thoughtful, intentional spirit.
Interestingly, as that spirit is formed in us, we will find that in order to treat others in the way that we'd like to be treated, our specific actions toward them may look quite different. Since the love that Jesus embodies is truly other-oriented, we will always be asking what love looks like to the one receiving it.
This makes it harder on us, honestly. We are now responsible to not simply think of what we'd prefer in any given situation, but to do the work of being curious about another, and understanding them enough to know what would feel like love to them.
What does love look like to my friend/kid/spouse/coworker? How can I make them feel valued and cared for?
It may lead you into a cat cafe! Or to a tea shop with a friend, even though coffee is what you really love. Or, you may be the type that needs to talk out your problems. But to your friend, love might look like you simply being present with them. Loving words from your spouse might make you feel amazing- but the thing that makes them feel loved the most is you cleaning the kitchen. So the Jesus way becomes learning and expressing love in ways that are sensitive to another's unique wiring.
When we work hard to make sure that each person is seen, heard, and valued in a way that communicates love to them, we take a step toward the Jesus way of life. And the beautiful thing is that God has made us for this. When we step into little moments of other-oriented love- even the cat hair left behind on our clothes can be a source of joy with Jesus. Because making others feel loved is just the best.
So here's today's challenge: Imagine what loving care looks like to those around you, and consider what actions can make them feel as valuable as they are in God's eyes.
Jesus, help me see each person as uniquely worthy of love today.