From the time our youngest son could talk, until he was about 5 or 6 years old, he and I had a ritual that we so enjoyed.
I would look at him and said, Youre a nice boy. He would shoot right back, without hesitating for a single second, Youre a nice man.
He would feel good about himself as a young boy. I would feel good about myself as a parent. It was so tempting to keep repeating our ritual all the time. It took willpower to only do it several times a day.
Then one day Matt put a twist on it, and he really made my day. I declared, Matt! You are a nice boy!
He responded as usual, Youre a nice man.
Then he added, And a nice boy really loves you.
At that moment, I really felt in my soul the impact of the Golden Rule, Do to others as you would have them do to you. Matthew 7:12
As Matt grew up, he and I got caught up in school and sports and life and left that ritual behind, without really realizing it. Like so many things, it just drifted away.
Then just a couple of summers ago, we were watching an old episode of Emergency on the Internet. I bet you remember the show. It was about paramedics, firefighters, and emergency room doctors and nurses.
Emergency was one of my favorite shows as a kid, and good, wholesome stuff for my children to watch.
Anyway, in the episode we were watching, the fire captain risked his life by plunging into a smoke-filled, burning building and rescued an elderly man from certain doom.
After they were safe, the little guy turned to the captain towering over him and declared, Youre a nice man!
Matt and I hooted. It was our favorite line! Not only that, we laughed because the little ol guys response to the captains life-risking heroics seemed so inadequate.
In our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship we combine passages from 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 Peter 2:24 to declare the following:
Hear the good news! The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might be dead to sin, and alive to all that is good.
The Book of Common Worship, using Romans 8:34 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 also declares, Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; a new life has begun.
Any human response to God becoming flesh, telling and showing us how to live, willingly dying for us on a cross, rising, reigning and praying for us seems so inadequate.
Anything in response seems like saying to a firefighter who just saved our lives, Youre a nice man.
What response does the Lord ask for? He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7
Jesus puts it most succinctly, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27.
Let us try our best to live all that out this week. It is never easy. We have to work at it every day, and every minute of every day. Yet, it is the best and most appropriate response to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
And lets not let the Golden Rule, the Micah command or the Great Commandment just drift out of our consciousness as we get caught up in the life around us. Lets just keep working at them.
The Rev. Steve Nofel is co-pastor of Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church.