You know the “Golden Rule” where Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.”1 Perhaps this can be taken to mean: “Treat others as you’d want to be treated.” This is certainly a noble principle that applies to the way we relate toward others. However, growing from knowledge into wisdom sometimes bears a blending of sound principles; like this popular principle, and joining it with another principle. Here’s an example.
An old Native American proverb goes something like this: “Don’t judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”2 That’s literally hard to do, but this paraphrase makes it easier: “One can better understand another when mindfully putting one’s self in the other’s place.” However, at first glance, this principle seems to go counter to the Golden Rule’s admonition to “Treat others like you’d want to be treated.”
Why? Because treating others as you would want to be treated could assume that others, in fact, want to be treated as you would want to be treated. So what if someone might not wish to be treated as you would want to be treated? Wouldn’t it be better if the other person’s needs or desires were better understood before treating them with your good intentions? At times the blending of these two principles (the Golden Rule and the Moccasin Proverb) may add an expanded wisdom providing a likely better outcome. Hence, I am introducing here the “Golden Moccasin” principle!
If I were in your shoes
The Apostle Paul was very busy trying to build God’s Church. In 1 Cor. 3:10 he stated, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” He is telling those who intend to build upon that foundation to be careful not to hurt the integrity of the precious project. He even goes on to say in 2 Cor. 13:10: “For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.” Paul seems to be admitting that by certain behavior, one might be capable of tearing down the precious project of building up the body of Christ, even if done with good intentions.
Today, Seventh-day Adventist church families everywhere are full of well-meaning members who only wish to be builders of the body of Christ, who would not intentionally tear down. I would even venture to say that well-meaning, but possibly mistaken, attempts at building God’s church by particular acts or deeds could result in an opposite result rather than building up. So, sadly, inadvertent “tearing down” could occur in spite of good intentions, right?
To me, a Golden Moccasins application looks like this: After mindfully placing myself in the place of someone else, I should treat that person in a manner that I would wish to be treated, if I were in their same situation. Following are just three practical illustrations toward building the Body of Christ applying the Golden Moccasins principle.
Golden Moccasins for YOUNG PARENTS
As a pastor’s wife, I recall witnessing this pattern over and over: For some reason, many inactive or disengaged Adventist young couples, when they become new parents, attempt a return to church, seemingly trying to bring their youngsters (even newborns) to a church experience, and especially to children’s Sabbath school. Perhaps it is the nostalgia of their own childhood memories, or a sincere desire to bring their offspring up with God’s blessing. Alas, for the lack of a mother’s room, or no engaging children’s Sabbath School program, these young parents did not return, or any further attempts would become short-lived.
Why, you may ask? For starters, typical reasons often included (a) Fussy babies in church get frowns and stares from annoyed (but well-meaning) members who wonder why someone isn’t taking that crying baby or noisy toddler outside so the inspirational atmosphere of worship would not be tainted, (b) Due to fussy toddlers who spill treats and are bored with the bag of church toys; Mom can’t get a blessing, and Dad is embarrassed in the pew, (c) It’s exhausting for parents, and the loneliness of being the only family with rowdy little ones is disheartening.
What would be a Golden Moccasins solution? Young parents desperately need support, and the most welcomed support would be from other young parents. One church I attended had three couples in Cradle Roll (Beginners), and two years later had many more couples who made the Cradle Roll and Kindergarten divisions explode with attendance, during which time some of these parents met in their own study group. The reason is this: These couples totally “got” each other’s situation, and they craved the fellowship and support of other young parents. They ended up forming their own additional activities like a Monday noon Mommy Bible Study while taking turns with childcare, along with Sabbath afternoon summer picnics occurring at a park near the playground so the dads could visit with other dads, and Moms could relax with friendly women-chatter. Sadly, this same growing bunch of young parents and their offspring continued to faithfully attend the Sabbath School, but afterwards usually left without attending the worship hour—probably because of frustrating not-child-friendly pew experiences, while avoiding the mother’s room option.
I would suggest after considering young parents’ viewpoint, that a rigorous re-prioritizing (by corrective initiatives) of a quality experience for young families at your church would help to build up the body of Christ. I’m confident you’d want to have that “done unto you” or done unto your loved ones, too!
Golden Moccasins for SINGLES
Imagine that you are a single adult of any age returning to your church after an absence (you are now applying the Moccasin principle!). If you really are imagining this, you could guess that absence from church might have been due to a lack of desire or habit, or normal insecurities that singles sometimes feel, or the loneliness of sitting alone, or being “invisible” in a crowd, real or imagined questions about a reason for the absence, or even about “singleness,” or perhaps returning home after church feeling more lonely than before.
It is easy to believe that most of the young adults who are “missing” from our churches are single or married to unbelievers (who may experience the same feelings of singleness while attending alone at church). Studies show that church retention solutions center around “belonging.” In spite of well-meaning observers who tout that churches should be like heaven-on-earth where all ages, genders, races, social and economic status, etc. should all be knit together in Christ, the fact remains that our human nature still tends to gravitate toward others who are more like us. Belongingness is predictable “glue” for membership retention. Just like Adam, when he looked around God’s glorious creation, appreciated God’s recognition that man should not be alone (without someone he could identify with and relate to).3
It is also easy to assume that singles would enjoy the fellowship of other singles. It is the nature of singles to actively socialize, and the church could be the perfect venue to gather encouragement and fellowship from fellow single believers after a work week apart from other Adventists. Appreciating their feelings, we could “do unto others” by being assertive in our recruitment of young adults (inactive or active) to events where they could be brought together with other young adults and introduced to form bonding fellowship opportunities. Practical examples could be Friday evening music or study groups, or planned Sabbath afternoon meet-and eat activities like at the park, someone’s home, bike riding, witnessing, etc. These outside-of-church gatherings could form the nucleus of a Sabbath School class, and faithful worship support. Once bonds have been established, they may even prefer to take all future planning tasks upon themselves! We are thankful that our two young adult daughters are active Adventists, and we have witnessed that one significant reason is because of social bonding with other young adults at church.
Golden Moccasins for Guests, Intermittent and Other Attendees
A very underrated, yet powerful way to build up the body of Christ is through the influence of the Intentional Greeter. To illustrate, while intentionally applying the Golden Moccasin principle, please match each of the following questions with one of the answers below:
(1) If you were a single senior female adult, which answer could offer the most comfortable and effective greeter’s welcome for you, providing a hope of belonging? _____
(2) If you were a family with school-aged children, which answer could offer the most comfortable and effective greeter’s welcome for you, providing a hope of belonging? _____
(3) If you were a single adult female, which answer could offer the most comfortable and effective greeter’s welcome for you, providing a hope of belonging? _____
(4) If you were a single senior male, which answer could offer the most comfortable and effective greeter’s welcome for you, providing a hope of belonging? _____
(5) If you were a professional, which answer could offer the most comfortable and effective greeter’s welcome for you, providing a hope of belonging? _____
(6) If you were a senior female, which answer could offer the most comfortable and effective greeter’s welcome for you, providing a hope of belonging? _____
CHOOSE AN ANSWER
- Two children from the Junior Department, who scurry to meet you with a bulletin and a smile.
- One Senior male, who quietly extends a warm handshake squeeze with a friendly twinkle in his eye.
- One Senior female, who embraces you with a gentle exclamation of pleasure to see you.
- A young adult couple, offering eye contact and generous smiles while asking friendly questions.
- A middle-aged professional-looking man or woman waving you over wanting to get better acquainted.
- A friendly-looking young adult female with a healthy curiosity in her wave as she greets you.
Any miss-match could risk missing the target goal of each one who is entering church: to be met with that comforting feeling of belonging. Without proper matching, the safest form of greeting may need to be somewhat sterile and formal, in order to avoid any uncomfortable intimacy or awkward attempts to appear genuine. By the way, there’s absolutely no rule that says that greeting needs to only take place at the entrance of the church. Intentional greeting could occur at anytime and anyplace during the gathering time, beginning in the parking lot all the way through potluck!
Building up the body of Christ is worthy of a strategic soul-keeping marketing concept4 that targets people for God’s kingdom. Recruiting and retaining the body of Christ is a noble venture as members of this special body. Of course, it may not be convenient to respond to solutions like the one mentioned above that suggests we carefully target church-goers with carefully planned greeters to fit the Golden Moccasins principle. But if excuses like keeping the same greeting plan “because we’ve always done it that way” are entertained, then please consider the adage suggesting that doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results, is not a very wise idea – or something to that effect!
When applying the “Golden Moccasins” principle,” I’m quite sure your experiences can relate to many more creative ideas when considering how we can “do unto” the body of Christ with our very best action plan when we “better understand another when mindfully putting one’s self in the other’s place.” As Paul so eloquently summarized, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.” 1 Cor. 10:23 (ESV)
Throughout the fabric of the life of Lucy Cisneros—family, ministry, academics, music, employment, volunteerism, hobbies—run golden threads weaving a personal portrait of her love and passionate devotion to her God.
2The International thesaurus of quotations, p. 331. (Reference from Mead Public Library.) RQ, Winter 1974, p. 150
3Genesis 2:20, 21
4The marketing concept is the philosophy that organizations should analyze the needs of their prospects and then make decisions to satisfy those needs, better than the competition.