The Golden Rule

You heard it growing up. The golden rule. Do onto others as you would have them do to you. I can remember a conversation I had in high school with one particular teacher. We were talking about treating others well and he said, “I just treat other people the way I want to be treated.”

Photo by Tanya Dawn used through flickr creative commons
Photo by Tanya Dawn used through flickr creative commons

Looking back it seems like a pretty good application of the golden rule. Treat others the way you wanted to be treated and over time you’ll get what you desire out of your friends and family.

So where do you think this teaching comes from? I mean really think about, in what context is Jesus saying this?

I would have probably said somewhere right after love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus must have said this in that context.

I had no idea that Jesus talks about this when he spoke about loving your enemies! Yup, right next to give away your clothing and give away your money.

Opps… I think I’ve gotten the whole golden rule thing wrong.

Here it is from Luke 6:27-36:

27 But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

It’s a subtle shift, but a really key one. If Jesus is talking about going above and beyond to people you can’t stand, or put it another way Jesus is saying that we should fulfill the desires and requests of those who mistreat us. Now that is really a scandalous teaching. I don’t mean he says we should fulfill their evil desires, but it seems like we are to respond to evil with good and if any of their desires are redeemable (especially if they ask for things like money or clothes) than yes give that to them.

As usual I think of Jesus’ teachings like a rule book. Has anyone asked for my coat of late? Has anyone asked for money?

Check and check. Okay I’m in the clear.

Instead I should be asking who are the people I am in conflict with? What are they asking of me? What am I unwilling to give?

Let’s go back to the new golden rule for a second. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is more of a promise or an expectation than anything else. The context flips the golden rule for us by talking about our neighbor first. If my neighbor helps defuse conflict with me by giving me what I want and helping me see through their radical act of love and humility that I am just a broken man in need of repentance than I should do the same to my neighbor.

It’s actually a nice pairing with the merciful ruler. If you who owed much are forgiven than you must be radical enough to forgive those you don’t want to forgive. You won’t have a sense of your broken relationship with God and his amazing love for you, unless you too can do something that’s hard. Reconcile yourself with those who are impossible to love. And yet, even if you can’t win your neighbor over through radical love and service you will have shown them something of God and that’s when you can start thinking of yourself as a true child of the Living God.

So, how does this notion of radical love sit with you today? Who is an enemy or unresolved conflict that God is bringing to mind?

May we all be sons and daughters of the Living God,

2 thoughts on “The Golden Rule

  1. Wow! Good, tough teaching Alexei, but yes, I believe that is what Jesus would have us do? It seems consistent with the Beatitudes as well?

    Humility, forgiveness, compassion . . . even when we feel affronted and would prefer fleshly vengeance. Tough indeed, but through Him I can do all things.

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