There are tons of instructions in the Bible that apply in different situations but wouldn’t be great to do in other situations. But when Jesus reached the point in the Great Sermon on the Mount to give what we know as the Golden Rule He made it absolutely clear this was a command that related to all times and all situations with all people. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” While similar statements have been found in other places, including the Book of Proverbs and other religious writings, they tended toward the negative side of it of not doing to anyone else what I wouldn’t want them to do to me. But Jesus carried the point much further when he spoke, not of not doing, but of the positive side, to actually do the things that one would want done to them to others.
What if we actually carried out this command and took it very personally? How many Facebook posts would need to be taken down? How many books that have been written to attack another person, would have to be destroyed? How many sermons that have been preached to attack the beliefs of another would need to be unpreached? How many editorials that have been written about someone to try and destroy their reputation or simply to make them out as someone who can’t be trusted would have to be removed from the papers and magazines that have carried them? In reality, how many magazines would have to be completely put out of business or entirely change their business plan to remain in business? How many programs on radio and TV would suddenly be removed from the airwaves if they were to even try to obey what Jesus taught in this verse? The truth is, it would make a massive change in life as a whole. But a deeper question is, how would it change your life and mine if we really obeyed what Jesus taught in this verse? It is easy to go after the media or public figures about their failure to follow the Golden Rule, but I’m not certain that they do any worse at it than the rest of of us. To get even more personal, how much better do those of us who claim to follow Jesus in life do in following his teaching on this matter than those who do not even claim to follow Him?
Let me suggest for all of us that we start a personal campaign to fully engage in doing to others what we would have them do to us, in particular realms of life for a start and then build from there. For example, suppose I make up my mind right now that in my relationship with my family, in my home that I be completely obedient to the Lord’s teaching on the matter. If you didn’t tell anyone what you were doing and simply made the change in your dealings with your husband or wife and with your children, how long do you think it would take for them to notice a difference? It always makes more sense to start in a small circle and then build from there to take the same principle to my life at work or with the people I get together with regularly. Perhaps take it to church with me so that with fellow church members I determine to treat them exactly like I would like to be treated by them. If we kept on expanding the circle until we actually reached the stage we treated those who were from a different political party or beliefs from me as I would like to be treated by them, what an amazing difference it would make in society as a whole.
In some areas, I suspect this wouldn’t go as I might immediately think. Treating others as we want to be treated wouldn’t mean we were never corrected on anything. I don’t want to go through life mistaken on particular issues with no one having the courage to help me rethink and change my mind about it. Disagreeing with others is normal as long as we are both thinking people. What the Golden Rule does it affect the way I disagree with others. It changes us from put-downs and sarcastic remarks to kind, considerate and loving statements to the people I encounter. Just think if we followed this teaching when we are driving on the interstate or when we are in line at Walmart, it could be a massive difference for all.
But notice, Jesus didn’t end with the simple command to treat others as I want to be treated. He then said, “for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Look at the Ten Commandments God gave as the center of the Law to Israel. The first four relate to one’s relationship with God. We are to have no other gods before him, not to make or bow down to any images we make, not to take his name in vain and to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. But the other six commands all relate to how we treat each other. We aren’t to murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet and we are to honor our father and mother. The remainder of the law and the prophets expanded on these laws and applied them to different challenges and situations faced by the people. Jesus said, it was all summed up in following the Golden Rule to do to others as we would have them do to us.
Now it is true that this isn’t the only time that Jesus said that some command summed up the law and the prophets. When he gave the greatest command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as our self, he said about it that it summed up the law and the prophets. In Romans 13 Paul said love fulfills the law and the prophets. But the point that stands out is this, God gave all the many commands of the old Law and the Prophets to try to get us to treat each other with love, kindness and respect, to treat them like we would like to be treated. Now that wasn’t the only purpose of the law or prophets, but the point is that was the heart of the message.
“O God, our Father in Heaven, treating others as we would like to be treated is a huge challenge. Please guide us, help us and open our eyes to how our own words and actions affect others, especially those who are closest to us. Please lead us to be the people who follow Jesus and treat all people with such love and respect. In Jesus name, Amen.”