The Golden Rule of Jesus
We're now in the early days of another Lenten season which causes us to reflect on the quality and nature of our relationship with God and all humanity. In the church's liturgy and prayers, we are reminded of our failings and need for forgiveness. Often the Psalms for Lent speak of our need to live within the framework of God's commandments...the Law. But many people say, "that's too hard...there are too many rules...how can I ever do that?"
In Jesus' great "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7), he taught the principles which should guide our relationships. In verse-after-verse, he developed a framework for our interactions with others. Then in Matthew 7:12, he laid down the KEY with which we can obey God's law in our relationships with fellow humans.. "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is (God's) Law and the prophet's" (teaching). In this verse Jesus distilled all of God's law and guidance for human relationships.
But was this guidance "something new" from God? Doesn't it sound like the "golden rule" of behavior which was taught by other faith leaders?
Confucius (551-479 BCE)..."Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you."
Buddha (470-390 BCE)..."Hurt not others with that which pains yourself or in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism (604 BCE)..."Rejoice at the success of others, and sympathize with their reverses, even as though you were in their place."
Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus summed the Jewish thought as..."What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow humans."
So, a person might say that Jesus was simply asking his followers to obey an older rule of behavior for all human relationships. Is there anything new in Jesus' teaching? If I follow the ancient "golden rule" to do good to others, I am the judge of what I believe is "good". Is my love for others always of the same quality? Maybe, my "good" is more empoverished toward one person and richer to another? Can I judge my love toward one person to be "adequate" even if it is inferior to the level of love I show others? In that situation my personal desire can control and throttle my level of love to various people.
However, when Jesus told his followers "to do to others as you would have them do to you", he made HIS LIFE and MINISTRY the EXAMPLE of how he defined the little verb, "do". He taught those who follow him that we should "do to others" as Jesus did to others...as Jesus accepted others...as Jesus loved others.
Toward the last days of Jesus' life, he taught his followers a more PROFOUND meaning of his earlier phrase, "do unto others", when he told them that the verb "do" is a manifestation of LOVE. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you HAVE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER." (John 13:34-35 NSRV). In the middle of this verse, there is a short sentence which settles the problem about my ability to judge how much love to show...how much care to give others. Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment that you love one another, JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, you should love one another". It is no longer MY judgment about the "goodness of what to do" or the amount of love to be shown to others. My love and care for others should follow the pattern of Christ's love which I HAVE EXPERIENCED.
Here Christ raised the ethical level of this "revised golden rule". The example of Jesus' love to others was always...
and available to all others (inclusive).
As a follower of Christ, this must be the pattern for my loving and caring relationships with all others! No longer do I have the judgmental role which gauges the degree of appropriate "loving or doing". I am to love others as Christ has loved me! Now if that doesn't force me to my knees before God, praying for added love and strength, I don't know what it might take! The Lenten season provides the opportunity for introspection to recognize that, in my love for God, I want to live more perfectly within the divine standards for all my human relationships. Yet, as a human I realize that I can not do this alone. It is essential that the Christ Spirit within each of us empower us to live according to the example of Jesus. During Lent we make ourselves more vulnerable and open to God's work to create in us this divine love and to re-define our soul walk reflecting Jesus' amplification of the old "golden rule".
It is my prayer that each of us will use this season to honestly expose our hearts and minds to the Christ Spirit which will cleanse us...instruct us...stregthen and bless us in our spiritual journey.
God's peace and blessing to each of you, Donald Luke