What ever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12
Every major religion has its own version of the Golden Rule. Does this fact minimize its importance? Not at all. It shows that God has put it in the hearts of people everywhere to realize this foundational principle of life: yes we want to be treated with respect and love, we need to treat others that way first.
The principal seems so simple, but we see it violated every day. All of us long to be excepted it’s the first and foremost desire of every human heart, but we make a sport of behaviors that tear down, rip apart, crush, ignore, and ridicule people around us. Most of us don’t actually abuse others. We are too sophisticated for that. Instead we use gossip, sarcasm, and silence to insert the knife when people don’t suspect anything. If we’re caught, we say, “Hey, I was just kidding!“
Living by the Golden rule involves a series of conscious choices to initiate kindness, respect, honor, words of affirmation, and patience to proclaim to someone, “you matter to me!“ If we make radical acceptance of others an essential value in our lives, amazing things will happen. First, some of the people who know us best will need to recover from shock, but after a short while, they all realize they don’t have to protect themselves from us anymore, and they’ll relax. Then, slowly but surely they’ll begin to give back the acceptance they’ve received from us. That’s how it works. It’s not all that hard, really.
“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will, his personal responsibility and the realm of faith and morals.“
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked to us a lot about how we should live and how we should treat one another. It seems to be important to God for us to treat one another well. After all each of us are special to Him. I’m sure that most every parent wishes all their children to be treated well and whenever one of them mistreats the others, it saddens their heart. That’s the way God feels. He asks us to think about how we would like to be treated ourselves and then to treat others the same way or even better. There are so many benefits that come from choosing to treat others well. Let’s look at some of the things Jesus taught us that day on the Mount.
5 “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth. 7 “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 “Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God. 9 “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders shall be guilty before the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, ‘Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell. 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not make false vows, but you shall fulfill your vows to the Lord [as a religious duty].’ 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’ [a firm yes or no]; anything more than that comes from the evil one. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth [punishment that fits the offense].’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person [who insults you or violates your rights]; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise]. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [for the Lord repays the offender]. 41 And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.
Jesus gives us clear defined ways to live out the Golden Rule. Notice that in every case, when we treat others well, we receive blessings. “Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth.” When we take time to listen, to care, to consider the needs of others and respond to them with gentleness, God promises us that we will inherit the earth. Pretty good deal, huh? “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.” That’s right. When we show others mercy, we receive mercy from God and God’s mercy is far greater that the mercy any human can give. Personally, I think it’s an awesome trade. My limited gift of mercy to someone else and God’s unlimited mercy to me. This follows all the way through the Beatitudes. Now there’s a word- Beatitudes which we could write as be- attitudes. Having the right attitudes can make a huge difference in our lives and how we treat others is a reflection of those attitudes. The Pharisees had very strict ideas about keeping the law at least where it was visible. So they would agree that murder was wrong but Jesus wouldn’t leave it there. Instead He goes to the heart of the issue. He says that if we remain angry and hold malice in our heart toward someone that will lead to murder. Maybe not physical murder but assassination of their character or damaging their reputation. No, Jesus insists that we get to the root of things and recognize that anger, bitterness and malice find roots long before we act outwardly. The cure Jesus says is to make a deliberate decision as to how we respond. Jesus says that if we will choose God’s way we will go the extra mile, give our extra cloak and pray for those that would categorized as our enemies. One thing I have learned is that it’s hard to stay angry with someone and pray for them all at the same time. When you begin to deliberately choose to respond to others as Jesus taught, you will find that life seems to improve.
Finally Jesus talks about forgiveness. The importance of us forgiving others cannot be understated. As a matter of fact Jesus said that our forgiveness from God is connected to our forgiveness of others. I’m quite sure that no one has sinned against us as much as we have sinned against God. Our forgiveness cost God an extremely high price and it certainly costs us to forgive others but in both cases the results are amazing. There’s no feeling quite like the feeling of being liberated by forgiveness. When we receive forgiveness and when we give forgiveness, the weight of wrong is lifted and we can live.
So go ahead, do to others like you wish others would treat you!
Dr. John Thompson