“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
Pretty much everyone is able to identify the “Golden Rule,” either positively understood (do to others as you would like them to do for you) or negatively so (don’t do to others whatever things you wouldn’t like done to you). It is taught to children in school and few are the people who would disagree with the concept. Nevertheless, even though it is perhaps one of the best known teachings of Jesus, it is one of the least followed guidelines.
Jesus framed the rule in a most easily understood way. We all know how we would like to be treated; after all, as Paul says, no one ever hated his own body (cf. Ephesians 5:29). No one wants to feel the pain and sorrow that comes from the suffering of sin. Everyone wants to feel loved. We all appreciate it when others are nice to us and show us mercy, compassion, peace, patience, kindness, and the like (cf. Galatians 5:22-24). Jesus’ exhortation, at least on that level, is simple: treat others like you want to be treated.
Yet, on the other hand, the principle is very counter-intuitive. As humans, We tend to think about ourselves and what benefits us. We look at the world through our perspective according to our wants and desires. It is natural for us to seek first our own advantage and then, if possible, the advantage of others. To consider the perspective or advantage of others before our own is most challenging, for we fear that we may be defrauded or lose advantage gained for ourselves. We worry that if we are too busy satisfying everyone else’s needs, we will be in want. We fear that considering the perspectives of others may make us wrong or less valuable or important.
Therefore, we have two options. One option, popular in the world, is to have everyone fend for him or herself. Everyone looks out for “#1.” In this option, we do not concern ourselves with the perspectives or desires of others so that we can satisfy our own desires and believe ourselves right. Many people follow this option, but there’s a big gaping hole involved. If we follow this option to the utmost, we recognize that we have completely isolated ourselves from other people. We cannot honor our fellow human beings as such because we are only interested in using them for our advantage. Meanwhile, we feel devalued and cheapened as others do the same to us. If we all just look out for our own interests we find that none of us are really satisfied.
And thus we ought to take the second option– to swallow our fears, trust in the Lord, and seek the best interest of others (Philippians 2:1-4). That’s what the “Golden Rule” is about. It is about thinking not just about oneself but also about others. That means that we consider what is best for the fellow drivers on the road, or our classmates or work associates, or our fellow Christians, or our spouses, parents, and children. It means that we consider their perspective as well as ours, to the best of our ability, and try to understand their point of view. It means not being entirely subsumed in oneself that one becomes unfeeling or unconcerned about the plight of others.
Consider our fate had God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated as much concern for us as we tend to show toward our fellow man. If They were only worried about Themselves and Their needs, would Jesus have lived and died to teach us God’s ways and to reconcile us to Him (John 1:1-14, Romans 5:5-11)? Or would They have just decided that we would be left on our own to live miserable lives only to die and be consigned to permanent hellfire (Ecclesiastes 1:1, Romans 3:23)? What a tragedy that would be!
Thanks be to God– this is not the case! Instead, Jesus was willing to love those who hated Him and to die for them, and instructed us to do the same (Luke 6:27-28). He sacrificed all things for others, seeking always their best interest and not His own– and thus He has commanded us (Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Peter 1:19-25). That’s what is required to treat others as we want to be treated!
In a world full of selfishness, glorifying the self and each person’s individual belief, it is hard to constantly remember to treat others as we want to be treated– to be loved, to be understood, to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be forgiven. Yet our salvation is entirely dependent on the fact that Jesus what was necessary for us to obtain all of those things. Let us then follow after our Lord and put the Golden Rule to practice in our own lives!
Ethan R. Longhenry