Friday, April 20

The Real Golden Rule

Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matt 7:12, Luke 6:31)


These words of Jesus have come to be known as “The Golden Rule”. What many people fail to realise, however, is that Jesus stated this maxim not as the culmination of his own teachings, but as the centre of the Law. Indeed, Leviticus 19:8 tells us to love your neighbour as yourself, and there are those that use this misconceived belief that this is a core teaching of Christ to argue that Christ’s core teachings are indistinguishable to past Rabbi’s. To ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ was recognised widely in the New Testament as the heart of the law (Matt 19:19, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8). Christ’s fulfilment of the heart of Old Testament law came in his ‘new commandment’:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” (John 13:34, also John 15:12)

The difference is subtle yet significant, and is thus the real Golden Rule to any Christian. Instead of treating others based on our own perception of ideal behaviour, which is so often distorted through negative emotions, we are to treat others as how Christ treated us. Jesus is the example (Kierkegaard called Jesus ‘the prototype’ a few times), and throughout his life called upon people who were willing to follow his example and be imitators.

Because of this, it should not be surprising that throughout all of the Gospels and select epistles (1 John and James especially) Jesus commands his followers to act based on the example he and his father has given them. Jesus has commanded his followers to forgive as unconditionally as God forgives our own sins (Matt 6:14-15, Matt 18:32-33, Col 3:13, Eph 4:32, Matt 18:23-35), to love those who wrong us like how God loves sinners who have wronged him (Luke 6:32-36, Marr 5:43-48), to lay our lives down for others as Christ did for us (1 John 3:16), to serve others as Christ served his disciples (most beautifully described in John 13:1-17 as Christ washed the feet of his disciples with his own hair), and to suffer as Christ did for us (1 Thessalonians 1:6, 1 Peter 2:20-21, Luke 14:27-33). There are many more examples of either Jesus or an apostle imploring us to follow Christ’s example, but the most important point in these verses is how necessary it is for a follower of Christ to follow his example. John wrote in 1 John 2:6 –

“Here is the test by which we can make sure that we are in him: whoever claims to be dwelling in him, binds himself to live as Christ himself lived.”

It could not be any more explicit how the essence of Christianity is the imitation of Jesus Christ, what he taught (ethics, not theology), and how he treated others. As in, Christianity is tied to our existence within the world, making the following of Jesus Christ a primarily existential endeavour. So as we reflect on the real Golden Rule and other teachings of Christ, let us not hide behind 'theological comforts' that we'll all be going to heaven anyway whatever we do (an idea that was equally as dangerous nineteen hundred years ago; see Romans 6), but rather look to the life of Jesus and find in his example an inspiration to continually push ourselves to be kinder, more forgiving, indiscriminately loving, and a true imitator of Christ.

11 Comments:

Blogger Kel and Karla said...

Beautiful! I get your RSS feed, yet have been mostly lurking without commenting. Shalom. Your work blesses me. Kel

10:24 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

That is very insightful and i've never realized that subtle, but very significant difference before. I also appreciate your emphasis upon Christ as an example, something I believe many are afraid to do. I think Christians find it easier to think of Christ as a payment, a substitution, a sacrifice, or a gift that does not require human participation. But as an example, Christ calls us to courageous and sacrifical living. Thanks for your posts.

3:41 AM  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

I think the golden rule in relation to the life of Christ is a great point for the faith. I think 'we do unto others as we would like done unto ourselves' - key part being 'what do we want done unto ourselves'? I prefer to treat others with the essence of the teachings of Jesus and in so doing - want them to be used as the measure against me too. Great blog.

2:27 AM  
Blogger the_burning_bush said...

SocietyVs's question strikes me as the question Christ leaves us with: "What do you want me to do for you?". Our ethical responsibility is to do for others the way we answer that question.

"Instead of treating others based on our own perception of ideal behaviour, which is so often distorted through negative emotions, we are to treat others as how Christ treated us." TN

The command "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is clearly subjective and thus distrubing in a particular way. This way can seem vulnerable to negative emotions, but I find it calls out to the person underneath those emotions.

The new command -loving others as Christ loved us- is subjective in a more implicit way, namely: if you want Christ's radical gift of love you too should love others in the same radical way.

Your main point -that the example should not be separated from the gift- is exactly the requirement. The only thing more perfect than your expression is actually living it ... and perhaps this blog is the way you do exactly that.

(BTW, In his journals Kierkegaard once noted that Protestants tend to overlook Christ's example and Catholics tend to overlook Christ's gift).

6:01 AM  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

BB, let me clarify this point (for my on reasons) - 'do unto others as you would (ideally) like done unto you'. I think this is subjective in that sense (we all have varied experiences) - but the honus on the one that follows this teaching is to behave as they would like to be treated (and for us Christians the answer will be obvious - like Christ's teachings). I don't see room for the negative aspect if one think of the actual way they like to be treated.

2:49 PM  
Blogger MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to add a thought, something that Jesus has shown me over the years I've been a follower of His. To strive to imitate Him will end in exhaustion and disappointment. He is not a model to imitate. Dead people need LIFE. Therefore, Jesus has become life to me. When I give Him the reins to my life, He lives through me. I no longer have to strive to imitate Him. His life is poured out IN and THROUGH me. I become more loving, forgiving, and caring about my neighbor. There are many in our churches today who know about Jesus and the Scriptures, yet do not have Him, for they have regarded Him only as a good example to follow, rather than dying to self and allowing Him to live through them.

Life in Jesus Christ is all grace.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hey anonymous,

I appreciate the sentiment, and anything that is causing people to be more loving is a good thing. But I just can't comprehend this "living through me" statement.

On a literal level, it seems akin to some sci-fi episode. Where a powerful being possesses and then controls millions of people in the world with what they do and say. Obviously God isn't about that, we have free will and individual personalities and spirits.

Maybe in a "he is the reason I have love in me, he has become my life" sense it is more plausible, but I still dont understand why that specific terminology is appropiate. To what extent can life (not in a living breathing way, but in what Jesus called "life eternal") be defined as unconditional and infinite love?

One last thing, there is a difference between seeing Jesus as a good teacher that taught good morals that people should abide by, and striving every day to fulfill his commandments and imitate Jesus Christ. The first implies admiration from a distance, the second active discpleship.

Also to everyone else, thankyou very much for the comments, I enjoy them reading them immensly. I know I rarely comment on everyone else's blog, but I do visit them often.

Cheers,

Tim

5:21 PM  
Blogger mewithoutYou said...

the anonymous writer brings up a good point. how can a human become divine? only with the help of the divine. but i dont agree with Jesus living in you. your life is a gift from Him and i dont think that He wants to control you like in a "sci-fi episode".

5:44 AM  
Blogger mewithoutYou said...

i would like to take back that last comment. the Holy Spirit does live inside of you but it does not control you. you can only feel it when it convicts you of something (good or bad).

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Hilzarie said...

Good for people to know.

10:31 PM  

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