REALLY listening to the Golden Rule

So many things in our world are taken directly from the Bible… and sadly, many people don’t even recognize it.  What we’ve come to call the “Golden Rule” originally came straight from Jesus’ mouth.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Modern translation: treat other people the way you want other people to treat you.  And let’s not kid ourselves… every one of us wants to be treated well by other people.  Kind, considerate treatment tells us we are loved, that we matter, that the other person values us.

I just read through Matthew 7 (where the passage is found), pondering each phrase.  When I came upon this particular statement, my tendency was to kind of “breeze by” it, because I’ve heard it so many times before.  But something in me caught, and wouldn’t let me move ahead.  There is importance here.  There is power here.  I had to linger.

The Golden Rule is a short, powerful statement of what it means to love people.  Leave it to Jesus (and only Jesus) to be able to make this kind of statement.  It’s a mantra that informs every conversation, every situation, every decision… if I will let it.  There are so many applications…

  • Would I have let those short words slip out if I were mindful of the Golden Rule?
  • Would I have said things in the WAY that I did, if I were mindful of the Golden Rule?
  • Would I have made the same decision if I were mindful of the Golden Rule?

And while all of those are very valid ways of looking at the passage, I have to stop and remember that it’s in my nature to make it into a “new law” if I’m not careful.  I like guidelines, rules, principles, etc.  I like to have something clear and concrete that I can look at, compare my actions to, and hopefully feel good about myself as a result.  But that’s not the purpose of the Golden Rule.

Jesus’ purpose in saying this (and the entire sermon on the mount – Matthew 5-7), is to show us how incapable we are of doing the things that are required to please God.  None of us is able to live by the Golden Rule consistently.  How do I know?  Because none of us do.  If we could, we would.

It’s not that Jesus is a kill-joy, or the ultimate cosmic criticizer – no, He’s loving us enough to show us the reality of our need… and we need Him if we are to have any hope of being who we are to be, and who we are to become.

I need Jesus before I need to follow the Golden Rule.  You do too.

What is your take on the Golden Rule?  How do its words strike you?


5 thoughts on “REALLY listening to the Golden Rule

  1. I think the Golden Rule is a pretty simple and powerful way of boiling down what it means to properly love our neighbor. Just think of how we would want to be treated. I think that our modern society takes little pithy statements like these and separates them from the gospel, which I think is the real crux of your post – our need for Christ. That’s unfortunate, but I guess it’s in some way a compliment to the wisdom and truth of the saying.

    • As always Loren… great comments. You’re right, cliches (which this is not, but it is often used as one) are easy to separate from the gospel… instead of being seen as the seed from which it grows. Blessing brother.

  2. Hi, I feel the golden rule is very important, but it does have both a negative (don’t do etc) and a positive (love you neighbour etc) formulation, both of which are firmly rooted in Jewish tradition. Jesus was expressing a very Jewish idea in that respect, which is not surprising. I believe the beauty of the principle is to remind us that we are all made in the image of God, which is why, when we act in a manner which acknowledges the uniqueness, individuality and dignity of another person, we acknowledge, accept and respect God. I have written about this recently on my own blog, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it.



    • Hi Micheal, and thanks for chiming into the discussion!

      I agree, there is an inherent negative connotation to the “golden rule.” And your point about the image of God in man is huge… one we often neglect to recall to mind when dealing with each other. I’d love to read your blog post, but don’t week a link to it anywhere… could you point me in the right direction?

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