Every school child has heard the golden rule.
In the Bible, you can find it in Matthew 7:12.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
By no means is this a concept unique to Christianity. It is practiced (at least, theoretically) by adherents of at least 21 different religions.
Last Sunday, my pastor made a quick comment in regard to Matthew 7:12. He said, “Notice it doesn’t say, ‘as they have done to you, but as you wish they would do.'”
It wasn’t the main point of his sermon but it struck me how very powerful that is!
As a society, we are all about, “an eye for an eye.” (Also a Biblical concept, but that’s a post for another day).
“If that jerk cut me off I have every right to make a rude gesture to him!”
“I’m certainly not leaving a good tip for that server! He was obviously distracted and didn’t even fill my soda for the 12th time.”
“I don’t feel bad at all, talking about my boss behind her back. I know she does the same thing to me when I’m not at work.”
“Why should I invite that weird kid to my son’s party? Their family never invites us to their events.”
“There is no way I’m sending a Christmas card to that relative. They never even sent a thank you for the wedding gift I gave them six years ago.”
And so it goes on…
I’ve done it.
I bet you have, too.
But the reality is that, if we call ourselves followers of Christ, we should be blind to the way we are treated. We should treat others with the highest respect and honor, with the greatest love….
That’s a really radical, life-changing, world-changing, immensely powerful, truly awe-inspiring idea!
It’s one of those things that we’ve all been taught for as long as we can remember, but we really don’t practice it.
Imagine if we did!
That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what He told us to do. He didn’t really mince words on the subject.
We should think about the things that we desire from others: consideration, gentleness, patience, kindness, forgiveness, friendship…
and that is what we should offer to each and every person we encounter every day of our lives.
“But what about…..”
There is no escape clause.
There is no verse that says, “love your neighbor as you love yourself… unless they are loud or rude or annoying or mean.”
There isn’t even a verse that tells us, “treat others as you would be treated unless they have a horrible criminal background.”
Certainly we are not told, “love only those with exactly the same social and political ideals you hold dear.”
We are supposed to love everyone.
We are supposed to treat everyone as we wish to be treated.
When I examine my life, I see some things I am proud of. I see many areas with enormous room for growth. I occasionally (daily) make a horrible mess of one thing or another. I often fail.
I hope that the people I encounter will understand that I’m trying my best. I hope that they’ll forgive my shortcomings. I hope that they will give me another chance. I hope that they will praise my success. I hope that, sometimes, they will do something nice for me for no reason at all. I hope that they will correct me, so that I can improve, and I hope that they will do it gently, because I’m often “thin-skinned.” I hope that they will take the time to know me and not judge me wholly by my appearance or my old, rusty car or my less than perfect lawn.
Not everyone will treat me like that.
But I am going to make every attempt to do those things for others. And maybe…. just maybe…. they will return the favor.
Even if they don’t, I know that my “Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward (me).” (Matthew 6:4)