We read these words in Luke 6:31. ”Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” This is part of Jesus teaching about loving your enemies. We call this the golden rule...words to live by. But Christians do not have a corner on the market as far as these words go. Buddhists would say "hurt not others with that which pains yourself.” Hindus say” this is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” In the writings of Confucius, we find ”do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Judaism tells us ”what you yourself hate, do to no man.”
Many of us have heard these words for years. Perhaps we were taught them when we were young. These few words are a simple but powerful way of saying we should recognize all people deserve to be treated with dignity. And it is a reminder that each one of us is quite capable of inflicting harm and pain on others by our words and actions. Not only are these words found in Luke's gospel, Matthew writes them as well. We find them in Matthew 7:12. In Matthews gospel these words are part of the Sermon on the Mount. But Matthew uses them as a look back at the Old Testament. He adds “for this is the law and the prophets” to the end of the golden rule. Jesus is going back to Leviticus 19:18 which reads ”do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus sums up the entire Old Testament here. Being self-centered or selfish is not a new phenomenon. It is as old as creation.
While the golden rule seems like a simple few words, it is rich with meaning. Perhaps this phrase sounds like it could have come out of the old farmer's almanac...some pithy saying of Benjamin Franklin. But that is not the case. These words are from Jesus. They are heavenly wisdom. These few words challenge us to put ourselves in another's place and then act accordingly. Jesus knew the human heart. He knows we can be selfish and self-centered. People the world over want respect, love, appreciation and acknowledgement they have value. Jesus knew this. We know it as well, even if we do not want to admit it. If we want to be shown respect, then we are called to respect others. Do we want people to speak a kind word to us? Then we also need to speak using kind words. You get the idea.
Earlier I referenced other religions versions of the golden rule. But there is a big difference. The concept of treating others like you wish to be treated is the same. It is just taught differently. Other religions versions of the golden rule are started in the negative and they rely on passivity. But Jesus words are a positive command. It is a call to be proactive. The other religions say refrain from doing these things. Jesus says Do! The others say it is enough to hold your negative behavior in check. But Jesus says look for ways to act positively. We are called to take the first step, an extra step and maybe even the last step when we deal with others.
When Luke records these words of Jesus we find them in the same teaching as “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” And these words follow. ”If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them...love your enemies.” This is probably not our first choice. We like to hang out with people who are like us. Often, we see an us and them mentality. Jesus has been accused of ‘borrowing’ His words from other ancient traditions. But He uses words from Leviticus as His basis and Leviticus was written at least 1,000 years before any of the other religions were formed.
Jesus command for us to love is what separates the Christian ethic from every other religion's ethic. Loving one's enemies is unique to the Bible. Not only in Matthew do we read love your enemies. We also find it in Exodus 23:4-5. This passage falls under the heading of justice for all. Loving one's enemies is unheard of in other religions. In John 13:35 Jesus tells that kind of love...loving one's enemies...is the mark of a true Christian. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And in fact, Christians can't claim to love God unless they love others as well. These words come from 1 John 4:20. “If someone says I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
The next few weeks might just be some of the most challenging times we have known in this country, at least in recent memory. Battle lines have been drawn. There is division, conflicting information and hate. But the people who we see as them...they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all created in the image of God...like it or not. And Jesus was not just speaking to the crowds that gathered around Him that day. He is speaking to us as well. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W