As I was preparing for this blog I noticed that a lot of different faiths have a very similar rule for living. For example;
Hindu – This is the sum of duty: do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain.– The Mahabharata
Buddhism– Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. – Udana-Varga
Jewish – What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.– The Talmud
Islam – No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.– Hadith
Baha’i – He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfil.– The Book of Certitude
Even secularism and humanism would sign up to this general principal. They would borrow Eastern religion and talk about being nice to other people would bring good ‘karma’ to yourself. These are all negative and passive, but that just makes it possible to do nothing!
Jesus’ golden rule goes a lot deeper. It is both positive and active. You are not just to refrain from doing evil but to actually do good. For example, not just to stop stealing from others but to give to them instead.
As we have been going through ‘The sermon on the mount’, we can also see that outside of Christ these commands are impossible to follow. Notice Jesus starts with ‘In everything’ He’s not talking about when it suits you or is convenient. He is talking about really putting yourself out – all the time!
We can very easily drop this rule when the person we are being nice to isn’t nice back. In fact they might never be nice back. If this was only a reciprocal command we would very soon give up. This is the sort of ‘loving your enemies’ which we read about earlier in Matthew 5:44. It’s not about ‘good karma’ or ‘what goes around comes around’ it’s about pleasing our heavenly father by forgiving others more than seventy times seven and turning the other cheek not expecting anything in return.
When Jesus stated that it sums up the law and the prophets he was talking about the summation of the whole of scripture. Firstly we are to love God, followed closely by loving other people. He says a very similar thing to the teachers of the law in the gospel of Mark:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
These sorts of commands may seem impossible, but Jesus is saying them because they are possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you notice, Jesus’ life was the embodiment of all He was talking about. He was always giving, always loving, always putting himself out. He was the perfect example for us to follow. Of course we will not do everything perfectly all the time. But each day we submit to Him and put Him first and seek first His kingdom, the more we will become like Him – one degree at a time. He has all our lives to work on us and praise God, He never gives up on us.
I’ll finish with something I found helpful about this subject whilst I was doing some research. It’s the acronym SALT
Serve – use your talents to reach out and help others
Appreciate – say thanks and encourage others
Love – comes from God and covers a multitude of sins!
Treasure – value others, show kindness etc