By Ben Hoerr
In this series of posts, we’ve been taking a closer look at 28 “Jesus Says” commands. It would be safe to say that no one’s writings or sayings are as well-known as Jesus’. After all, the Bible—which contains the only record of his life, teachings, and sermons—is the most popularly-selling book of all time. His stories are compelling, memorable, and life-changing if not also mysterious and deeply profound. Of all the things Jesus said, perhaps one command stands above almost all the others. We call it “the Golden Rule” because it is so simple, brilliant, and potentially world-changing.
Near the end of his famous “Sermon on the Mount” (or, “Talk on the Hill”), Jesus instructed his followers to: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) In this one, sweeping command, Jesus summarized all that the Old Testament scriptures taught about love and relationships.
Other cultures and religions contain instruction that is similar to the Golden Rule. But the texts from Confucianism (“Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you”), Hinduism (“This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you”), and Buddhism (“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful”) are stated negatively and rely on passivity. Jesus’ Golden Rule is a positive command to show love proactively.
Every one of us would agree that we desire to be treated respectfully, honestly, with dignity and value, kindly and courteously, mercifully, with tolerance for differences, forgiven for our many faults, graced with second and third chances, and to be given the benefit of the doubt. These, then, are the very ways we are to treat others.
Can we imagine a home, neighborhood, workplace, church, community, village, town, state, or even a nation where everyone related to others in these ways? How much of our world’s current problems, vitriol, hatred, and division would suddenly disappear? Wars would cease; hatred and mistrust would disappear; genuine care for our neighbors would rise; the poor, outcast, refugee, infirm, elderly, and handicapped would be generously be provided for; and extortion, theft, and other crimes would diminish! Workplaces would be productive and joyful. Communities would be free from fear and suspicion. Schools would be havens for everyone to grow, learn, and thrive. Churches, temples, and mosques would actually get along. What a wonderful world it would become . . . almost like heaven on earth. Perhaps that’s what Jesus had in mind for all people in every culture.
In my former job as a Human Resource manager at a large church, I managed approximately 85 full and part-time staff members. Like any mid-sized organization, we had our share of personnel problems—tardiness, conflict between staff, failure to complete tasks on time, some petty thievery, and the like. While often tempted to “cut our losses” and fire such employees after their 2nd warning, I was frequently reminded by the Holy Spirit of these simple, powerful guiding instructions. Understanding that I would appreciate leniency, consequently I often granted the employee mercy and another chance. This is one simple illustration at how things can change in our world—at work, in the home, between neighbors, in the marketplace, with vendors or customers, in our clubs or community groups—when we practice the Golden Rule.
The command to proactively love others is the clarion call of following Jesus. It’s how others will know that we are his disciples. But it’s certainly not easy to love in these ways, is it? No, because we are naturally prone to stubborn self-centeredness, stinginess, attending to our needs first and foremost.
Fortunately, Jesus didn’t leave us to our own strength, power, or resources when it comes to loving others. He comes to live in our heart through his very own personal presence in the Holy Spirit. We can pray daily to be filled with the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18) who empowers us to deny our selfish ambition and intentionally love others in the ways we’d like to be treated!