This morning the news was full of examples of inhumanity to man.
Two police officers were shot in their cars in the predawn hours in Des Moines. A Black church in Mississippi was torched and vandalized with “Vote Trump.” A YouTube Government teacher whom I follow on Twitter had a “troll” tell him to drink bleach because he was a “P.O.S.”
Admirably, the teacher responded with pity, telling the attacker that he thought it must be difficult to go through life with so much hate and anger.
All of these things reminded me of the simplest thing any of us ever learn; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others the way you want to be treated.
There are three simple things that many of us often overlook about this “Golden Rule.”
- UNIVERSALITY- While Jesus did say it in Luke 6:31 & Mark 12:29 (and I deeply love, am grateful for and try to be devoted to my Lord & Savior), He’s not the only one to teach it. I feel totally comfortable talking about it as a Public School teacher without violating the anti-establishment clause of the First Amendment because there is a version of the Golden Rule in virtually every major world religion AND most secular, agnostic, atheist, and humanist philosophers and psychologists also agree that it’s a great idea. It’s a universal principle that truly transcends sectarian and doctrinal differences.
- CIVILITY- It’s not just analogous to, but pretty much embodies the concept of Social Contract theory as expounded upon by Enlightenment thinkers and American “Founding Fathers” from Locke, Rousseau and Burke, to Jefferson, Madison and Martin Luther King Jr. An exchange of individual rights and privileges for responsibilities to shared principles as a member of community. Compromise. It is the very nature of constitution, covenant, compact- more perfect unity, domestic tranquility, general welfare, even justice itself depends upon the Golden Rule.
- IT REFLECTS OUR OWN PERSONAL SELF WORTH- Most of us (at least in our consumer-driven, materialistic, individualistic, Western, middle-class, White Anglo-Saxon, Protestant world) think of the Golden Rule as an if-then proposition. Mathematical, logical- “If I threat others the way I’d like to be treated, they (in response) SHOULD, ought to, if there is any justice in the universe, if God is doing His job right- they will then (as a result of my playing by the rules & doing the right thing) treat me well in return.
This often disappoints. People are selfish & greedy & inconsiderate. They don’t care about me, they’re only worried about themselves and their own interests. That’s human nature. It’s enough to make you become a Nihilist.
But what if we looked at it in a different way? What if I told you that how you treat others is a unconscious projection of how you believe that you deserve to be treated? What if, just maybe, the Golden Rule triggers the “Law of Attraction,” that principle that says that you get what you give, that what goes around comes around, that you reap what you sow?
What if, the way I treat others is sending them subliminal messages that that’s exactly how I expect to be treated? That subconsciously at least (even if I try to deny it consciously) but inside- if I disrespect you, it means that I don’t believe that I deserve respect? If I’m hostile toward you, it means that I have anger, contempt or self-loathing for myself? If I try to dominate or manipulate you- it actually means that I wish someone would exert control over me?
Does that shift in perspective make you question your own behavior?
Does it make you reconsider other people’s behavior?
Why would anyone ever call someone else a piece of defecated feces?
Remember the Golden Rule is:
- A REFLECTION OF YOUR SELF-WORTH
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
Today’s scripture in our Lutheran churches was 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.
Ironically, the conventional wisdom among American Christians is to use this passage to indignantly boast about how we’re right and the rest of the world is wrong; about evolution, climate-change, gay marriage, abortion, etc. etc. You name it. Or perhaps it is tied with John 14:6 where Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” to reinforce that all other world religions are wrong wrong wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe what Jesus says about Himself in John 14:6. I’m not a universalist, but I also believe that God doesn’t want ANYONE to perish (2 Peter 3:9) that’s WHY He sent His Son (John 3:16).
But I wonder if we Christians are missing the point God is trying to make to us through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians when we presume to use this passage to support our theological, philosophical, cultural and political biases. Especially when you consider who/what/when/where the early church was compared to who/what we are today.
Of course 1st century Jews wanted a sign, some kind of proof that this upstart sect were following the true messiah. They had been God’s chosen people for thousands of years already. Of course the gentiles are going to scrutinize a group who worships someone who allowed Himself to be crucified. Why would that make sense? Their philosophy, technology, jurisprudence, economy, and military might had conquered and civilized the known world at the time.
Sure, its great to think of yourself as special, exceptional, and best of all “right” when the rest of the world is out of control, confusing, complicated, rapidly changing, even insane. But I contend that this passage is not about us. It’s not about Christians. It’s not about being right or being wise or being ridiculed or persecuted or made fun of or marginalized. It’s not about these things, because it’s not about us. It’s about God.
God is Love- “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8 And “LOVE is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
How often do we pine to be proved right, to be vindicated. To win an argument with the unsaved world by having God walk up behind us and corroborate our correctness. We want to win. Win the culture wars, win the elections, win the battle for the most ratings, win win win. But stop and think about how Jesus won our salvation.
Yeah, by giving up His sovereignty, His glory, His authority, His comfort, His safety, security and tranquility. He won us, He once and for all brought about peace and cessation of hostilities between ourselves and God the Father by allowing Himself to be spat on, tortured, and executed unjustly.
Jesus is completely counterintuitive. We want to have the world punished and banished. He wants to love THEM and gather THEM under His wings.
Are we like the resentful older brother in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 or the workers hired first in the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 20? Like Jonah, are we going to be mad as Hell if/when God doesn’t go ahead and smite Nineveh after all?
What if when we read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, instead of assuming that it’s about Christianity, what if we read it through the filter of the Cross and Christ crucified? When I think about God using foolish things (verses 27-28), I don’t think of a mighty prophet like Jonah, so much as a humble worm that ate Jonah’s shade (Jonah 4:7).
When I consider Christ, I don’t think of crusades or defending the faith, or maintaining traditions. I think of compassion. Welcoming little children, healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans, providing justice for the stranger and alien, stilling the storm. Sitting with tax collectors and prostitutes, not condemning the adulteress, and chasing the money-changers from His Father’s house, so that it might be a house of prayer.
If you want control, influence, or authority, you probably aren’t going to pursue altruism, humility, servanthood, mercy, patience, kindness, vulnerability or trust. But if you want relationships, you really should consider all of those things, but be prepared to surrender control, influence, and authority.
Understandably, many Christians are impatient with our government for not lowering more shock and awe onto the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria which call them selves the “Islamic State (ISIS).” But before we start thumping the drums of war, we should remember 2 Corinthians 10:3 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” How does Jesus wage war? In Matthew 5:44 Jesus tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He tells us in Romans 12:20 and Proverbs 25 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Love, prayer, kindness and generosity are our weapons if we’re genuinely following Christ’s command, not money, propaganda, or drone strikes- love.
Paul tells us in Philippians 2 just how Jesus waged war-
“6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
That’s NUTS? Jesus must be some kind of a NUT!
But what if more non-Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists encountered this truly Christ-like attitude among those of us who call ourselves “Christian?”
I bet they’d be confused. WOuld they be as afraid of us as we seem to be of them?
“18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:18-21