We all know the Golden Rule. It is found in Matthew 7:12. There Jesus says,
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
While we have all recited this rule throughout our life, do we know what it really means?
For this is the Law and Prophets
In order to answer the question, we have to start with the last phrase, “For this is the Law and Prophets.” Later on in Matthew we come across a conversation Jesus has with a Lawyer who asks Him, "What is the greatest commandment?"
In response to the question, Jesus says,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
It is important we start with this phrase because Jesus’ commandment in verse 12 is another way to summarize the command. We can't do unto others as we would have them do unto us without first loving God and then loving others.
The reason we need to love God before we can love others has to do with our heart. Before our heart is penetrated by the gospel, we are enemies of God. We don't love Him; we hate Him.
After our heart is pierced by the gospel, a change takes place. We no longer see God as our enemy. Instead we love Him, which is crucially important because only after we love God, will we obey His command to love others and practice the Golden Rule.
Positive, Not Negative
The second thing we need to look at in order to understand the Golden Rule is the nature of Jesus' command. His command is given in the positive, not the negative.
Instead of not doing what we don’t want done to us, Jesus tells us we are to do to others what we would want them to do to us. In other words, if you want others to…
Care for you
Give to you
Be nice to you
Listen to you
Learn from you
Hold you accountable
...then you do these things to them. In the way we want to be treated, we are to treat others, which is the Golden Rule.
Easier Said Than Done
I know it is easier said than done. It is easy to not do what we don’t want done to us. For instance:
If we don't want others to steal from us, we don't steal from them.
If we don't want others to hurt our families, we don't hurt theirs.
If we don't want others to aggravate us, we don't aggravate them.
It is much easier for us not to do what we don't want done to us because of the benefit we receive.
It is much harder, however, to do what we want others to do for us because we don't always benefit. We may do and do, but never see any return. Here is why love is necessary:
True love is not built around our emotions, getting what we want, or what makes us happy. The culture defines love in that way. The Bible, however, defines love as self-sacrifice, which means we don't always get what we want. When we are not getting what we want, it is harder to live by the Golden Rule.
The golden rule, however, isn't about us getting what we want. Jesus doesn't give it so we can be selfish. He gives it because He wants us to understand what it looks like to truly love one another.
Salt and Light
When we live out the golden rule, truly love others, we live as salt and light to the world. We are a witness for the gospel because we live in a way the world doesn't because the world doesn't give without getting.
Not only are we a witness to the power of the gospel when we live out the Golden Rule, but we also promote peace and societal flourishing. In other words, we make the world a better place, and give others a glimpse of what the world to come will look like simple by doing unto others what we would have them do to us.