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 NLT
The Golden Rule, as it has been called is, in its essence, the ethic of reciprocity. That is, we treat others the same way they treat us. And each religious and philosophical tradition, dating back to early human history, affirms the Golden Rule in some form:
- What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. (The Talmud – Judaism )
- Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. (UdanaVarga – Buddhism)
- Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. (Muhammad – Islam)
- Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire! (Confucius)
- This is the sum of duty: do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain. ( The Mahabharata – Hinduism)
Note that these quotes are from the negative perspective, “Don’t do bad things to others if you don’t want bad things done to you.” This is simple reciprocity, you get the same treatment you give. And if the people of the world could just put this simple truth, ascribed to by all religious groups, into practice, healing and peace would wash across the earth like a wave on the shore.
But for some reason we don’t do it. People act without thinking of how they would prefer to be treated. We, generally, are first emotional, then reasonable. We seem to do our best thinking after a conflict, “Well maybe I could have said this, or done this, instead of fight (or curse, or condemn)… But we’ll never know. So we create division, take sides, and separate from relationships that God has given, gifts to help us navigate life.
And it’s not just individuals. Groups, political parties, even countries, separate themselves because of some underdog mentality, and then lash out at others for not agreeing with them, or believing the way they do—they don’t want to be treated the way they treat others. If they put the mantras above into practice they would immediately find that everyone wasn’t against them—because they would no longer be against everyone.
Jesus, though, takes this idea of reciprocity and pushes it forward for His followers. Instead of a negative angle, “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself”, Jesus makes it positive. Just “not doing” what is hurtful, a passive stance, is not Jesus’ way. He is always giving, always blessing, healing, serving, doing acts of love and mercy. So His commandment is active, not passive. Jesus says to “do” something.
Jesus’ version of the Golden Rule pushes far past passive reciprocity. It is thoughtful and active. It doesn’t just try to do no harm, it is all about doing good. Proactively. “DO to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” He is calling His followers to active lives of blessing and service, treating others the way we would like to be treated. How, then, would a person like to be treated?
- With kindness – if you listen to people talk you will quickly learn that each one is going through some form of challenge in life. You may know the challenges of those closest to you, so it is easy to be kind and understanding to them. But we don’t know the vast majority of people. Being kind to everyone is a blessing because they probably need it, and really appreciate it, even if they are focused on a different issue and can’t express their appreciation, kindness is is a simple, active, form of love.
- With understanding – Every person on earth is created in the image of God and is a child of God. Unique, beautiful, and filled with the breath of life that God alone can give. We have more in common, in this regard, than any petty difference that we might observe, like race, gender, age, or the like. We are one people, one blood, under God. I want to treat everyone like a brother or sister and love them as a child of God.
- With compassion – compassion is moving past feelings and getting something done. When Jesus had compassion on someone, or on a large group, He fed them, or healed them, or met their need in some way. If someone is in need, DO to them what you would like someone to do for you if you were in the same situation, help them. Come alongside them and do what you can. Stand with them, be there for them.
The beauty of the Golden Rule of Jesus is, it is a lifestyle of outward-focused blessing. Living this way will weatherproof your life in ways you would never expect. When you love more, you will experience more of God’s love. When you bring peace, you will walk in a deeper level of God’s peace, and so on. Oh how our lives will be enriched as we look beyond ourselves, and enrich others with kindness, understanding, and compassion.