The Golden Rule
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
This is the famous Golden Rule, although I would imagine more and more people (especially those under 30) haven’t heard of it. The Golden Rule comes out of a sermon Jesus preached on mountain near the Sea of Galilee (the sermon is recorded in Matthew 5-7).
We, as Christians, are to make choices and decisions with others in mind. But the Golden Rule goes a little further to say: make choices and decisions directed towards others that you would like directed towards you.
Many other places in Scripture speak to the same idea (Philippians 2:3-4, Romans 12:10, and 1 John 4:19 to name a few).
Personally, I find that if the Golden Rule doesn’t discomfort me, then I’m all in! That is, if doing something to someone for their benefit doesn’t put me in a difficult situation, then the Golden Rule can be quite easy to follow. It’s when the Golden Rule pushes me to get uncomfortable that I find it challenging, and I assume that’s the same case for you.
3 Ways to Apply the Golden Rule
With this in mind, here are 3 ways to apply the Golden Rule that most of us struggle with:
1) Listen. Most of us get together with friends and/or family throughout the week for various “hangouts.” We chat about ‘this or that’ and catch up on life. In these conversations, it’s so easy to begin comparing stories and almost trying to “one-up” the other person. Instead of doing that, just listen. Ask yourself, do I want to be heard when telling my story? If the answer is yes, then you know that you ought to listen carefully and genuinely the next time you get together with someone.
2) Respond quickly. When a friend or family member asks you a question or tells you something, get back to them as soon as you can (when it’s safe, obviously). Whether it’s by text, social media, voicemail, email, or whatever it may be, responding quickly is a huge indicator to them that you care. Too many of us (and I’m included) can look at the message we’ve received, decide that we don’t want to respond right away (or ever), and then move on. Whether or not we like it, communication via electronics is just as important as communication in person. So, when you ignore a text message from a friend or family member, it’s as if they asked you in person and you just remained silent. So, when it comes to close friends and family members, get back to them quickly!
3) Forgive. One of the implications of living in a sinful world is that we’re going to sin and be sinned against. More often than not, we recognize people sinning against us more than our own sin. People will constantly sin against you, with or without intention. Now, before a root of bitterness or a grudge begins to emerge, forgive them in your heart and to their face (if needed). I don’t know about you, but when I’ve sinned against someone, it means the world if they genuinely forgive me. And if I ever found out that my actions or words were hurting someone else (unintentionally), I would love for that person to forgive me in their heart.
You’ll probably fail at these over and over, as will I. But it’s important that we bring them up, and challenge one another more and more. This is part of what it looks like to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24).
Where Does Christ Fit?
And lastly, I want to mention what John writes in his first letter: “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). Don’t ever try and apply the Golden Rule without motivation from the gospel. The reason you’re listening to others is because Christ first listened to you. The reason you’re responding to others quickly is because Christ is always responding to you. And the reason you forgive others is because Christ first forgave you.
With Christ in your mind and with Christ as your motivation, go and apply the Golden Rule.