Luke 6:31 - “Do to others as you wold have them do to you.” This verse is commonly called the Golden Rule. I cannot say how often I’ve heard people say that they don’t believe in organized religion or need the church. That all they try to do is live a good life by following the best teachings of the Bible like the Golden Rule. When I hear this kind of statement, I often wonder just how much of the Bible the speaker knows and rightly understands. After all, the Scripture is not given to us as a random collection of pithy sayings for us to pick and choose the path we want to travel. Taking verses out of context is a dangerous path to travel. Sometimes it can lead people to follow a road that is diametrically opposed to what the Scripture teaches. For instance how many people claim the Golden Rule without truly understanding what Jesus was teaching when he spoke?
The Golden Rule appears in two places in the Gospels. One is Matthew 7:12 as Jesus brings the Sermon on the Mount to its conclusion. The other place is in Luke 6 as mentioned above. It is the Luke 6 teaching that intrigues me today. Here Jesus applies the Golden Rule in the midst of a teaching on ethics (the proper treatment of our fellow human beings). In the verses leading up to the Golden Rule, Jesus instructs his followers to: 1 - Love your enemies; 2 - Do good to those who hate you; 3- Bless those who curse you; and 4 - Pray for those who mistreat you. He then launches into some illustrations of how we do those things (IE: Turn the other cheek, give to those who take from you, do not expect repayment).
He then states the Golden Rule and continues this instruction by demanding that his followers have a higher, nobler ethic than that of the world around us. Loving those who love us, giving to those who will repay, being kind to those we know will be kind to us is easy to do. In many ways, its merely a convenient, self-satisfying barter-based ethical system. But to base one’s ethic on Christ is to do so on the basis of mercy and grace with the full knowledge that kindness will not always bring a kind return.
How many who say they live by the Golden Rule understand the context in which the golden rule was given? It is not in the context of family, friends, and decent civil behavior. This clear teaching from Jesus on the Golden Rule comes to us in the context of hatred, anger, and belligerence.
Next time someone says to you that they live according to the Golden Rule in an attempt to justify their lifestyle, consider the not only the words of their lips, but the testimony of their lives. But before you do, check yourself out first.