A few weeks back, lead pastor of Greencastle Christian Church, John Tischer, preached a sermon in which he mentioned the golden rule. You have probably heard it before, even if you were unaware of its origin. It comes from Jesus and is considered one of the basic tenets of Christian ethics.
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 English Standard Version
As is so often the case, with the golden rule I fear “familiarity breeds contempt.” We have heard the saying before and often enough that we kind forget its importance. We fail to recognize the high bar and standard Jesus lays before us with this rather revolutionary teaching.
Other ethics teachers from various cultures of the world called people to what some consider to be the “silver rule.” “Do not do to others, what you do not want them to do to you.” You don’t want people to spit on you, then don’t spit on other people. Fairly easy. In fact, the silver rule is super easy. You can practice the silver rule sitting at home in your pajamas eating Cheetos. Basically, the meet this standard, all you have to do is stay out of other people’s way and leave them alone.
Jesus’ golden rule, however, calls us to action. Jesus’ rule does not let sit content and complacent on the couch. What you wish someone would do for you, do for them. Do you wish someone would help you when you are hurting? Then you should be helping others who are hurting. Do you wish someone would speak up when you are being harassed? Then you should be speaking up when others are harassed.
The silver rule is passive, but the golden rule is active.
Now consider the current racial divisions in the United States. As a white person, I am speaking to those of my own race. Too often many of us have addressed racism according to the silver rule. (I say this as a personal confession.) When confronted by the cries for justice of our brothers and sisters of color, we say, “But that’s not me! I haven’t owned slaves. I haven’t oppressed anyone. I’m not guilty.” Then we go on to complain and voice our resentment at being asked to apologize or take a knee in solidarity because we are not the ones at fault. I know because I have thought those thoughts myself.
However, as Christians, we must see that that is silver rule thinking. Jesus does not call us to passively sit on the sidelines while injustice happens. He does not call us to “Yeah, but . . .” our way out of listening to people when they are hurting. According to the golden rule, I am guilty of sitting passively on the sidelines. I am guilty of apathy and of failing to listen to the tears of my brothers and sisters.
I confess I am quite a bit late to this party, so I am not trying to jump into the conversation with a bunch of answers. I am very much in the listen and lament stage.
Lord Jesus, fix my heart. Teach me to love as You love. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear. Help me to mourn with those who mourn and to be quick to listen and slow to speak. In Your most precious name. Amen