The Golden Rule
Luke 6:27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The first portion of Jesus’ message had been about loving God, or the challenge of a personal relationship with God. Now, he moves into this second section in which he challenges God’s people to love others. The difficulty is that it’s not just about loving other people who are around us who may like us, but loving those who don’t like us.
Loving others is not just a state of mind, it must include action. Jesus makes practical suggestions for a response and wraps it up with the reminder to “do to others as you would have them do to you.”
That final phrase is the golden rule that I’ve been taught ever since I was a child. It’s one of those things that’s been drilled into me by my mother. She seemed to say it frequently when I felt that my brothers were picking on me!
The reality is that my brothers were not my enemies and nor was their treatment all that bad. We were just being kids! But that phrase that mom used over and over again sticks with us and now I have to think about it in the context in which I live.
On a personal level there will probably always be those who are difficult and may not like you. I will never forget the woman in apartment #28 in Moscow who really seemed to hate us. She would sit in the apartment below us and beat on the ceiling with a broom if she ever thought we were making too much noise. She let everyone in the building know how much she disliked the Americans upstairs and she even called the police on us when we had guests over. She frustrated me and it made me upset, but I also felt I was to pray for her. She was probably very lonely and didn’t have much going on in her life. The girls and I wrote her a note of apology and took her cookies. She wouldn’t open the door but we left them there for her. I put the woman in apartment #28 on my prayer list and prayed for her on a regular basis.
I don’t know what happened to the woman in apartment #28 but she did stop beating on the ceiling. She stopped sending the police our way and we ended up moving to another building. I do know that my attitude toward her changed when I started praying for her. I began to see her in another way and sensed that she was a woman with a great deal of pain in her life. I wasn’t her enemy, I was just a symbol of something that brought out her frustration. She needed love.
On a larger and more corporate level Christians need to take the words of Jesus to heart. God’s people were constantly persecuted by the government officials. The Romans did not love the Jews. Jesus’ hearers understood what he was saying and that he was challenging them to love the Romans. Not only were they to love them, they were to behave kindly to them.
For a very practical view of this issue take a few minutes today and read this blog post by a Christian believer in the Middle East who is questioning our response to Muslim refugees. What would Jesus ask us to do?
The golden rule was not just for Jesus’ day, nor for the way I interacted with my brothers, it is for all Christ-followers who want to reflect him in the world.
Lord, please help me live into my faith with your love. Amen.
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