The Golden Rule

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The Golden Rule has the distinction of being the most applauded and least applied maxim in the world. Everyone loves it; no one does it. A big part of the reason is that we tend to consider the rule by itself and outside the context in which Jesus gave it.It is significant that Jesus begins the Golden Rule with “therefore,” which is a word we quickly skip over but shouldn’t. Jesus is signaling to us that the Golden Rule is the logical conclusion to everything he has preached in the Sermon on the Mount thus far. Not only that, but the Rule follows immediately on Jesus’ assurances that the Father loves us and loves to give us good gifts, and therefore we ought not lose heart but keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, looking to the Father in faith for his blessing (Mat 7.7-11). “Therefore,” says Jesus, “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them. You see, it is only the Father’s love and power that makes sense of the Golden Rule  in a fallen world. Otherwise, it is a nice idea, but a crazy thing to do. In a Nietzschean world, the Golden Rule is weakness. In God’s world, it is power. But only if we understand and apply it biblically as Jesus intended.The Rule is brilliantly subversive. It doesn’t ask us to empathize with others, which we have little capacity to do, but to empathize with ourselves, which we have unlimited capacity to do. It entices us with the words “whatever you want.” I mean, any rule that opens with “whatever you want” has got to be a great rule, right?! But if we really think about “whatever we want,” we begin to realize that there is a subtle yet significant different between “whatever we want” and “whatever we want others to do to us.” Most of us can recall situations where, looking back, we are very thankful God or a fellow human being refused to give us what we wanted and instead gave us what we needed. And that is what we really want others to do to us – to seek our good, with the heart and mind of Christ, without any ulterior motives. “Okay,” says Jesus, “now that you know what you really want from others, start doing it for others.” I hope you enjoy the sermon. Thanks for listening. –Alan Burrow1. Is there a difference between “whatever you want” and “whatever you want people to do to you,” and if so, what is the difference?2. Think deeply about what you want others to do to you, then write it down in a single sentence. (You want it to be a sentence that will cover any situation.)3. Keeping in mind your single sentence statement of how you want to be treated, reflect on how you treat others, and measure yourself by your own standard. What are one or two areas where you fall short the most?  What steps could you take to change those?4. Many fear the Golden Rule is a recipe for making one a doormat for selfish, domineering, manipulative, or hyper-needy people. Is it? Why or why not?

Click the play button to listen to 'The Golden Rule' by Alan Burrow.