Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
- Matthew 22:34-40
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
- Deuteronomy 6:5
“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
- Leviticus 19:18
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
- Matthew 7:12
Of all the teachings of Jesus, Matthew 7:12 is taught as the “Golden Rule.” It comes from the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically in the paragraph that talks about “ask, seek, knock.” It is a logical progression. Jesus teaches us that we should ask, seek, and knock. Inquire of God and God will give us the answers that we seek. To logically make that connection, Jesus adds that we don’t give lousy gifts to those that we love, so why would we think God gives lousy gifts? Thus, when we ask of God, would He not give good gifts? Then, the Golden Rule sums up that logical flow. We should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.
Yet, the Golden Rule has a logical flow with the Greatest Commandment, from the first Scripture above. The next two Scriptures are those Scriptures that Jesus was quoting, although the Ten Commandments are clearly summarized by these two “greatest” commandments. And the Golden Rule, then follows as the practical means of showing love for others.
Yet, many today in this “doing” society have forgotten God, forgotten the Greatest Commandment, and modified the Golden Rule to suit their purposes.
I have written before about how someone close to us told my wife that the Golden Rule was “Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you.” If this was giving lavish gifts or feeding the poor, that would be laudable, but they were speaking of stabbing your brother or sister in the back, and then stepping on the knife to walk over their dying body to get ahead. This type of person establishes themselves as the omnipotent ruler within a family unit, one that is never questioned, had no right to the reign as ruler in the first place, but no one is brave enough to challenge, due to their ruthless methods of staying on top. Yet, they could read this paragraph and think that I was writing about someone else.
Then there is the Golden Rule that I was taught at one industrial setting that I have observed ever since. “He, who has the ‘gold,’ rules.” The “gold” can be money, power, political influence, dirty pictures of you doing something that you should not have done, etc.
What is the next metamorphosis of the golden rule? Will it be “Do unto others as they have done unto you already?”
Oh, I could have so much fun with that one. I would go to the homes of the teen-agers in our neighborhood and fire bottle rockets so that they bounce off the teen-ager’s bedroom window and then explode, at midnight or one or two in the morning, depending on when they were sound asleep. I would cut someone off in traffic and then as they caught up with me, curse them, show vile gestures, and blame them for almost wrecking my car, when all they did was drive a steady speed, stay in their lane, and then swerve toward the ditch to avoid the accident. I would spread a rumor all over town that one of the church elders had returned from India and gave a sexually transmitted disease to his wife, and that is the reason she was admitted into the hospital and was in critical care for a week – thus no one dared to visit or comfort.
I could go on and on, but I believe in the original Golden Rule. More importantly, I believe in the Greatest Commandment and its equally important other Greatest Commandment. When awoken by bottle rockets that nearly broke the windows and scared my wife and I half to death, I prayed that the children would grow up and learn to treat others better. When the guy’s reckless driving runs me into the ditch, yet gets him no further down the highway, and I pull up next to him in the adjoining lane, as he is cursing me, I pray that his day goes a little better, because it hasn’t gone well so far. And the unknown gossipers of twenty years ago should know that I am faithful to my wife and would not contract a sexually transmitted disease in the first place, here at home or in a foreign country. The skin disorder that developed upon my return home, slightly below the knee, still itches twenty years later, but it is only “irritated skin,” meaning that the lab that the doctor sent the sample to had no known disease for what I picked up – but boy, is it persistent, maybe cobra venom or something. I did have a defanged cobra hiss at me from about a foot away. And my wife’s emergency room trip and week in the hospital was due to rheumatic arthritis, according to our doctor at the time, totally unrelated.
But why do we focus on the Golden Rule instead of the Greatest Commandment? It boils down to a human disease called sin. We can measure “doing,” but we cannot measure whether we love the other person. Our love is then measured by doing for the other person. And all doing must be reciprocal, although Jesus taught directly not to do that. We “do” for those who cannot return a gift in the other direction. Yet, another metamorphosis of the Golden Rule.
My wife heard something on a television program that said the overwhelming majority of churches today are “doing” churches, something like 4 out of five, or more. The direction these churches are going is described as follows. “Let’s not worry about our beliefs. Forget it, let’s not believe in anything other than if we do good for others, then we will be better than they are, and if there is a God, He will take the best to Heaven, and that is us, because we self-proclaimed it.” There may be a little hyperbole here, but not much.
If that is what is being taught in the vast majority of churches today, I want no part of it. I have most definitely seen it, and it makes me sick. But my wife and I wonder if church hopping will lead to total frustration or eternal church hopping? The only “good” church is the eternal church of believers in Heaven, and we already know that there will be no church building to maintain.
Okay, this could have easily been my wife’s essay. I slept well on the evening of July 3, but my wife had a rocky night. She awoke just after midnight with what she described as a teen-aged World War III with two armies battling it out to see who could break more neighborhood windows with bottle rockets. She became so rattled that she watched Christian programming to learn the statistics on “doing” churches. Then this was our primary discussion in the morning of USA’s Independence Day. And one thing led to another.
It would be wonderful if we could forget about “doing” long enough to “be” a Christian, and really love our neighbor. Then, the original Golden Rule would pour forth from our “being” so naturally that it seemed that we did not even try. And we did not try, because it was God’s love pouring forth from us using His power and strength.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.