The Golden Rule Reimagined
Moms taught us the golden rule before we could speak: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
But it was an ethical guardrail aimed at curtailing our wickedness.
I don’t want others to steal my toys! So I shouldn’t steal theirs. I don’t want others to speak behind my back, so I shouldn’t speak behind theirs. You see? That’s how we understand the rule.
It’s a way to protect you from me, because if I mistreat you, then you’re going to mistreat me.
But what if that’s not what Jesus meant by it when he spoke it to his disciples? What if the Golden Rule has nothing to do with our “broken selves” at all? And what if the reason we understand it that way is because we cut God out of the equation?
This is how it reads in it’s context, in the middle of Jesus teaching his disciples a bunch of things about what makes them different, as children of their Father, from the world of this age, those who don’t know the Father.
“Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one seeking will find and to the one knocking it will be opened. Which person among you, when his son asks for bread, gives a stone to him instead? Or if he asks for fish, gives a snake? If therefore, you, being broken creatures, still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those asking him. Therefore, all and as much as you desire people should do for you, you do for them. For this is the law and the prophets.”
See what Jesus is doing? The Golden Rule is not a guardrail to protect others from our own wickedness within. It’s an invitation for the children of the Father to act toward the world as their Father acts toward them.
The key word is “Therefore”. Anytime we see a ‘therefore’, we know that what just came before it informs what’s coming next (ie: “I am lost. Therefore, I will ask directions.” The reason I’m asking directions is directly informed by the reality that I am lost.)
Jesus says to his community of disciples (read—Hope Brooklyn) that we ask our Father for things all the time and he gives them to us every time.
Examples would be:
- second chances
- third chances
- fourth chances!
- mercy though we perpetually abuse it
- a continued relationship with our Father who madly loves us though we are consistently unfaithful to him
- a sweatshirt when we’re cold
- food when we’re hungry
- provision when funds are tight
Moreover, parents reading this, do children have any idea the sacrifices that go into answering their requests? Children ask from ignorance. They ask from greed. They ask from fear and selfishness.
They ask because they are your child. That’s what children do to parents. They ask.
And you give because you are their parent. And that’s what parents do to children, they give.
So, Jesus says, if these are the types of gifts your Father gives you, o Church, do the same to the world.
Let the world see the family resemblance, if you will.
When the world doesn’t deserve another chance, give one.
When the world doesn’t deserve forgiveness, offer it.
When your colleagues keep cheating you and back-biting you, respond with blessing.
When your friends desert you and treat you like anything but a friend, treat them with the deepest respect and graciousness.
When the guy who doesn’t deserve any sort of support is cold, put a sweatshirt on him and a plate of stew in his hand.
When your brothers and sisters in Christ don’t treat you like a brother or sister, still treat them like one.
The Golden Rule makes no sense if God is taken out of the equation.
The Golden Rule is not to protect you from me. It’s for me to treat you how my Father treats me.
Which means, you’ll probably use me a bit, because I use my Father all the time.
But in so doing, maybe, after a while, you will understand what true love is—the love that created the world, that created you, and that sacrificed so much for you.
And then, you will understand that my Father is also your Father, and maybe, you’ll come home, too.