A Golden Rule Life

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Morality, Personal Growth and Progress

Why should we follow the Golden Rule?

Many cultures throughout history hold in their value system some form of the Golden Rule: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matt 7:12 NIV). This is how Jesus defined it in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, a collection of Jesus' most significant and powerful teachings (Matt 5-7). The Golden Rule is part of our world.

So why doesn't it feel like people are following it? Perhaps the reason is that much of the world seems to be focused on serving the self first: What's in it for me? How will living the Golden Rule help me?

At first glance, that seems like a fair questions. But is that the essence of the Golden Rule? Let's look at it again:

"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them." (The Message, Matt 7:12)

The Golden Rule is a call to immediate and positive action for the purpose of helping others. We "grab the initiative" to "do." If we want to see more of the Golden Rule expressed in our daily lives and in the world, then we need to answer the call!

What is our motive behind treating others the way we want to be treated? Is it to:

  • get good back?
  • make a situation better?
  • change someone else (make someone kinder, more respectful, more helpful)?

These seem like very justifiable and natural desires. But if these (or similar goals) are our motives, then we're putting conditions on our behavior: we'll only be kind to someone else if our kindness will have a positive effect on us.

But the Golden Rule does not say to think about how you want to be treated, then treat other people that way in order for your reward to be similar treatment. The Golden Rule says to treat others the way you want to be treated regardless of how they treat you. This might seem like a tall order … and it is.

If the Golden Rule is important to us, our motives will be to:

  • love as Jesus told us to love -- to treat others with kindness, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, gentleness, respect.
  • live a truly Christian life.
  • bless others!

Jesus' life wasn't about serving himself. Nor did he tell his followers to live a self-serving life. Jesus' life centered on loving God and loving others. That's what he expects us to do. The Golden Rule helps us live for others and for God. It un-selfs us, strengthens our values, helps us obey the Ten Commandments, enables us to feel the blessings of the Beatitudes, and empowers us to live the life God wants us to live.

So, let's be true Christians and actively practice the Golden Rule. Here are some ideas:

  • Since we want to feel loved, we "grab the initiative" and love others, talk to them with a loving tone of voice, look at them with the eyes of Love (God's Love).
  • Since we want to feel accepted, we accept others for who they are without any conditions or judgments.
  • As we want to be encouraged, supported, and complimented, we go out of our way to make others feel good about their efforts, help them if they need it, compliment them for even the littlest things.
  • As we want to feel appreciated and valued, we continually express gratitude for others and their contributions; we refrain from complaining about what they haven't done or what they've done that's not up to our standard.
  • Since we want to be respected, we genuinely respect others' points of views, ideas, and individualities; we listen to them without judgment.
  • Since we want to be forgiven, we forgive others for their mistakes -- big or little. That doesn't mean we condone what they've done; but we refuse to feel resentful. Instead, we move forward.

The point is that we are rigorously seeking to bless others. If we're going to rise to Jesus' call for active love, then we have to be committed. It takes courage and humility to love those people who just seem really hard to love -- who act in selfish and thoughtless ways, make life difficult, argue for the sake of arguing, criticize, complain, or cause a variety of discords.

A Golden Rule response is not always easy, but it's worth it. Rather than begin an argument, our response can begin a peace process. Even the Old Testament writers knew the value of a peaceful response: "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare" (Prov 15:1 NLT). Our gentle response may not change those we want changed. We can't control others. They may never stop insulting, patronizing, or nagging us. But acting out of anger does not bring harmony. Love is the best way!

If we understand our motives for living by the Golden Rule and are committed to doing so, we are able to rise above the disrespectful behavior and not be affected by it. Love gives us a sense of inner peace that cannot be disturbed by what others say or do. By making sure that everything we say and do is motivated by the unselfish desire to serve, we discover and experience what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus couldn't keep those who hated him from nailing him to the cross. But their hatred couldn't keep him from teaching, preaching, and healing with infinite compassion, mercy, and love -- which changed the lives of all those whose hearts he touched. Hatred and persecution couldn't stop Jesus' resurrection either. As a result, Jesus' life -- his walk and talk -- transformed the world.

It's quite possible that our active demonstration of Christianity, of love-in-action, will transform the lives of others -- perhaps a person who received our loving response or a person who witnessed our response. Our love may make them see a totally different way of living.

Living by the Golden Rule starts with the question, "God, how would You have me love today … in this situation … with this individual?" Living by the Golden Rule is not about what we get. It's about what we give. And it blesses both the receiver and the giver!