Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Living the Golden Rule is a Challenge

Matthew 7:12: The Challenge of the Golden Rule

“In everything, do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

The Golden Rule is an easy one to understand but a challenging one to follow. Our human nature regularly gets in the way. We are drawn to seek revenge, gossip, and be negative toward others. But when we invite Christ into our hearts, something significant changes in us. We are made a new creation in him, and our hearts take on Jesus’ love.

Although with flaws, I have witnessed this phenomenon in my own life. There are many moments throughout each day that I am tempted to speak ill of someone, to roll my eyes at the drama of others, to detest those who advocate an opposing view, or to wish for solitude so I can have “my” personal time. On the surface, these examples seem benign, normal, and easily dismissed. But underneath, they are a stealthy pathway into the self and away from Jesus. Gossip, uncharitable actions and thoughts toward others, and a desire to be consumed by the self all oppose Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor as ourself. The antidote, however, is grace. And God’s grace is ample and free for the taking.  Through Scripture, prayer, community, and self-giving, we open the door of our hearts to Christ, and he dwells in us through his Spirit. This is what wondrously transforms us so that we can choose to live the Golden Rule.  John Stott, an Anglican priest, scholar, and prolific speaker and writer, outlines this transformation in his book Basic Christianity:

The cause of our sins, therefore, is our sin, our inherited nature, which is polluted and self-centred. As Jesus put it, our sins come from within, out of our ‘heart’. This is why an improvement in behaviour depends on a change of nature. ‘Make the tree good,’ said Jesus, ‘and its fruit will be good.’ But can human nature be changed? Is it possible to make a sour person sweet, a proud person humble, or a selfish person unselfish? The Bible declares emphatically that these miracles can take place. It is part of the wonder of the gospel. Jesus Christ offers to change not only our standing before God, but our very nature …

In some respects, the way Paul puts it is even more dramatic. He blurts out a sentence which, in its original Greek, has no verbs: ‘If anyone in Christ – new creation!’

This, then, is the possibility of which the New Testament speaks - a new heart, a new nature, a new birth, a new creation. This amazing inner change is the work of the Holy Spirit. The new birth is a birth ‘from above’. To be born again is to be ‘born of the Spirit’. (121)

We cannot follow the Golden Rule on our own; it is impossible. When we invite Jesus into our hearts and allow him to dwell in us, we are made a new creation in him. As a result, we are able to imitate, although imperfectly, God’s love to the rest of the world.  

I pray that we all do our best to live out the Golden Rule in the small moments of our day, reciprocating God’s love and mercy to all we encounter.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.