One of the takeaways from Jesus’ most famous sermon (the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5 through 7) is, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 ESV). To “do unto others what you would have them do to you” is often called the “Golden Rule.”
This single statement has historically been widely known (if not practiced) by people who do not even identify as Christians. On the other hand, as our society becomes increasingly illiterate of the Word of God (prone to assume it knows what the Bible says, yet ignorant of what it actually does say), it seems that fewer and fewer people know this Kingdom of God principle. Fewer even attempt to practice it.
When Jesus teaches His hearers and readers like you and me to do this, He sets for us the idea that most of our societal expectations including our laws, morals, and attitudes affecting our treatment of each other are answered in the common sense notion that if you and I want others to treat us respectfully, honestly, and kindly, we need to get in the habit of treating others with respect, honesty, and kindness.
As you and I do our part to carry this out, we bring into the social atmosphere of our world a spiritual force that changes the hearts of others. To be sure, it is a gradual change, and is a lot like moving a beach one grain of sand at a time, but it is real change.
However, with tidal waves of hatred, misunderstanding, and malice crashing onto the shorelines of our interactions with one another, it may seem overwhelming to my one act of integrity or truthfulness or generosity. Yet small acts of regard for others that are genuine have a way of softening hard hearts, weakening stubborn pride, and countering selfish and petty attitudes.
Consider how such small deeds, kind words, and trustworthy habits often prove contagious – even more profoundly than COVID-19. A woman may treat with kindness another because a stranger showed her kindness. A man’s cheerfulness may light up the room full of gloomy coworkers who find it in their hearts to smile at others on the way home from work. A woman’s humble attitude may set her subordinates at ease. A person’s integrity with a club’s money may show his community that he can be trusted with the county budget. And so on. Genuinely helping and supporting others is something we all would do well to “catch.”
But aside from the effects that these things have on others, a deeper and greater reason remains: it pleases our Heavenly Father for us to treat others well and faithfully.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV). To “work heartily” here means to work with enthusiasm and with diligence, faithfully carrying out our work. Why? Because it makes the world a better place? While it does that very thing, no, that is not the reason. We do it because, whatever the worldly outcome, our pleasure is in pleasing our Savior.
Yet… even as we carry out this labor of love, we are changing the world. One grain of sand at a time perhaps, but when all of God’s people are carrying out this high and holy calling, to treat others as we wish to be treated, together the tide turns and the world is made better.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).
Let us each do our part, trusting that Jesus knows what He is talking about. Let us not concern ourselves with how others are behaving, but be resolved in fulfilling the Golden Rule.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com.” Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed are the work of the author.)