“ 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
A few weeks ago, our Sunday school class had a Zoom meeting and this is the verse we talked about. It seems like such a simple verse on the surface. “Yeah, I can do that…no problem.” Until someone cuts you off in traffic, or a person makes a snide mask comment in the store, or a family member betrays you, or some stranger uses the “R” word to describe your kid. Now I don’t know about you, but when one of those situations arises, I find myself acting less like Jesus and more like Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
It’s so easy to immediately start coming up with excuses as to why it’s okay to respond the way we do. We tell ourselves even Jesus would understand this one. But the truth is, there are NO qualifiers on this verse. None. Nada. Nil. I am called to treat everyone as I would like to be treated. For us Christians everyone means:
- People of my race.
- People of a different race.
- Just to be clear: PEOPLE OF ALL RACES
- People who sniff their nose continually instead of JUST BLOWING IT
- Straight people
- Gay people
- All people of different gender/sexual identity
- People who wear masks
- People who don’t wear masks
- People who think FRIENDS is better than The Office (also please add them to your prayer list)
- Obnoxious football fans (yes, even Alabama fans – sorry….remember that no qualifier thing)
- Rich people
- Poor people
- People who park right next to you in a parking lot even though there are TONS of other empty spots and then park right on the dang line making it almost impossible to get in your car and….okay Imma stop now; I feel myself channeling “The Snake”
- People with mental disabilities
- People with physical disabilities
And this list could literally go on, and on, and on because Jesus truly did mean everyone. As I thought about this “Golden Rule,” I started thinking about the way I truly would want to be treated. I know for every one of us the answer may be different but for me it included:
- Respect: I like to feel like my accomplishments and abilities are esteemed and valued. There is not a single person on this earth who is not needed. Every culture, country, and person adds to our human experience and our world would not be as rich and wonderful a place without everyone contributing.
- Kindness: Let’s be honest, isn’t life just better when people are kind to you? A friendly greeting, a smile from a stranger, or even a simple “thank you” can impact our day for the better.
- Forgiveness: I occasionally make mistakes (please don’t tell my husband I admitted that). When I do, I’m trying to apologize quickly. And isn’t it great when people actually forgive you and don’t continually throw up your mistakes for years after? That’s the kind of forgiveness I love to receive.
- Grace: Have you ever noticed we always judge others on their actions but ourselves on our intentions? I love it when someone gives me grace when I slip up and don’t live up to my standards.
- Love: This of course is the big one. We want all kinds of love. While English doesn’t allow us many variants of love, the Greek language breaks loves down into so many categories. I want all of them- philia (friendship love), eros (romantic love), storge (parental love), philautia (loving and being comfortable with yourself), and agape (love of God).
I’m sure I could come up with a ton of other small ways I want to be treated, but these are the biggies. Your list probably has some differences, but I bet there are also some similarities. And that’s not surprising, when you get down to it we are always more similar than different.
While it’s easy to come up with my list for the first part of Matthew 7:12, it’s a whole lot harder to turn around and judge myself by those same attributes that the next part of the verse requires. I don’t know about you, but my toes are almost blue from how hard that part steps on them. Ouch.
But I think that now it is more important than ever that I work as hard as I can at treating others the way I want to be treated. Even if your list has different items than mine, would you ever be disappointed if someone treated you with respect, kindness, forgiveness, grace, and love? I’m betting not.
I also think that now more than maybe ever before it’s difficult to carry out that command. In years past we could treat our neighbors with respect and love because, well, we probably didn’t know a lot about them. Now you know everything from who they are voting for to what they had for dinner. Social media has probably never made the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” more applicable. Especially when our social media friend doesn’t share our political or religious views.
Make no mistake though – Jesus’s command still stands. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, blah, blah, blah didn’t take him by surprise. It doesn’t need a modern update along the lines of: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, unless they disagree with you online. The command for us is still there.
So here’s where I stand: I’m trying. I really am. I’m trying not to react in anger when someone cuts me off in traffic (full disclosure…my horn not working right now is really helping here). I’m trying to give forgiveness in my heart, even when the offender refuses to ask for it. I’m trying to give grace to everyone I come across, because we are all completely on edge right now. Am I successful every time? No. But when I fail I ask God for forgiveness, accept his grace, and start again.
May I suggest you do the same? After all, election season is coming. If you ever wanted to test your ability to practice The Golden Rule….that’ll do it.