The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12, this verse is considered probably one of the best-known sayings of Jesus around the world of anything that he has said, well-known to all of us worldwide. As we look through the reading of that word, if you would please join me in prayer. Father of mercies, let us stand in awe of you this day. We ask you to help us by your Spirit to put your word into our hearts and write it upon our minds. Lord, let your word come to us in power and help us to receive it in love with attentive, reverent, and teachable minds. Through Your word, allow us to taste the flavor of eternal life, which you have given to us in your son, Jesus, in whose name we now pray. Amen. Matthew 7:12, So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets. The word of the Lord, please be seated. The Golden Rule, a name that first came about in the British Isles and preachers and theologians and Brown in the early 1600s, started referring to that as the Golden Rule. But before that, in the third century, Roman Emperor, Alexander Servers, he repeatedly had this saying in Scribe in gold on the wall of his chamber.

He was not a Christian himself, but he was thoroughly impressed with the comprehensiveness of what it expressed. There have been versions of the golden rule in other cultures and other times. Around 500 BC, Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, he put it in the negative. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, he said something similar. Our Roman statesman, Seneca, about the time of Jesus, he worded it this way. He said, Let us show our generosity in the same manner that we would wish to have it bespoke upon us. Then in the Jewish community, there were sayings like this before Jesus, Rabbi Hillel. He said, What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. We hear echoes of that in the medical motto of do no harm. In recent times, a few have tried to update the Golden Rule, and they put it this way, one should treat others as they want to be treated, and that’s to keep from putting your preferences and your values on someone else. However it is stated the worlds recognize the value of the ethic. There’s something so commonsensical about it that it resonates with people everywhere.

Sitting on its own, however, there’s a danger of placing each of us at the center. We become the standard by which we measure our behavior. It is Jesus, though, who elevates this beyond that. This is not just a bumper-sticker slogan. It’s a summary statement of all that Jesus has already said in the sermon on the Mount. We are not the epicenter of our behavior, God is. Because we have been treated better than we deserve by the Lord, you and I must extend his grace and his mercy to others in how we treat them. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve asked that question, What is the right thing to do here? The Golden Rule becomes a guideline for us that we would desire to be treated ourselves if the situation was reversed. Jesus’ teaching takes on then, at the very core of who we are, our heart, it speaks directly to us in that way. We also are awaiting the coming of the kingdom. In this wait, it allows us to put a foot, as it were, in the here and now and in what is yet to come. Looking at the heart of the matter, verse 12, So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.

Again, not a bumper sticker, not a T-shirt. Because the so, whatever, or in some translation, the therefore, it points to what came earlier. It’s a summary statement. The Sermon of the Mount stands behind or before the Golden Rule. Now, I’m sure you’ve met a lot of people who like the second half of the Ten Commandments. They think it’s a great ethic. Honor your father and mother. Don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t give false testimony. They like that part. But they’re not as fond as the first half of the Ten Commandments. You shall have no other gods before me. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Honor the Sabbath. But you can’t have the second group without the first. That’s what keeps it from being ego-centric. Why shouldn’t I hit you on the head with a club and take your wallet? Well, I wouldn’t be very nice because I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me, possibly. But without the Lord as the basis for that, we don’t have any real reason beyond human sentiment. Human sentiment, it changes. Jesus was not speaking in a vacuum void of God. The golden rule is tied to the greatest commandment.

In Matthew 22, Jesus said, when asked that question, What’s the greatest? He said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. That’s the greatest commandment, and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments depend all the law and the prophets. Those are linked. Human culture, human sentiment, human values, they change. We know that. We see it all around us. Sexual ethics, questions of gender, there’s not agreement on that, of how people want to be treated. To build a lasting structure, it must be put on a foundation that does not change or shift, and that is God alone. For us to love each other rightly, we must love God rightly. When you hear that, that would actually almost be a hopelessness for us if we stop there, because which of us love God rightly? But the good news is, we hear in 1 John 4, we love because He first loved us. For John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only son. That’s the heart of the Gospel. That’s the good news. I appreciate New Testament scholar, Yokeim Yoramiz.

He had a comment on this section of the Sermon of the Mount, and he said, The gospel precedes the demand. The gospel precedes the demand. Every word of the Sermon of the Mount was preceded by something else. It was preceded by the preaching of the kingdom of God. It was preceded by the granting of sonship to the disciples, it was preceded by Jesus’ witness to himself in word and in deed. That’s the beauty of the Sermon of the Mount. What Jesus said, what Jesus had done, what he had collectively brought forward with the disciples precedes any response that they do. You may recall in John 6 that after Jesus had spoken some difficult things, we read there that many of the disciples heard it and said, This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it? And many turned their back and no longer followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned to the 12 and he said, Do you want to go away as well? Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Peter is speaking from a heart that’s been transformed. Transformed by the grace that Jesus has already brought to him.

It’s what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5, when he said, Though we once regarded Jesus from a worldly point of view, we don’t do that any longer because if anyone is in Christ, behold, he’s a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. The Gospel precedes the demand. I don’t know if any of you saw the news of the Burning Man event, which was held in the deserts of Nevada over this year. It’s supposed to focus on community, art, self-expression, self-reliance. In reality, it’s just a total debauchery. But this year, an unexpected cold rain forced everyone to shelter in place. The mud prevented anyone from leaving and had to conserve food and water, and it was hard even to walk around in the wet clay. There are stated principles of radical inclusion, gifting, radical self-reliance, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, it all got thrown out the window in an every man for himself moment. Trash and garbage everywhere, angry and belligerent participants, it descended into a Lord of the Flies event. You see, a new community without a new heart, it lasts until the first real sacrifice is called for.

The first real challenge comes to you, and you have to prefer somebody else. It goes away. That’s human nature on its own, apart from Christ. There is no great new community. The Bible tells us we must have a new heart given in the New Covenant. In Luke 7, Jesus was invited by a pharisee to his home to eat, and he told them this story. He said, Simon, let me ask you a question. Two people owed a money lender a certain amount. One owed $500 and the other $50. Neither of them had the money to pay. He forgave the debts of both. Now, which of those do you think would love him more? Of course, he got it. The one with the larger debt. Brothers and sisters, we are the ones with the larger debt. That’s the whole point. The Father has done to us what we could not do for ourselves. Otherwise, if that wasn’t the case, what happens when you treat someone else well, like you want to be treated and they respond poorly? What’s the foundation for continuing to do well? You slow down and you allow a car to emerge in front of you and you’re expecting a little thank you.

And instead, they hand gesture you’re number one. That’s happened. Your goodwill goes out the window. You’re incensed. How could they do that? How do you love them in that moment when your goodness is not returned in kind? The gospel proceeds to the man. I’ve been forgiven. Let it go. In that moment, you are loving the Lord with all you have, and it’s based on Him, not on their response. In doing so, then you’ve lived out the coming of the kingdom as one of its citizens. That’s what Jesus came to do. He said, He proclaimedamed the kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. He taught us in the prayer, Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done. The church is the new community of the kingdom where we get to live out now what is yet to come in its full perfection. The Golden Rule, it summarizes the new kingdom ethic that was always a part of God’s intention in the law and the prophets. We read in Deuteronomy 6, referred to as the Shemma, Hero, Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.

These words I command you shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children. Leviticus, 1918, You are to love your neighbor as yourself. You see, this love of God, this love of neighbor, it’s the main trunk, it’s the tree, and all the other laws branch off of it. They’re connected to the trunk. If not, they lose their meaning. They’re meaningless without that. One commentator said, he said, The Golden Rule, it localizes the motivating force or discipleship in the heart. Love for God enables love for others. Here we have the difference then between the world’s way of doing business and this kingdom ethic. See, legislation and rules and laws, they’re good, but it’s not the best thing. Don’t commit adulry, good. Don’t punch someone in the face, good. Don’t start someone’s house on fire, good. But God’s commands don’t stop there. Promote the well-being of my neighbor’s marriage, better. Go out of your way to help your neighbor better. Run into a burning building to rescue them, better. God’s kingdom ethics are not just don’t do this or that. They come from a changed heart that adds to the don’ts a set of joyful do’s.

Love for God enables us to love others. That notorious woman who came and anointed Jesus feet with her tears. Simon the Pharisee, he looked at that with an internal scoff towards Jesus, and he said, If this man were really a prophet, he would have known who and what woman is touching him, for she is a sinner. The love and the acceptance and forgiveness that Jesus gave to her as a sinner is exactly what we would want him to do to us. We want that treatment from Jesus. When Jesus rebuked the hard-heartedness of some, we don’t really want that part, but we know it’s exactly what we need when we’re doing that too. To love someone at times means you get in their way. That’s also the golden rule at work because it’s centered on God’s love, and God’s love includes discipline. Hebrews 12 tells us, For the Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every child whom he receives. At times, love gets in the way of people. Just doesn’t let them do what they want because the do what you want is not centered on you, it’s centered on God. Now, showing others kindness in an unkind age is more than being nice.

I said this a few weeks ago, if all you hear me say is be nice, I will take that as a win. That’s how low the bar is right now. We would be ecstatic if people could just be nice. However, I’m saying far more than be nice. Jesus has liberated us to love others freely and lavishly. His work precedes ours. In Luke 7, when this woman was washing Jesus feet with her tears and wiping it with his hair, and when Jesus asked that question of who loved more, the small debt or the greater debt, he then said to Simon, that pharisee, Do you see this woman? I came to your house. You didn’t give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I have entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poor perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, and her great love was shown. Whoever has been forgiven, little loves little.

Then Jesus looked at her and said, Your sins are forgiven. This is us. We are her. When Jesus has done this to you, you go into the world and you treat others differently. Simon couldn’t see it on himself. You think this woman would be the first to condemn someone like her? Or to tell of the great goodness of Jesus. When you and I run into a Simon, the Pharisee, you extend pity to him, to her. Because you go and know and say, I was lost, but I was found. Without Jesus, I’d be no better than Him. I’d be no better than Her. Because the Lord has moved towards us first, we do not then have to wait for the other person to do something first before we respond to them. If they treat me like I want, then I will treat them right. No. How often that’s the case, especially in relationships, where we’ve been hurt or wounded by someone, we’re sitting there waiting for them to react rightly towards us. If they ask for forgiveness, if they do the right thing, then I will be gracious enough to respond to them in kind. No.

The gospel precedes the demand. You and I can respond rightly because God has forgiven us. He has moved towards us while we were sinners. This includes when you’re going down the road or seeing those political bumper stickers or signs of the president that you didn’t vote for. How you respond to that. How you respond to the things that are happening in the world around us. First and foremost, with the love that you have received. From Job king, Jeremiah, again, he said, You yourself should be signs of the coming kingdom of God, signs that something has already happened. We are the witnesses. We’re the testimony of Jesus. What you post on Facebook, what links you forward, what things you say about someone you might dislike or maybe even look down on, all of these run into what Jesus tells us here. So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets. It means representing someone’s view who differs with you accurately without caricature, because I sure hate it when somebody misrepresents me. It means that you step into that as a believer who has received grace upon grace.

Jesus has treated you and I far better than we deserve, and so therefore we go and do likewise. That we can be signs to the world that something has really happened, that Jesus did come, He did conquer sin and death, and he was raised on the third day. How do I know that? Look at all the people who are following Him, who are extending that type of grace and mercy to difficult and unreasonable people. We’re signs of that, and that’s a great privilege for us. In the midst of that, when we fail, we come to the Lord in confession of sin because it’s sin. We come to the source of our strength and praying for that renewal. That the power of the Holy Spirit would abide in us to overcome those challenges, those difficulties, so that Jesus would be honored. That people would see the very foundation is God. Our love for Him flows from the love we have received, enabling us then to go and to do as Christ has done to us, to do to others as we would want them to do to us based on everything that Jesus has already said.

I think that would change a lot of things in our world. I think that would change the witness of the church. That would bring glory to Jesus. What a gift that we have to offer back to Him, the flowers of grace and mercy that He has lavished on us. We can now scatter and strew all around. It doesn’t come from me, it comes from Him. Brothers and sisters, let us be signs that something has really happened. The kingdom has come. Pray with me. Father, you indeed have given to us wonder upon wonder, grace upon grace. Thank you. Thank you for opening the eyes of we who were blind and opening our ears as we were deaf and Father, we do pray that you would forgive us for we have judged those made in your image and likeness as if somehow we have seen on our own, we have heard by our own effort. And Father, we pray that you would not only forgive us for that abuse of grace, but Lord, that you would continue in Your kindness to transform us. Lord, that others would see our responses and they would give praise to You.

They would see Jesus in the midst of us. And this we pray and ask all in His mighty name, Amen.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription