Friday, July 6, 2018

Jesus and The New Golden Rule

Many, who would minimize the impact of Christianity upon the world, claim that the so-called "Golden Rule", which requires one to treat others as one would wish for them to treat oneself, had its origins long before the time of Christ. While it is true that variants of the Biblical Golden Rule show up in Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and other religions and philosophies, it is not exactly true that these prior "golden rules" were the same as the one Christ articulated. Christ articulated a new version of the golden rule.

Prior to Christ, a careful reading of ancient texts reveals a uniformly negative construct of the idea. In other words, these prior versions were more about not provoking others. These versions more closely read "Do not do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you." There is no instruction to do good things to others for unselfish reasons. Before Jesus it was about not poking the bear. After Jesus it became about doing acts of kindness, even towards the bear.

Jesus' teaching, however, goes beyond the negative instruction to avoid doing what one would not like done to oneself. Christ's version was a positive formula that directs His hearers to actively do good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasizes the needs for unselfish positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another person. 

The instruction by Jesus to initiate kind treatment of others rather than to simply avoid being unkind emphasized a doing version of love for one's fellow man rather than a mere feeling kind of love. We are to be proactive in loving our neighbors rather than reactive. This idea of actively doing good first to others is unique to Christ's message.

That message of proactive goodness is the thing that undergirds all Christianity. It's why Christianity outstrips virtually every other religion on the planet in doing good. It's why we have missions. It's why we build hospitals, send doctors, nurses and teachers to every corner of the planet teaching proactive kindness. Jesus told us to and in obedience, we do acts of kindness. Because we have a relationship with Christ we cannot help doing good to our we would have them do unto us.

© 2018 by Tom King

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