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Monday, April 10, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 35 of 40: The Golden Rule

Matthew 7: 12
In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you; for this is the Law and the Prophets.

In this summary of the entire Old Testament, this one verse gives everyone a simple way to remember how to act in every situation.  People are naturally self serving and this rule gives us all a standard by which to measure our actions, "Am I acting in a way that I, myself, would like to be treated?"

This is a very old concept that can be dated to Confucius who said, "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."  Buddhists developed a similar saying, "Doing as one would be done by, kill not nor cause to kill."  The philosopher Epictetus put it this way, "What you avoid suffering yourselves, seek not to inflict upon others."

The ancient philosophers were telling their students to refrain from doing to others what they did not wish done to them.  Refraining from negative actions enables people to live together.

But, refraining from acting is not what Jesus was after.  Notice, Jesus takes what the ancient philosophers had been teaching for centuries and turns it around, reshapes this wisdom into a positive command; one that requires action, positive action.  Instead of do not do, His command is do to others.

Refraining from an action is not a very difficult thing to do.  Taking action is more difficult.  We must show love and kindness as we want kindness; we must serve as we want to be served; we must forgive as we want forgiveness.

The Golden Rule expressed in the positive is now a spiritual rule rather than a temporal rule.  It is a rule that requires us to suppress our own selfish desires and put others first; to translate our love for God into love and service for others.

Tomorrow we study the narrow and the wide gates.

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