The Golden Rule
Jesus said, "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). The wise man said, "Do not say ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work" (Proverbs 24:29). This rule is one which ought to be kept with us at all times. To a Christian, it is like a pen to a businessman or a tape measure to a carpenter. It is the rule of thumb that we use when we don’t know the right passage or doctrine and do not have time to consult a book or a preacher for the answer. It is THE RULE OF LOVE!
Positive Versus Negative — Different religions have expressed this rule in the negative — which would in effect say, "Do not do anything to anyone that you would not want him to do to you." For example, Rabbi Hillel taught, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow creatures. That is the whole law. All else is explanation." Confucius said, "Do nothing to your neighbor which afterward you would not have your neighbor do to you" (Mahabharata XIII.5571). The question becomes "Is there a difference?" Certainly, no one should desire to assign to anyone’s beliefs more than what they intend. In fact, were not Confucius’ words preceded by "This is the sum of all true righteousness, Treat others as you would yourself be treated?" It may be that those who teach this in the negative intend to imply the positive. Parents often illustrate this rule to their children with negative examples. "You wouldn’t want Johnny to kick you in the leg. Therefore you do not kick him." They do not intend to limit the rule, but to merely make application to a specific problem.
A Positive Rule — However, to apply the rule to a negative situation and to make it a negative rule are two different things. Why did Jesus state this rule in the positive rather than the negative and what is the difference? Does the positive imply the negative and does the negative imply the positive? Some believe that to state this rule in the negative necessarily involves a positive application. Do not hate then would mean love. However, such is not the case. It might be the case that I neither love or hate someone. I might simply avoid someone. Would that be the fulfillment of Jesus rule? That might depend on many things. Jesus stated the rule in the positive because the overriding principle in the Sermon on the Mount is that of a righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribe and Pharisees (5:20). It is not an outward righteousness filled only with negative "Thou shalt not’s." It is a righteousness in which our spirit is filled with the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9). It is not one in which you "Do not hate" but one in which you "love." MORE NEXT WEEK!