When Jesus gave us the Golden Rule, he did not appoint us to serve as the judges of truth, goodness, and love. The Golden Rule does not liberate the soul from the commands of God through the founding of a new ethic. Rather, it is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus clearly articulates the rule in connection to the Old Testament saying,, “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).”
Does Spirituality Evolve
Despite the context of Matthew, the vendors of popular culture have claimed that Jesus’s rule can have variety of meanings. Former President Barak Obama famously summed up the American understanding of the Golden Rule a few years back when speaking about his evolution on the topic homosexual marriage. President Obama said,
But – you know, when we think about our faith, the…thing—you know at…the root that we think about is not only – Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf – but it’s also the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.”
In other words, the President longs for others to respect his marriage and his commitment to those whom he loves. Working from his expectations, he concludes that he should extend homosexual couples the same rights and privileges that he values. Even if the practical extension of love and acceptance in this circumstance works against his personal ideological and spiritual preferences, President Obama will treat others as he would have them treat him. He will follow the ethic of the Golden Rule as he understands it.
With regards to the practice of love, the President’s sentiment proves biblical. Human beings typically build their interpersonal relationships upon the concept of friend and foe. We love those that love us and hate our enemies. Jesus redefines this common paradigm, calling his followers to “Love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you (5:45).” In other words, chants such as “Let’s go Brandon” which unquestionably insult President Joe Biden have no place in Christendom. Believers may disagree with politicians and vote them in and out of office. But even in the middle of those disagreement, the Christian is to love his enemies.
What is Love?
The need for love raises an even more profound question, “what is love?” Or perhaps better stated, who gets to define love? Can homosexuals tell us how to love them? Even more pertinently, can we tell others how they are to love us? Do we get to define what love is? Do we get to define the Golden Rule?
The Messiah says, “no.” In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus does not liberate his hearers from the vision cast by the Law and the Prophets. Rather he calls his listeners to obey the commands in both action and thought. “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28).” Jesus intensifies the law and then obeys it perfectly, dies, and comes back to life so that he may save us through his Spirit which will enable us to obey his law. In other words, love is not a fluid thing open to interpretation. Love consists of living with others in accordance with the law of God. Paul restates Jesus’s intent, Romans 13:9-10 writing:
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
To live out the Golden Rule as Jesus would have understood it, men and women must do unto others as they would have them do unto them in accordance with the Word of God. Regardless of our station in life or society, we should not interpret the Golden Rule according to our experiences or wants but according to the Scriptures.
Why We Need Help
Jesus does not allow men and women to define love because they lack the moral ability to do so (Eph 4:18) Every utopian experiment has failed because humanity lacks the organizational and philosophical ability to overcome basic human impulses such as selfishness and pride. The fate of Adam and Eve has been the fate of every human being and human society. When we look within for love, we find only darkness and confusion.
God’s Word alone contains the ethic of the kingdom of God and of perfection. To envision happiness and fulfillment, we need to envision a world in which the ten commandments are perfectly followed by every citizen. In other words, God’s law does not keep us from fulfillment but rather leads us towards human perfection.
If someone’s actions or thoughts run counter to the commands of God, we cannot validate their wishes. To do so would be to further cut them off from true human flourishing. We cannot support someone as they gossip because they find joy in judging others. We cannot let someone sleep with underage minors because they find satisfaction in deviant behavior. And we cannot support a homosexual marriage even if the event brings the individuals involved happiness for it defies the command of God. Such actions convey their practitioners further into darkness. Just as we long to flourish, we should long for others to flourish. We should long for people to know and obey the laws of God.
To do unto others is to extend mercy instead of anger to our coworker who insults us. To love others is to pray for our mother-in-law when her hypercritical judgement rests upon the dinner we cooked. To do unto others as we want them to do to us is to pursue the hurt spouse who refuses to talk by washing of the dishes and taking the kids to school. We do not get to define love according to our preferences or love languages. A loving spouse, a loving child, a loving parent, or a loving neighbor is one who loves others according to the commands of God.
The Golden Rule is not a new ethic but the practical fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. To do unto to others as we would have them do unto us, we must both know and obey the commands of God. Apart from them, the Golden Rule cease to be Golden.