Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Golden Rule – SOTM #22

Why do I feel like running the other way when I see a business sign that incorporates the golden rule? Is it that I sense that “the lady doeth protest too much?” Yes, I think that is it.

NPR’s Car Talk hosts, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, tell us, with almost no subterfuge, that their law firm is Dewey, Chetum, and Howe. If I’m dealing with a crook I like to know it right from the start. It is disappointing, to say the least, to find that what you thought was an honest enterprise has lifted your wallet. But most disturbing of all is to be drugged, mugged, and left broke by a business called Golden Rule Care Givers.

No principle (or call it commandment if you wish) makes more sense, is more easily remembered, and more universally approved than The Golden Rule. Jesus is not the only religious teacher to propound it. Confucius and Gautama Buddha and others have offered their version of the Golden Rule.

Jesus said of it, “. . . this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” That is a very sweeping statement. In other words, by doing to others as you would have them do to you, you will have answered the requirements of the Ten Commandments, the regulations of Jewish Law, and avoided all the sins denounced by the Prophets. Want an easy way to heaven? Here’s one.

Well, not quite. It is a marvelous statement of our obligation to each person with whom we have contact. (Don’t forget that God is a Person.) But we know that, like all other “Rules for Moral Living,” this one is impossible for sinful men and women to faithfully execute on a day to day basis. So, what are we to do?

I’ve mentioned elsewhere a motto invented by one of the participating teams in a mock United Nations session to which I took some students years ago. Sensing that their project was not the equal of some of the others, they declared that they were operating under the principle that, “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.”

Perhaps our attitude toward the Golden Rule should be, “If it is worth living by, it is worth living by poorly.” If we wait to attempt moral living until we can do it perfectly we will make no progress toward Christ-likeness in our lives. And worse, we will make no impression, for good, upon those we are sent to be witnesses to. Thankfully, Christians know that their standing before God is not determined by their perfect observance of the Golden Rule, but by the sacrifice for sin that Jesus provided in his death. With the issue of our standing before the Father settled at Calvary, we are set free to begin to live, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, like a member of God’s family. And there is no better guide to that kind of living than the Golden Rule.

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