Beyond the Golden Rule
Last weekend I was asked to speak at MSUB’s campus ministry anniversary celebration. They chose The Golden Rule as a fitting way to celebrate the golden anniversary. The Golden Rule is basic. It is all about reciprocity. It is one step up from ethics 101—“First, do no harm.” It is the kind of lowest common denominator of decent social behavior that just about everybody can agree upon. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” That’s pretty simple.
And yet our society has become so hyper-competitive, so hyper-aggressive, so inward looking and self-centered that we think our national motto is, “We’re number one!” And we push ourselves to be their best, to be number one, whatever the cost. The cost is high. And here’s where I think the church plays a really important role. The church, when we are functioning at our best, can be a countervailing voice, an alternative to the dominant narrative.
Almost every religion has some version of the Golden Rule, even if it is expressed differently. It is something that we all agree upon. Except sociopaths. Like the man who shot and killed 59 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas. And wounded more than 500 others. An act of pure evil. An act that defies the Golden Rule and every other ethical principle.
But, it was an act that brought out incredible bravery and humanity among the survivors and the first responders. People who risked their own lives to help others, to help strangers. People who were embodying the Golden Rule and then some. Way beyond “Do no harm.” Risking their lives for others. Establishing a kind of community out of chaos, hope out of tragedy. It was “love your neighbor as yourself” magnified.
Jesus, who told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, also told us to love our enemies. It is natural to love your friends, but unnatural to love your enemies. Some of the world’s greatest people have struggled with it—Nelson Mandela, St. Francis, Martin Luther King, Jr.,and countless people whose names we do not know.
Loving your enemies means stepping out of your comfort zone, way out, and putting yourself in harm’s way. It means risking being changed, risking losing, risking no longer being right. It means taking seriously community. And it may just mean saving the planet.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA