Dear Friends in Christ,
What have we done with the Golden Rule?
In Matthew 7:12, Jesus summarizes Jewish and Christian law, stating, “In everything, do to others as you’d have them to do to you.” But our culture seems to have forgotten that rule. Instead, another rule has taken its place, “Do for yourself; ignore others, hurt others, or tear them down unless they do what you demand they do.”
And yet, Jesus still calls us to follow this rule and even go beyond it by loving our neighbor. Even, and especially, in times of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. Even when we think the best or only answer is to think of ourselves and tear others down to lift ourselves up.
Did you know that the Golden Rule is found in nearly all major world religions and philosophies? For example, it appears in its “do not” form in ancient Greek philosophy (“Do not do to others that which angers you when done to you,” Isocrates) and in Buddhism (“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful,” Buddha). In its positive form, the rule is found in Judaism and Christianity (“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Lev. 19:18); in Islam (“that which you want for yourself, seek for humankind,” Muhammad); and North American Indigenous spiritualities (ex. "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves," Black Elk). The Golden Rule, then, can help connect us across our divisions.
But following this rule is not easy. In order to follow the Golden Rule, we must be able to self-reflect honestly and have empathy for others. We need to be able to step into another person’s shoes and ask ourselves “How would I feel if I were in this situation and that were done to me? If I wouldn’t like it, maybe I shouldn’t do it them. If I would like it, then maybe I should consider doing it for them, with their permission and blessing, of course.”
Perhaps this is where we go wrong. Turned in on our selves and our own anxieties, we forget how to self-reflect and empathize with our fellow children of God. Maybe empathy is something we need to practice, trying again and again in all of our relationships to understand where others are coming from and what they may be experiencing, particularly with those who are different from us. Perhaps we can grow our empathy abilities by learning and listening and allowing ourselves to be transformed by another person’s story.
We as followers of Christ are called to live the Golden Rule in every interaction, even going beyond the Golden Rule and doing unto others as Christ has done for us. For Jesus knew what we’d do to him and yet died for us anyway, rising again to give us new life. The least we can do in response is “in everything, do to others as we’d have done to us.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s a simple command from God that, in times of fear and anxiety, we too quickly ignore. But the only way we will get through life is by walking in our journeys together, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, taking on one another’s burdens and going the extra mile. This is what Jesus Christ did for us and does for us every day.
May God bless and keep you this day!
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod