What Has Happened to the Golden Rule?

Sometimes it’s good to pause and reflect.

Studying verses from Colossians chapter 3, while sort of watching the political conventions, led me to pause and reflect on our culture in America today. Paul wrote in verse 12, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

We can still see this in our communities today. But not so much on TV, the Internet, blogs, Twitter, and in politics.

Paul continued in verse 13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”

Don’t see many Republicans or Democrats practicing this with each other anymore, at least not in public. Don’t see it between conservatives and liberals, who seem never to forget, much less forgive.

Paul concluded in verse 14, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

In so many ways our culture today seems to be in line with the opposites – anger, malice, pride, callousness, impatience, condemnation, and that which drives all disunity, fear and hate.

Paul’s comments align, of course, with Jesus’ teachings, which include verse 6:31 in Luke, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This Golden Rule used to be taught in school. Wonder if it is anymore?

Paul and Jesus were speaking to Christians and Jews, respectively. But the Golden Rule is not exclusive to Christianity. It pervades religion and philosophy:

  • Judaism – “What is hateful to you do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law: all the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”
  • Hinduism – “This is the sum of duty (Law): Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”
  • Islam – “Do ye enjoin Right Conduct on the people and forget (to practice it) yourselves. And yet you study the scripture? (Law). Will ye not understand?”
  • Buddhism – “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
  • Confucius – “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”
  • Artistotle – “We should behave to our friends as we would have our friends behave to us.”
  • Locke – “No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”

If the Golden Rule is so pervasive, why is it not still a mantra relished by our diverse culture? Well, we know why. Human nature tends toward the dark side. We must be led to the light.

So, then, is our problem lack of leadership? We don’t have enough leaders pushing us to the light?  Or, have we fallen so far that we refuse to hear and appreciate such leaders?

Ronald Reagan once said, “We might come closer to balancing the budget if all of us lived closer to the Commandments and the Golden Rule.”

That aligns well with what Paul suggested in Romans 14:19 (ESV), “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”

Let us.

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