So, I’ve been realizing something about the Golden Rule lately; it requires a bit of forward thinking! In the years that I’ve been following Christ, I’ve transitioned from needing to be heavily discipled by others, to entering into more of a period of enjoying peer fellowship, to now having attained the degree of maturity in Christ where discipleship is now an expectation from the Lord so as to be coming FROM me (thru His wisdom and power of course).
It’s been an interesting transition, let me tell ya, and the Lord is quick to do a course correction any time that Pride might want to come in the picture, the devil attempting to deceive me into thinking that I’M something; it’s definitely NOT me, of course, it’s all Him. The moments in which I am tempted to forget this are those in which He is doing the most awesome things through me. So, in order to keep me having in sober and modest judgment of myself, the Lord has also allowed circumstances to come to pass which force me to see my human weakness and frailty; THAT’LL KEEP YA HUMBLE! 🙂
Recently, as far as humbling situations go, it’s been related to my living / working / health situation. For some, these three areas of life may not be so inextricably linked. Yet, for me, in God’s will and in God’s way they surely are. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I want to honor those who are intimately involved in those details, yet please know that my entire life is NOT a walk in the park. I’m finding that as I go on in Christ there’s always at least one challenge in my day-to-day life. It seems that right around the time that one issue or set of issues in my life is resolved and I take a moment to celebrate the Lord’s working in it, there’s another giant to be faced out in the fighting arena that is my life. Life is a fight, folks. A fight between what God wants for our lives and what the devil, often working through others and through circumstances if we let him, will attempt to distract us into receiving as truth: deception.
Back to the main point of today’s post, I’m seeing that the Golden Rule has its chances at corruption as well. The devil even has his chance for a play day in THIS as well. From God’s word, the Golden Rule is seen as such:
English Standard Version (ESV)
Again, much thanks to Biblegateway.com for the efficient quoting privileges!
The Golden Rule is taught in the Gospel of Matthew, a book written from the perspective of one who knew the law of Moses, the Old Covenant, yet had become a believer in Jesus. Specifically, we find it in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ most well-known collections of wisdom, parables and teachings in which He instructs disciples on what it is to follow Him, to die to ourselves daily, and live a full life in Him: a life of service by the power of His everlasting and all-encompassing love. This particular command is a positive one. Rather than Jesus telling us here what we ought to avoid or NOT do, He’s encouraging us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’. We see this idea communicated throughout the Gospels, most verbatim in Matthew’s account, but still found as a solidly stated and restated theme in the bulk of the other writings in the New Testament as well. Of course, I could go on for many pages about ‘Love in the New Testament’. I mean, God IS love, right? So, for today’s purposes, I’ll keep it close to the subject at hand, this GOLDEN RULE.
So, pithy sayings like the above quoted Golden Rule first come across as simplistic. We might catch ourselves thinking that they’re easy to follow and implement into our daily lives. Another example of this: the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 19). Jesus is basically saying, “Oh, so you wanna be perfect, mature, lacking in nothing? Yeah, so you just wanna LOVE GOD WITH EVERY SINGLE PART OF YOURSELF EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY. Yeah, just do THAT.” 🙂 On the outset, commands like these can almost seem pointless to say out loud, even, dare I say it… ANNOYING! We might be tempted to think, “Yeah, OK Jesus, and…?” In those moments when we are wondering what to do next, however, or if we need to repent for something, this very maxim of wisdom may be our biggest challenge yet!
Doing unto others as I’d have them do unto me requires me to STOP and THINK about each situation as it’s unfolding. If I were on the other side of this affair, namely, the receiving end, how would I want that to go? Here’s where the newest realization came to me. Well, I’ve realized it to some degree before, but the Lord is giving me some vocabulary to communicate it to others in greater detail now. (Prepare for some philosophical madness! 🙂 )So I’m supposed to do good unto others, whatever the BEST is in each moment, right? However, each of us has a different conception of what’s best in a given situation. We can all pretty much agree on abstract notions like love, acceptance, freedom from condemnation, trustworthiness, generosity, gentleness, etc. but where the rubber meets the road is how these things are applied.
In a given circumstance, I might think it best to undergo action X while the other person involved may think it shrewdest to perform Y. If I don’t know any better, and I honestly do the best that I can in a given situation, treating the other person how I would want to be treated, yet they still feel as though I have sinned against them in some fashion, the problem may be entirely with them. Please re-read the previous sentence. Now, moving on, this is another reason why communication is of the utmost importance AND why patience is a virtue of the highest ilk! If, on the other hand, I am on the receiving end of some well-intentioned action am not treated the way that I want to be treated, I must ask myself first, BEFORE allowing myself to get over-the-top angry, “Did this person treat me how they would want to be treated in this situation?” If so, then the blood is off their hands. Now about my feelings. If I still feel wronged or betrayed in some fashion, is it merely because of my own issues and something I should share only with the Lord OR is this something that genuinely ought to be brought to the other person in the name of good communication?
Sometimes the Lord has wanted me to just hold my horses on sharing with the other person for awhile (or forever), and only to share my feelings with Him. In sharing with Him, I may discover that the REAL reason that I felt sinned against in that situation was that I had baggage from a previous relationship and something that the person did or said merely reminded me of an old circumstance and I went into defense mode. OR I may be released to share my feelings about the situation ONLY AFTER I’ve cooled down and my emotions will not be affecting all of my communications with the person so as to cause more harm than good. Even with all these things in line, however, the other person may still not take well what is being said. Even in this portion of the relationship, the dialogue regarding emotions from a previous interaction, as I’ve experienced from the Holy Spirit, must be brought before the Lord and weighed: “Is there something that I was supposed to do differently, Lord, or is this issue solely the woundedness of the other?” As we progress in the Lord, we may find it to be the case increasingly often that we DID NOT sin against the other person. This isn’t to say that we won’t or can’t sin (let us beware when we think we stand, lest we fall!), BUT as we become aware in Christ about everything we do, the occurrences of us acting mindlessly ought to go down quite a bit, amen!?
Oh, the ideal of speaking the truth in love. So now I’ve felt led by the Holy Spirit of God to confront my brother / sister about a certain behavior, now what? Communicating my feelings may not be enough in a given situation. The other person may simply justify their behavior or not see why it was, in fact, sinning against you or why you would like things done differently in the future. We may need to pull out Scripture to define why something that the other person did was, in fact, sin. If we are unable to find a Scripture to back up what we’re saying was sin other than the Golden Rule, then we may need to realize that it wasn’t them sinning against me at all, and maybe I just need to accept what they did as their best and move on. Or perhaps, I may need to communicate how I would like to be treated in the future in a similar situation in the name of keeping the peace and moving from acquaintanceship to a more intimate friendship.
If someone did sin against us, and we know this from the Holy Spirit, then we need to trust the other person to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit on it. If they didn’t sin against us, and we’re merely making a request known of how we’d like to be treated in the future more specific to how the Lord made us, this may take time too. Or these may happen instantaneously: WOOHOO! Again, these may take some time. Maybe even YEARS. This is where we have to remain patient with the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If it is indeed sin, we may even have to stop fellowshipping with the person in the meantime if their actions continue to routinely damage us and render us unable to live and act in an atmosphere of trust in their presence (following the guidelines Jesus mentions in Matthew of meeting one one one, bringing a brother, then a panel, etc.) . Even in their absence, however, the Holy Spirit will stir us to pray for them if we are listening. If it isn’t sin, then, GULP, we may just need to put up with it in the time being! The Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us on how this ought to be on a case by case basis. (I know that the above section may be tough to read without including a specific scenario, but I didn’t want to make something up or incriminate anyone in any way by way of similarity to another situation with an actual acquaintance of mine!)
Long story short, if we’re having an issue with a brother or sister, it may be our issue, it may be their issue, or it may be a combination of both our issues put together. The only way to know for sure is to take it to the Holy Ghost. Even the Golden Rule, as simplistic and pithy sounding as it may be, is a complicated adage when it comes to being put into action. Thanks for reading, and may your journey of discipleship mold you more in the image and likeness of Christ each step of the way!