Spiritual Perspectives


APPLICATIONS OF “THE GOLDEN RULE”

Gary W. Summers

     In the 2005 Memphis School of Preaching lectureship book, What Is Man?, Gideon Rodriguez, who preaches the gospel in the Philippines, wrote a chapter titled: “Man’s Relationship With Fellow Man,” in which he presents a list of applications of “the golden rule” from brother James McGill (2:743-44).  Of course, the point was made that what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12 is the highest standard ever taught among men.  The idea of refraining from doing harm to others was a step in the right direction, but to actually treat others the way we want to be treated is even more powerful.  Below are some of those that brother McGill suggested.

 

1.       “I want to be able to trust in and confide in a friend.”  Thus, I would not betray a confidence given to me.  Many learn who their friends are the hard way.  Many years ago this naïve writer thought he was friends with someone for several weeks.  Conversations included future plans, as well as observations about daily living and work.  No one said, “Keep this confidential”; it did not seem to be necessary.  Then one evening he repeated and ridiculed in front of the other workers a private comment, and he did so maliciously, thus proving that he was not the friend he had pretended to be.  More than one freshman has written in a composition about the same type of treatment. Obviously, some have either never heard of this Biblical principle, or they do not care to apply it.

 

2.       “I do not want what I have said to be misquoted.”  A good name does not deserve to be sullied.  It takes a lifetime to build up people’s trust; to blacken someone’s reputation through innuendo and spin is certainly not in keeping with Jesus’ teaching.  It is among the lowest things that can be done—to vilify other people when they have no opportunity to defend themselves.  To deliberately misquote or change the emphasis of what another said or to fail to provide the proper context so as to mislead others is contemptible.  Some may repeat the statement accurately but then render their judgment as to why it was said.  How many of us would want to be treated that way?  In fact, even if a piece of information is true, it does not need to be repeated.  How effective would Peter have been on the Day of Pentecost if someone had gone through the crowd, whispering, “I heard him deny Christ three times before He was crucified; he cursed and swore, too”? 

 

3.       “I would like for others to give me the benefit of the doubt.”  Suppose I said or did something questionable.  It would be nice for others to put the best possible construct on it.  For example, if I sent someone (or several people) an e-mail containing certain information, I would not expect to be condemned for doing so without anyone even asking my motivation.  Someone practicing “the golden rule” would not send letters to a number of people, accusing me of being merciless and full of malice, would he?  And if I apologized for causing harm, I would not expect to be ostracized anyway.  Jesus had more than sufficient reason to demote Peter to the very least of the apostles after his three denials, yet He still allowed him to use the keys of the kingdom of heaven on Pentecost so that people could enter in.  All of us have made mistakes—are we going to demand perfection in others while we ourselves are deficient?

 

4.       “I would not like for someone to spread slander about me after my death….”  The reason is that the individual will not be able to defend himself.  Added to this statement should be “…or when I am not present to defend myself while alive.”  How many preachers have been asked to leave and not allowed to address the congregation?  Those in authority are free to say all manner of evil about the one who is no longer there.  He does not know what is being said and cannot defend himself.

 

     These are a few of the outstanding principles listed in the lectureship book, but more come to mind, and they are listed below.

 

5.       I am loyal to others; I expect others to remain loyal to me when I have done nothing to merit disfavor.  A female student described her labors in trying to find a house for her and her three high school friends as they attended college.  She finally found a place with four bedrooms, but along the way one of the girls brought a friend into the group.  The four of them contracted for the house, and the girl who found it was squeezed out.  Would any of the other girls have wanted to be treated that way?

 

       Jonathan did the best he could at remaining loyal to his friend David and to his father Saul.  When a conflict arose between the two, he determined which one was right and which one was wrong.  When forced to make a decision, he came down on the side of right—regardless of the consequences.

 

      A few years ago a family began attending the congregation with which I was working.  When my wife and I visited them, they explained to us why they were leaving the congregation where they had been worshipping for two years.  Apparently, there was an elite faction within that church, of which they were not a part.  They were excluded from being in charge of anything.  Eventually, they left.  Since it was a small community, it was not uncommon to encounter other members in the grocery store.  One day the wife chanced upon one of the “sisters,” whom she greeted.  The woman just ignored her and passed on by.  She confided how hurtful that was (and certainly not reflective of “the golden rule”).  Naturally, we sympathized.  Two years later, however, when we were departing from the congregation, she behaved the same way toward us, although we had been close friends.

 

6.    I am grateful to others for what they have done and expect the same treatment from others.  One of the reasons Pharaoh is such a callous and arrogant person is that he displayed ingratitude.  He chose not to remember what Joseph had done for Egypt and enslaved his descendants (Ex. 1:8).  No one operating by the principle of Matthew 7:12 could have behaved in so unkind a manner.  Likewise, Nabal had benefited from the protection of David and his men, who had asked nothing in return.  On one occasion, they needed food but were soundly rebuffed by the man whose name means “fool.”  David was so incensed at Nabal’s ingratitude that he was ready to destroy all that he had, but he listened instead to the reasonable voice of Abigail (1 Sam. 25).  Of all the people to typify what Jesus said, King Ahasuerus stands out.  Unable to sleep, he had some of the official court records read to him.  When he got to the assassination plot uncovered by Mordecai, he asked, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed upon Mordecai for this?” (Esther 5:1-3).

 

      How many people, however, are selfish instead?  How many instances have we all heard about in which children have been ungrateful to their parents?  Many times parents sacrifice for their children and then are treated shabbily by them when they reach “adulthood.”  Sometimes, they disrespect their parents’ wishes and their Christian convictions.  One woman had left the Baptists when she learned the truth about salvation.  She was a member of the congregation with which I worked.  She suffered from pancreatic cancer for a few months and passed away.  Imagine the congregation’s surprise when the paper announced a Baptist preacher was going to conduct the funeral.  One of the ladies in the congregation commented, “If she knew what her children were going to do, she’d have had a fit.”  How could her children disregard her commitment to the truth this way?  Obviously, they were not treating their mother the way they would have liked to have been treated.

 

      All of us probably have taken an interest in someone, expressed kindness to someone, been helpful and encouraging to someone—not expecting anything in return but rather just because it is the right thing to do—only to witness that person make himself our enemy.  Frequently, there is no disagreement, argument, or blowup between the two parties—one just suddenly changes his attitude and refuses to talk to the other—about him, perhaps, but not to him.  When such things occur, we all sit in astonishment, wondering why all of the good will we had exercised toward our “friend” was being trampled upon.  How sad for the individual who, as Judas betrayed Christ without cause, likewise turns against us when we have done no wrong.  Solomon said of him: “Whoever rewards evil for good, evil will not depart from his house” (Pr. 17: 13).

 

7.       I will talk to someone directly if I have a problem with him, as the Scriptures teach (Matt. 18:15-17), rather than assume that what someone else says about him is true.  Of course, there is the possibility of being lied to—thus, the need for one or two witnesses.  The wisdom of God is seen in the way He commands us to deal with problems.  If someone refuses to talk to a brother and does not return phone calls or letters, then obviously, that is the individual with the problem.  But if I do not make the effort to find out the correct information, then I have the problem.

 

     These are but a few applications of “the golden rule” that Jesus gave in Matthew 7:12, but they are important ones, dealing with correct communication and treatment between brethren (and others).  Perhaps if all of us spent more time thinking about how we would like to be treated—and then doing those things for others, we might escape precarious situations.  But even if personal relationships never improve, at least, we will know that we have been obedient and done what we could to benefit the kingdom.                                                                                                                                                                  

    

ART IS THE HAMMER?

Neal Noey

 

 

            While Clooney may like to be “out of touch,” I don’t like to be “in the dark.”  So, as I watched and listened to the hoopla surrounding and including the 70th annual Academy Awards, there were a few things which caught my attention.

 

     A few days prior to the “Awards” someone expressed their surprise that the “red states” had not gone into a frenzy to denounce the Academy’s nominations, especially the ones for Brokeback Mountain (about gay cowboys, but they are sheep herders).  The next day someone pointed out that the conservatives had spoken—Hollywood just wasn’t listening when the “red” states spent their money elsewhere.  The total box office draw for all five of the Academy’s nominations for best picture added together still did not equal the box office draw of King Kong, not to mention Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, or Chronicles of Narnia.  When will Hollywood understand that their job it to entertain, not “shape” society?

 

     They will come to regret voting “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” as the “best” original music.  Even a four- year-old could apply the basic “Sesame Street” adage: “One of these things is not like the others!”

 

     When one of the winners, I forget who, said that “Art is the hammer by which society is shaped,” I immediately thought of idolatry.  Art is created by man.  Art used a hammer and graving tools to create a golden calf (Ex. 32).  Israel sacrificed to the “art” and then “rose up to play,” a figure of speech for engaging in immoral acts.  Art truly “shaped” their society!  Those who worshipped idols were immoral, cruel, and selfish.  They rejected the knowledge of God and were cursed for it (Rom. 1:18-32).  They catered to the lusts of the flesh and reaped all manner of immoralities.  John said, “Love not the world, neither the things of the world…” (1John 2:15-17).

 

     The truth is: It is the love of the world that is the hammer that shapes the ungodly art of Hollywood!  Such art is hostile to all that is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2).  That is the reason Paul exhorted us not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1).  That they cannot see should not surprise anyone, for they have been blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).

 

     Much of what takes place at the Academy Awards is the gathering of an insolent group of unbelievers showing approval of those who practice and promote immorality.  Every once in a while someone with real talent will be rewarded for actual accomplishment.  Those moments while cherished, in perspective, will always pale to the creation of God!  Should we not honor Him?

—from the bulletin of the Lincolnway Church of Christ

(March 12, 2006)

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "APPLICATIONS OF “THE GOLDEN RULE"”  (4/02/06)."

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