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Living by "The Golden Rule".

Updated: May 12, 2023

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Saint Luke 6:31 KJV

A definition of Ethics: moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.

'Ethics' is a subject matter that most people don't really pay much attention to. They may vaguely hear or read something about it with regard to Medicine or Biology, but that's about it. It is a subject seemingly reserved for religious academics or philosophers.

There is, however, a 'Christian Ethic' that Jesus presents to us in the Gospels. Such an Ethic' is as old as the Book of Genesis, where where we read in Genesis 45:3-11,15, about Joseph's behaviour towards his brothers. This Ethic is commonly known as the Golden Rule. That is: " Do on to others as they would have them do unto you."

There are many cultures in the world that possess the same kind of ethic, but phrase it in an entirely negative way. These cultures would say, " Don't do anything to another you wouldn't want them to do to you." We live in that kind of culture. It is a culture that restrains us and keeps us apart. However, the rule that Jesus presents to us demands action, not inaction.

Jesus implores us to initiate good and act with love and concern for others, even When it is undeserved. Jesus tells us that God behaves in this way, therefore so must we. In what we do, we are not being compared to our neighbour, but in reality we are being compared to God.

So one may ask, why are we being compared to God? The answer to this is that the unconditional love of our creator sets the standard. It is a loving that desires the best possible outcome for God's people. If we love others the way God loves us, than our reward will be great and we will truly be Children of the most high.

There are many stories that illustrate the best in human nature and the standard that we are expected to live up to. One story is about a woman who grew up in difficult circumstances and as an adult become wayward and involved in prostitution. Her grandmother always believed this woman had great potential, and in her will she left money in a trust so that her granddaughter could receive an education.

The grandmother's church administered the trust and saw to it that the woman became educated. Later she became a great student, an excellent attorney, and eventually a judge. As a judge she often had to deal with cases similar to her own, arid she practiced justice that contained mercy, resulting in many people who appeared before her being redeemed from a life of crime.

Another story is about an elderly man who spent much of the money he had earned in his lifetime enabling troubled youth to learn to fly . He felt if they could master that skill, their self-esteem would increase and they would take more responsibility for their lives. He also sent several young men to trade school and college, all anonymously, believing that an education and skills for living could turn their lives around. In many cases it did. There are many stories like these in our community which continue to be an inspiration.

But what do we do about people who deeply offend us personally? Jesus says, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you". This is where it gets difficult. It is here where we have to rely on a power other than our own. God, who lets the rain fall equally on both the just and unjust, is continually showing us how much we are loved, even though we do things that hurt that relationship.

How do we make an act of love to someone who may be "out to get us?" The first action is prayer, a prayer for guidance and the right way to show love to someone without attempting to make that person feel guilty. We cannot control what their response will be, but we certainly can't stack the deck against them either. We don't drag people into a new relationship, we invite them and this where action comes in.

Sometimes the person who wounds us is seeking a way to redress the behaviour and a way to redeem themselves. We need to understand who is acting against us, and see that, ironically, there is still a possibility for communication between us and our adversary. And yet sometimes even with that door slightly open, there is nothing we can do. This is where the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be of great help. Desiring to forgive another as we have been forgiven for our own hatred and malice helps restore our relationship with God and opens the door for other restorations in time.

On the morning of April 19, 1995, an ex-Army soldier and security guard named Timothy McVeigh parked a rented Ryder truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. He committed mass murder. McVeigh asked that his death sentence be carried out as soon as possible. In interviews with the friends and families of victims many rejoiced and said they would like to be present when he is put to death. But one man, whose daughter died in the explosion, asked what good it would do. "It won't bring her back," he said. He also said he wished the whole event could be erased and everyone could start over.

Perhaps this father cannot do much for the condemned criminal, but his attitude puts him in the right place for God's healing to work. Whether it is family (in Joseph's case) or anonymous criminal malice, as in the Oklahoma bombing, God's standard is the same. Our spiritual health and relationship with God depends on our willingness to treat others ,as we would want ourselves to be treated. That is with love, dignity and respect. You might say our salvation depends on it.

For Morning Prayer on the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany

Published on February 18th, 2001 {Revised on December 29th, 2022}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2022

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