Love and the Golden Rule

Love and the Golden Rule

For the past couple of days, we’ve been talking about unconditional love being the major ingredient to fulfill the whole Law and the Prophets, as the Hebrew expresses it, or the whole of the Bible, as we would refer to it today.

This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 22 when He said that loving God with every part of our being fulfills everything written in the Bible concerning how we are to live and love; for loving God in this way also includes loving the whole of God’s creation, including every other human being and every other animal.

When Jesus expanded this in verse 39 by saying “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, He was also saying that this kind of unconditional love is really an example of The Golden Rule. Thus we can say that unconditional love equals the golden rule.

We hope we all remember how Jesus made this a part of the sample prayer He gave us (The Lord’s Prayer). Note what we are told in Matthew 6:12.

12. ‘And forgive us our debts [trespasses], as we also have forgiven our debtors [trespassers].

Isn’t this just another way of expressing how the golden rule applies even to our relationship with God?

But it’s more than this. It’s also an example of how perfect love should be applied in all our relationships with other people, and just in case we didn’t understand this, Jesus added in verses 14 and 15…

14. “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15. “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

However, this unconditional love and golden rule must be applied even further, even to the whole of creation. We must put ourselves in the place of every other human being and animal, and ask ourselves, “How would we want to be treated if we were them?”

Would we want to be horribly treated all our lives and then sent to a slaughterhouse and killed and then eaten by someone, as so-called “food animals” are?

I’ll trust that your answer is a resounding, NO; for this is totally opposite to the application of the golden rule and unconditional love.

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10 Responses to Love and the Golden Rule

  1. avatar
    Maynard S. Clark January 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Ethicists discuss this human capacity to envision themselves “as” another, “the other” (person), any other, and “all other” (persons).

    It’s a great capacity – one, which, in MY opinion, we ought to try to realize more completely.
    Empathy, for David Hume, was the foundation of his rational ethics.

    Of course, in ethical theory, the terms “empathy” and “sympathy” are distinguished in ways that many animal advocates don’t clearly (and conceptually) distinguish them.

    To EMPATHIZE is to see oneself AS IN the existence of the other.
    To SYMPATHIZE is to see the other person’s plight, condition, challenges, or fate/outcome as regrettable and to yearn to achieve some relief from suffering – and some betterment – for the other person(s).

    However, that distinction didn’t always hold throughout “the literature” of Western philosophy, of which the majority of us who are affected by Christian preaching were often the unwitting heirs (because through seminary education and theological reflection and writing, that literature “informed” those communicators of Christian messaging in churches and faith-based efforts through the millennia).

    Now, I think that, in Christian thinking, what is so fundamental in the Christian ethical teachings is the categories – the existential categories that are so EXISTENTIALLY TRUE to human Dasein – or “being ‘there’ in the world of manifoldly observing and experiencing persons”

    Given that “thrown-ness” (as Heidegger phrases and frames it), we “are born WITH” ethical duties and must awaken TO those moral dimensions of our “being there” among others.

    “Love your ‘neighbors’ as yourself” can mean lots of things, but then the litany of caveats begins. Should we endorse everything that every neighbor does or advocates or condones?

    That would be moral anarchy, YET that is PRECISELY what the commentary is coming to imply for so many humans in the legacy that went effectively unsupervised for far too long. Today, in the name of loving our neighbors, instead of standing up for noninjury, we are asked to open and embrace everything that is done without any prior expectation that rightful protocols be endorsed and embraced and enforced.

    One last memory of a classmate at Wheaton with whom I am still in touch – and who is now on her class’s alumni committee. Her uncle was one of my mentors in church; his sons and I went to Bible Club Camp together each summer. Her uncle became Headmaster of the Wheaton Academy (which schooled a great many MKs – Missionaries’ children, or missionary kids).

    She commented once about someone in her church who had strayed to the point of causing overt harm and loss to others, yet he repeatedly returned to the church and asked for forgiveness and restitution. At some point, the community had to look at their literalness of reading the Scriptures and ask themselves (and the text), “Are we asked to continuously expose ourselves to this same person and this same set of now-more-probable behaviors?”

    As in politics we so often hear, “Trust but verify,” they developed an ad hoc “trust but verify” policy that began to look more and more tenuous and shaky with each successive “return to the fold”

    Back in the home church, I recall an interim minister, a college English professor (Ed Spencer, who had trained at Asbury Theological Seminary as a Methodist minister, where a few of our other congregants had studied, but taught college instead) who posed the question (for a Wednesday night prayer service, a time for much more devotional teaching than the doctrinal or expository preaching we heard Sunday morning and evening), “Why does the church attract so many ‘neurotics’? In other words, “why are so many newly ‘converted’ persons so emotionally needy?” He concluded his reflection with the observation that the Christian faith holds out much that people need, and some folks, through their own experiences, are much more acutely aware of their emotional, intellectual, and religious needs than others are.

    To us, this often less pretentious, but sometimes less psychologically organized, persona will come with some (to us) very unfamiliar (and ‘neurotic’) behaviors. That is not an invitation to adopt and/or copy the dysfunctional behaviors, however widely distributed they are in the broader population, but to acknowledge them in the ‘sorting out’ process of the persons who come ‘needy to the faith.’

    We, too, though individual and distinct and behaviorally and attitudinally different, are “like as they are” in the most fundamental ways that the faith addresses.

    • avatar
      flhadmin January 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      We have found through our many years of ministry that it is best to keep things simple, so that everyone can easily understand.

      God’s perfect love and the golden rule are both telling us that are are to have empathy for all other living begins, which is to put ourselves in their position, but it is also to see our fellow human beings as God desires them to be, and not necesssarily as they are. This is not in any way saying that we are to accept everything they say and do, particularly if they are ungodly, but it is saying that we are to still love them, and pray that they turn away from their evil ways, and become peacemaking children of God, as we all are called upon to be.

  2. avatar
    Maynard S. Clark January 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    The more we (and ethologists) study nonhuman persons individually and in context, the more we realize that earlier more “absolute” and “categorical” claims about our distinctiveness are less defensible and less evidence-based (than had been thought).

    Even tool-making capacity is not unique to our species.

    My long-term preference to individually EMOTING about the “cuteness” and “lovableness” (oh, and I know a lovable person when I see one) of another person is the principled commitment to an ethic of noninjury first, and beneficent intervention second.

    Beneficent intervention is “rescue”

    The Rule of Rescue is a term coined by A.R. Jonsen in 1986 that is currently used in a variety of bioethics contexts:
    * ‘a perceived duty to save endangered life where possible’ (Bochner, et al., 1994, pp. 901)
    * ‘the sense of immediate duty that people feel towards those who present themselves to a health service with a serious condition’ (Nord, et al., 1995b, pp. 90)
    * ‘an ethical imperative to save individual lives even when money might be more efficiently spent to prevent deaths in the larger population'(Doughety, 1993, pp. 1359)
    * ‘the powerful human proclivity to rescue a single identified endangered life, regardless of cost, at the expense of any nameless faces who will therefore be denied health care’ (Osborne and Evans, 1994, pp. 779)

    Rescue costs much of limited resources, and the cost of rescuing is often touched upon or “broached” by local news media who cover dramatic, energetic, and costly rescue of hikers in mountains, snows, avalanches, or elsewhere, or even of foolish young folks and other citizens and residents who get in troubles into which police and/or fire must intervene.

    The ‘ahimsa’ ethic (though ‘Eastern’ and not uniquely Biblical) starts with an ethic of noninjury. One MIGHT even reflect that Biblical “love” in the charity or “caritas” sense cannot be considered if noninjury is not the operating premise because what we would be calling “love” would be disingenuous, hiding a cudgel or propensity or habit of harming (perhaps the many) while we are praising ourselves for intervening on behalf of others (perhaps the few).

    In ethics, aside from virtue ethics, there are consequentialist ethics (utilitarians and others who calculate results to determine the “rightness” or “wrongness” of an “act” or a “rule” or principle) and deontology (“rights” and “duty” are used to determine the “rightness” or “wrongness” of an “act” or a “rule” or principle).

    If we are to “count the cost” of building the house (even the ethical house, or the house of one’s own personal character), perhaps a little ethical deliberation would be worthwhile as we ponder the homiletical (or preaching) directives.

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    Noelene Sanderson January 29, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    No,Maynard, we absolutely don’t have to endorse ANYTHING “that our neighbour advocates or condones” or does, if it is wrong/against God’s way of love and right behaviour. (I do like the measurement of asking, “What would it be like if everybody did that?”!)
    As I see it so far, we can ‘hate the offence but not the offender’, knowing that during his/her journey towards truth; suffering the direct results of their behaviour, including social correction upon them; becoming aware – however long it takes or how hardly won; – God still sees them as He wishes/made them to become; and unconditionally loves their TRUE REALITY, while seeing their choices and progress – often slow – towards Him…
    We can still do everything we possibly can to prevent and correct what is happening that is wrong……

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