“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:12-14 ESV)
For many of us, the 2016 Olympic Games were a welcome relief. We were able for a short while to turn our attention away from the dark, difficult things happening in our nation and world, and instead be inspired as we watched athletes from virtually every nation “go for the gold” in wonderful demonstrations of ability, desire, training, effort and endurance.
The athletic achievements of these diverse men and women were terrific, as was the enthusiasm of the equally diverse fans, but what I find even more remarkable is how they all treated each other. Mutual respect, encouragement, and good (even great) sportsmanship were the norm, not the exception. It may be true that only one person or team can receive a gold medal in an Olympic event, but I believe a great many more grasped gold in a way God finds far more important. They embraced the Golden Rule.
The Golden Rule, set forth at Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, is most commonly stated as: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is a simple and straight-forward command from the Lord that we treat others the way we want to be treated.
The importance of this command is underscored when Jesus says, “… this is the Law and the Prophets”. The only other time Jesus used such language was when He described the Great Commandment – that you love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:35-40) In short, the Great Commandment summarizes God’s will for our lives. And we obey God’s Great Commandment to love one another by following the Golden Rule.
As I write this column, the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games have just concluded. My attention turns back to our nation, where over 75% of our citizens are still professing Christians and, therefore, very much subject to the Golden Rule. How well are we “going for the gold”?
As citizens of a nation more polarized than it has been since the events leading up to the Civil War, I urge all of us to read and re-read 1 Peter 3:8-17 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26. These scriptures explain how we should apply the Golden Rule in situations where there is disagreement or conflict. We are to be kind and gentle, not quarrelsome. We are to stand for what we know to be good, but never repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Instead, we seek to overcome evil with good by showing respect to those who oppose us, and by blessing them.
To make sure we understand how to follow the Golden Rule in such difficult times, Paul also provides in 2 Timothy 3 a description of those who disobey it: the proud and arrogant, lovers of self and money, those who defy the authority of holy scripture, and those who profess faith without actually practicing it. We are told to avoid such people.
So how are we doing? There are notable exceptions (praise God!) but overall, I believe we are failing to make the podium. Many of us are breaking the Golden Rule, and we are vocalizing our support for people on the national stage, both in media and politics, who are smashing it to pieces every day.
Why are we doing poorly? We have failed to understand that the way of the Golden Rule is narrow and hard. It does not come naturally. The things that empower athletes to the incredible achievement of winning a gold medal: ability, desire, training, effort and endurance, are also the things that empower people to follow the Golden Rule. And we have not pursued those things as we should.
We all have the ability because, as born-again children of God, we have the Holy Spirit, who can pour God’s love into our hearts and do far more than we can ask or imagine through His power at work within us. (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 3:20) But do we set our minds on the things that are above? (Colossians 3:1-2, 12-17) Do we seek the Lord and His will with all our heart? (Jeremiah 29:13) Do we train ourselves for godliness through consistent obedience, prayer, worship and bible study? (1 Timothy 4:7-16) Do we “make every effort” to grow in faith and love? (2 Peter 1:3-8) Are we running with endurance the race that is set before us, ridding ourselves of the sins and unneeded burdens that hold us back? (Hebrews 12:1-3)
America desperately needs a powerful and abiding spiritual awakening. That will come when enough of us hear the heart of God and “go for the gold”!
God bless you, and God bless our community.