By Al Behel
“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12)
I was questioning a little boy about his behavior toward another child. He said, “I hit him back because he hit me after I hit him.” Many battles are fought that way. Husbands and wives argue and forget who started it. We justify our actions because of the actions of others. Few are willing to assume full responsibility for their behaviors.
Why do you do what you do? Are your behaviors controlled by others? Jesus said, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”(Matthew 5:39). But the Golden Rule goes further than that. It tells us to do to others what we wish they would do to us. A lack of retaliation is one thing. Initiating good deeds toward others, even toward those who might do us harm, is another.
Negative goodness is the absence of bad things. Positive goodness is the introduction of acts of kindness and love when we could have chosen a different course. The mandate of Scripture is for us to do good to those who would do us harm, pray for those whose actions toward us are hateful and unkind, and to refuse to seek vengeance toward those who hurt us.
Living by the Golden Rule affects our deepest character, our personal ethics. It affects our choices of behaviors because we always consider the effect on others. I asked a teen recently how important it was to her that a life partner be honest and have personal integrity. She replied that it was very important that he be honest with her. I then asked how she would feel about him buying something, using it, and then returning it to the store. She replied, “It would depend on what it was.” That is not personal integrity; it is situation ethics which change from situation to situation.
Living by the Golden Rule means that we ask a simple question: “Would I want what I am doing to be done to me?” If the answer is “No”, then the action is not an appropriate action. Words we say to others should pass a threefold test:
1) are they true,2) are they necessary, and,3) are they kind?
The effect of our behavior should always be weighed before we act. I should always ask, “Would I welcome this behavior toward me? Would I want the same thing said about me?” If the action would be harmful to me it will likely be harmful to the other person and should not be done. My actions and words should always have a positive motive and positive effect. That’s what makes the rule the “Golden Rule.”
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/