I have lost faith in the Golden Rule. Well, at least in the way I used to understand it.
This is what I heard: Treat others as you want to be treated.
This is what I internalized: Treat others as you want to be treated, and they will treat you how you want to be treated.
It seems pretty easy. If I’m nice to others, they will be nice to me. I’m very familiar with the mirror concept. I’ve even seen it work most of the time. And so I nod my head and move on.
But when it doesn’t work? Well, then my humanness comes glaring through! Everything suddenly becomes very unfair, and I start fuming. And then I lose faith.
I thought maybe I needed the so-called “Platinum Rule” instead: Treat others as they want to be treated.
Makes sense, right? Just be the bigger person. But even then, I twist it into being about me instead of them. I’ll be so amazingly kind that they can’t help but come around to my way of thinking!
Sadly, even that isn’t guaranteed.
I’m in a situation right now where everything was done right. I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed. There was honesty and thinking of the other person first. He was treated as I would have wanted to be treated. He was even treated as he said he wanted to be treated. Yet he’s not holding up his end of the Golden Rule or the Platinum Rule! In fact, he’s reacting in the opposite way – coming after my family with a vengeance.
How easily I feel slighted when the other person doesn’t participate in my perception of the rules! Maybe I’m missing something?
I recently read the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus told the story of a servant who owed his king a lot of money. He begged the king’s forgiveness, and the king granted him mercy. Yet this same servant who was just forgiven granted no mercy to a person who owed him money, instead throwing him in prison.
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” ~Matthew 18:32-35
I have definitely been missing something! Jesus taught that God will treat us as we treat others. Yet, I have been leaving God out of it completely! What if I bring Him into my understanding of the Golden Rule?
Treat others as you want to be treated by God.
THAT changes my perspective. THAT takes away the nasty offended feeling.
My old self-centered understanding of the Golden Rule placed the expectation of repayment on other people. Yet, humans will always fall short, including me. I must stop expecting others to fill God’s role in my life, stop feeling let down when they don’t achieve it. God never promised that everyone will respond as I want them to; He simply commanded I treat them as I wish to be treated.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12 (emphasis mine)
It’s not about their response, it’s about my obedience. It doesn’t matter if people repay me. God repays me with His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness every single day into eternity. He paid for all of us on the cross, even those who slight me. He’s the only One who will faithfully hold up the other end of the deal. He’s the only One who always plays by the rules. Not my rules. Not what I think His rules should be. His rules.
The next time I feel the familiar twinge of unfairness threatening to bubble into anger, I hope it reminds me to treat the other person how I want God to treat me.
Do I want Him to strictly judge every fault? Will I ask Him to be merciful? Do I hope He will look past the things I didn’t quite understand? Will I beg for His patience? Do I request chance after chance after chance? Do I want Him to forgive me, even when I don’t deserve it?
Do I want to feel as if all is right in the world again?
Well, He is the only way it works. The only way it balances. It’s time to put God back into the Golden Rule. It’s time to put God back into everything.