We have all heard it from our parents, grandparents, teachers, and other authoritative figures. Those admonishing words of the ‘golden rule’: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Powerful words meant to guide us in our behaviours and attitudes toward others. However, there are times when I wonder if somewhere along the line we heard the opposite: “Do unto others before they do unto you.” The evolutionary process of natural selection in humans occurs when some traits help some individuals survive and reproduce more than others. The desire to survive, to strike before we are struck, to beat and even dominate what and who we perceive to be the competition, to take advantage of the vulnerable are all parts of our unregenerated nature resulting from sin entering the world. At least, from the Christian perspective.
Some people cynically refer to the world we live in as a “dog-eat-dog” world in which it is every man for himself. We do what we do to get ahead regardless of who gets hurt, bruised, broken, humiliated, or whatever else in the process. In some cases careers are lost, reputations ruined, and relationships irretrievably damaged. Yet the Christian is called to a higher standard of living. Though we live in the world, on matters of morality, ethics, and principle, we are expected to rise above the mediocrity of societal standards and demonstrate a life, behaviours, and attitudes made different by our relationship with God. We are expected to be mindful of the way we treat each others, always keeping in mind that we are representing not just ourselves, but the Lord Jesus.
Of course, that is easier said than done. Nevertheless, it is something we are called to do. Jesus taught, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honour and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, AMP). That ‘light’ is the way we live our lives including the way we treat others. Jesus affirms, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another” (John 13:34-35). In other words, as Bible scholar Albert Barnes writes, “You shall not be known by special rites or habits; not by a special form of dress or manner of speech; not by special austerities and unusual customs, like the Pharisees, the Essenes, or the scribes, but by deep, genuine, and tender affection.” Read his words again, slowly.
This command was not just for the disciples then. Everyone who professes to be a disciple of Jesus has been and continues to be called to this challenging responsibility. The good news is that the power of Christ in our lives, when we surrender to it, has made it possible for us to succeed in demonstrating this love and unselfish concern towards others (John 15:5). How are you treating those around you? If they treated you the way you are treating them, would you see Jesus in their actions?