Most of us have probably heard it from our parents, grandparents, teachers, and other authoritative figures. Those admonishing words of what we know as the ‘golden rule’: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat people the way you would want to be treated. However, this is not just good advice; these are the words of Jesus from His sermon on the mount: “In everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, AMP). In his commentary on this verse, Bible scholar Albert Barnes puts it this way: “All that you ‘expect’ or ‘desire’ of others in similar circumstances, do to them. Act not from selfishness or injustice, but put yourself in the place of the other, and ask what you would expect of him. This would make you impartial, candid, and just.”
Yet there are times when it seems that somewhere along the line some of us heard, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” Not because of kindness but the opposite. Some people cynically refer to the world we live in as a “dog-eat-dog world” – it is every man for himself. We do what we do to get what we want regardless of who gets hurt, bruised, broken, or whatever else in the process. We can often justify it too. However, 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 made different by our relationship with God (Romans 12:2). We are expected to be mindful of the way we treat each other, always bearing in mind that we are representing not just ourselves, but the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul puts it this way, “Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him]” (Colossians 3:17).
Of course, that is easier said than done. Believe me, I know. Nevertheless, it is something we are called to do. Jesus instructs His disciples, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). That ‘light’ is the way we live our lives including the way we treat others. Jesus would later affirm, “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples if you have love and unselfish concern for one another” (John 13:35). Every believer is called to this responsibility and the power of Christ has made it possible for us to succeed (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
Jesus also knew doing this was not easy. Right after His teaching on the golden rule, He compared the required way of life to an entrance through a gate and said these words: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). How are you treating those around you? If they treated you the way you were treating them, would you see Jesus in their actions?