Jesus said, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” — Luke 6:31 (NRSV)
We learned this saying as children in Sunday School. As parents, we taught it to our children in a variety of ways and contexts. Then, later, we taught it to our grandchildren. It was about kindness and fairness and relationships. We called it, “The Golden Rule” — something so obvious and so clear and so true that no argument could ensue. It was pure gold. It still is.
A few years ago (pre-COVID), my husband and I were traveling in New Zealand. One day, over a wonderful lunch of fish ‘n chips in a tiny little village, we chatted with a Canadian couple. We talked about our travels and how gracious and kind Kiwis are, and they had a most amazing story to share.
They told us how their flight had landed in Auckland early one morning. Heading north out of the city in a rental car, the Canadian couple navigated their way (as best they could) with a map purchased in Canada before they left home. Soon, it was clear that they were hopelessly lost. Exhausted and frustrated, they stopped to ask for directions. It should be an easy endeavor because they were headed to the only four-lane highway in the country. Anyone should be able to point the way!
The gentleman started to give directions, which quickly got quite complicated. Turn left, turn right, go straight, bear to the left and take the second left off the roundabout … Suddenly, his wife stopped him, declaring the lost couple would never find the “interstate.” The New Zealanders whipped out their own GPS, called a Satnav, and handed it to our bewildered Canadian friends. After a quick lesson in operating the device, the New Zealanders instructed these lost passers-by to use it on their travels, and then to mail it back! Stunned by kindness of these good Samaritans, the Canadians watched them drive off with their mouths gaping wide open.
Those New Zealanders could have hurried away to wherever they were going, leaving the strangers stranded. But they didn’t. They chose to exhibit extraordinary kindness over whatever their own agenda had been. And Jesus said, Do to others what you would have them do to you.
Jesus invites us into relationships that require courage and forgiveness and a willingness to be vulnerable. He doesn’t just invite us to be nice to people who are already nice to us (how hard would that be after all?). Instead, he invites us to act the way we want to be treated — with kindness, generosity, hospitality — regardless of whether we expect to receive that in return. This way of life challenges us to walk the talk: forgiveness and generosity and graciousness and kindness and respect and a whole lot more! It sounds impossible. And overly simplistic.
But think, what would the world look like if we really tried to follow the Golden Rule? Want a house of your own? Make sure that opportunity is there for everyone else. And trust that if you need help — it will be there for you. Want the chance to send your kids to college without saddling them with huge debt? Make sure that chance is available to all the other kids as well. And trust that you will receive help if you need it. Want to be safe walking into the grocery store? Make sure that’s possible for everyone. And trust that others will do the same for you. Want peace on earth to be a reality? Make sure there is peace in your heart as you engage each person or organization in your life. Want a nation where people of differing political opinions can listen respectfully to one another? Start by listening to others.
It really does sound overly simplistic, but according to Jesus it’s one of the things that will usher in the kingdom of God on earth. Maybe it’s exactly what could turn this tired old world on its head! Maybe we could give it a try?
Prayer for those who long for a kinder, more respectful world.
Holy One, too often we are overwhelmed by the sharp edges of fear and hate and distrust in our world. Soften our hearts, open our minds, and call us into new relationships of trust, hope, generosity, and faithful living. Even when that is hard. Amen.