Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Golden Rule

I learned the Golden Rule at an early age. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This meant I had to be nice to other kids on the playground. It meant I had to share my toys with my brother. It meant I had to refrain from calling names or pushing. It even meant that I had to be reasonable to the Auburn fans in my class, and that was tough during the 1980s when they seemed to win every Iron Bowl and never let me hear the end of it. But, as far as I knew, the Golden Rule didn't have anything to do with criminals, terrorists, child molesters, or anyone else my eight-year-old mentality could not comprehend. Doing unto others was about being a nice person to the boys and girls and men and women who lived in my small town, went to my school, worshipped with me in church, walked down our small-town sidewalk, and were brought up in households where their parents taught them the Golden Rule.

But Jesus didn't give us the Golden Rule as a way of living in peace and harmony with one another. He told us to "do unto others..." because that's how God works, so that must be how we work.

The other day I heard someone say, "If everyone followed the Golden Rule, the world would be a better place." I don't disagree at all. It would. But, unlike my parents' invitation, Jesus urges us to follow the Golden Rule in order to participate in the transformation of this world that God has in mind. Notice that in Luke 6:20-31 Jesus isn't telling us how to live in harmony with one another. He's telling us that God is going to turn everything upside-down, which, as Michael Curry likes to point out, is actually right-side-up. Love your enemy. Pray for those who hate you. Turn the other cheek. This isn't better living through niceness. This is radical, counter-cultural, Jesus-is-coming stuff.

Don't miss the chance to shock us with these shocking though familiar words. It's the perfect chance to preach a children's sermon to the whole congregation. Call the kids down front. But speak to everyone. The Golden Rule isn't easy. It's powerful. May God give us the strength to live it for the kingdom's sake.

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