SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
15th SUNDAY OF PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 13, 2020.
Title: “What is the Golden Rule?”
Text: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:1-12
I am sure that all of us have shopped at J.C.Penney at some time or the other, but I want to tell you something that you probably didn’t know about this store. It used to be known as “the Golden Rule store”. In fact, when Mr. Penney first started, his first several stores were called that. Mr. Penney did not like to use the word “employee.” He called those that worked for him, “Associates”. He treated them just as well as he would like to be treated, too. He was able to take a general store in 1902, and build it into a multi-billion dollar business, because he actually lived under the Golden Rule.
Mr. Penny tried his best to always treat people like he wanted to be treated. He treated them with love, respect, kindness, understanding and encouragement.Do you try to treat others in your life like this – or not? Our normal instinct is to think that we would be nicer to others if they would show these attributes to us, isn’t it? But, that’s the Problem. Jesus didn’t say, “Treat people with the same respect that they treat you.” He said, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do to them.”
We should let the words of Jesus Christ dwell in us as the guiding principles for the abundant life in the here and now. Only as we take seriously his teachings can we hope to experience the changes He sought to bring about in the lives of His followers. The words of our text have been called the Golden Rule. It calls for action on the second of the greatest commandments, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is only a summary statement of all that Jesus said about our treatment of our fellow humans, but it expressly says that it covers all that the law and the prophets taught about the matter. In this one verse our Lord gives us a great guiding principle that would settle a hundred different points of difference that constantly arise to upset human relationships.
The critics of Jesus have collected the great savings of other religious leaders and have come to the conclusion that Jesus made no distinctive contribution to this Golden Rule. The great Hebrew master Hillel said, “Do not do thy neighbor what is hateful to thyself.” The great Greek philosopher Socrates said, “What stirs your anger when done to you by others, that do not to others.” Yet another great mind, Aristotle said, “We should bear ourselves towards others so we would desire they should bear themselves towards us.” The great Chinese teacher Confucius gave what someone has called the Silver Rule. He said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” There is one radical difference between the Golden Rule enunciated by Jesus and the above guidelines articulated by some of the world’s greatest teachers. The Golden Rule of Jesus is positive and active while their statements are negative and passive. While they would say, “Stand still, do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you,” Jesus approaches the matter from a positive and creative standpoint. Jesus says that we should “go and do what we would have others do to us.”
The significance of the Golden Rule is that it presents a challenge. The challenge of Matthew 7:12 is based on the great truth of God’s goodness expressed in verse 11: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” It is based on the fact that God is good, and He showers on us the best of heaven. Even so, you are to give good things to your neighbors. We cannot expect to receive the good gifts of God if we do not serve as a channel through which His merry and grace flow out to bless the hearts and lives of others. We are to treat our fellow human beings as we desire to be treated by our heavenly father. Pious talk and righteous looks will accomplish nothing if we do not treat our fellow humans in terms of what is right and generous. We must be absolutely sure that we do not let the conduct of others determine our treatment of them, but rather we must let God’s treatment of us determine the manner in which we relate ourselves to others.
In order to teach His disciples how to make practical the Golden Rule, Jesus Christ demonstrated what He taught. Jesus demonstrated that His love for his disciples was unmerited. You see church, we live in a performance oriented society in which people come to a feeling of personal worth because of their performance. This makes it difficult for us to understand unmerited love. Jesus loved His disciples not because they were lovely, but because He was loving. The source of His love was in His own heart and in His relationship with the Father God. His love was not pulled out of Him toward them because they were exceedingly lovely. Jesus’ love was unmerited in that He took the initiative in manifesting goodwill toward others. This is the kind of love we are to demonstrate toward others.
Jesus manifested divine love in different ways to different people. There was no stereotyped manner by which he expressed God’s love. He could talk to a public figure like the Pharisee Nicodemus under the curtain of darkness. He could approach a hated publican like Zacchaeus on a city street filled with community citizens. He could stoop down and write in the sand, refusing to look upon the shame of a woman who had been accused of adultery. Our Lord in tenderness could bless and pray for children. His love was always expressed in an appropriate manner. As His followers, we must seek to appropriately manifest our concern for others.
Jesus thought of success and greatness not in terms of mere noble sentiments, but in terms of deeds of kindness and helpfulness to the unfortunate . He was a worker, a servant who ministered to the needs of people. At a time when Peter wanted to stay on the mountaintop, our Lord insisted that they depart from the place of spiritual ecstasy and move down into the valley of human need because there were suffering at the foot of the mountain. Our Lord calls us not into the sheltered cloister to spend our total time in prayer, but rather He calls us into the fields that are ready unto harvest to be His laborers.
Jesus demonstrated this love and the Golden Rule through forgiveness. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus demonstrated in practice what he had taught by precept. He had insisted on His disciples practicing forgiveness toward those who mistreated them even to the point of forgiving seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus believed in forgiveness that was free, full, and forever. Genuine Christian love does not harbor hate and carry a grudge. Genuine Christian love will manifest itself in forgiveness.
Jesus continued to love even when His disciples were unloveable in their responses to Him and in their treatment of others. Paul was able to rejoice greatly joined in singing a doxology of praise to the permanence of God’s great love revealed in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
There is a story of a young boy who had been invited to attend a friend’s birthday party and was eagerly awaiting the day he could go. On that day, however, there was a near blizzard outside, and his father thought it was too dangerous for him to walk the short three blocks to his friends house, and it was much too dangerous to drive the boy. The little boy reacted with tears and begged his father to let him go. Finally, the father recanted and gave his permission. The boy bundled himself up and started walking down the street. The wind and snow blew so hard against him that what should have only taken 10 minutes took nearly an hour. Finally, the boy got to the house. As he rang the doorbell, he looked back to see the shadowy figure of his father disappearing into the snow. His father had followed every footstep to make sure the boy was safe.
It is all about sacrifice, isn’t it? When we are able to sacrifice what we want; what we need; what we think; so that we can freely give to someone else what they want or need, we have proven ourselves successful as a Christian.
In demonstrating the Golden Rule, Jesus saw life as an opportunity to serve, to help, and to minister. He saw it as a goblet to be emptied rather than a vessel to be filled. His sacrificial life and His substitutionary death on the cross illustrate the great truth He expressed when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
In a world filled with hate and torn by strife, modern followers of Jesus are urged to love each other by the same measure with which Christ loved his disciples. The love Jesus commands is not a shallow emotional kind of love. Instead, it could be defined as a persistent, unbreakable spirit of good will that is always devoted to the highest good of others.
Note that in this commandment Jesus moves beyond the measure of love listed in the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). In this condensation of the commandments that are concerned with our relationship to others, Jesus declares that the measure of love we have for ourselves is the measure by which we are to love our neighbors. In the new commandment, Jesus declares that His disciples are to love each other, “even as I have loved you.”
Finally, the commandment to love is Jesus’ foremost command to His disciples. Love is the supreme gift of the Spirit. Only as we let the Holy Spirit do His work within our innermost being can we fully respond to this commandment of our Lord (Romans 5:5) Paul declares love to be the greatest of all the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:13). Because of Jesus’ command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, each of us needs to relate to each other in terms of love even as Jesus has loved us. God bless you!