Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
If yours was a church-going family, you probably memorized this verse about the same time you learned to speak. And if you’re family was hardcore, you probably used the King James version, like did. I love it in the KJV—-It’s the most poetic mission statement a Christian could have.
While this text is arguably the foundation of Christian living, the understanding and application of it are often limited. it is often regarded as merely an ethics of reciprocity, an obvious, rule of thumb to good living—-If you don’t want to be punched in the face, then don’t go punching people in the face, if you like to be forgiven when you mess up, then you forgive those who have, if you want respect, show respect. That sort of living. And, of course, this world would be a much better place if all of us, always, lived by this rule.
But there’s nothing intrinsically Christian or Christ-like about this kind of living. You’ll find this call to considerate living in other religions too. Buddhism says, Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Confucianism, Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. Hinduism, Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. You can find many more.
So what makes Matthew 7:12 uniquely a message from Jesus? It’s in the positive spin that Jesus puts on it. While others tell us “Don’t do what you don’t what others to do,” Jesus takes it a step farther and says “Do what you want others to do.” Jesus is saying that it is not enough to refrain from rude, inconsiderate or harmful behavior. He tells us to do good simply because it’s the godly way of living. When He tells us to do what we want other to do, Jesus challenges us to be proactive in our relationships. Even when there is no reason to do good, do good. Give others the preferred treatment you’d like to get for yourself, and do this not because you’ve got something to gain or because you’re making amends; do it to set a trend of gracious Christian living. Be an active agent is making your world a better place.
The Message states it well: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. “Grab the initiative”–That’s what Jesus is talking about. It’s not enough to sit back and not be a jerk. We need to get out there and look for opportunities to be Christian.