You’ve probably heard the famous quote: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “Treat others as you want to be treated.” This is known as the Golden Rule, and the original version came straight out of the Bible. In the book of Matthew, Jesus said:
Matthew 7:12 Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
In fact, variations of the Golden Rule can be found in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, and others. If everyone in the world applied this one principle, imagine how different the world would be. The entire world could be without violence, crime, racism, poverty, or any human abuse—there could be perfect harmony!
It’s not easy to live the Golden Rule, but in Matthew 22 Jesus lays the foundation for helping us to live by it.
Matthew 22:37-38 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.
As we obey Jesus’ first commandment, grow closer to Jesus and develop a closer friendship with Him, we will desire to take on more of His loving nature, and by doing so, we will be able to more closely follow His next commandment.
Matthew 22:39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Golden Rule shows us how to put into practice Jesus’ second greatest commandment. It’s human nature to be selfish and self-centered, mainly looking out for ourselves. But if we take a close look at the nature of Jesus, it’s obvious to see by the way He lived that He was focused on the needs of others.
If we’re open to it, God can fill our hearts with His love, which will make it a whole lot easier to follow Jesus’ second commandment!
In the book of Philippians, Paul teaches us:
Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
How can we practically live like this in a world where it seems that in order to achieve anything you must look out for yourself above all else?
In their book, The Power of Nice, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval tell us about an example that shows how sharing sincere kindness and looking out for the needs of others can create a nicer universe. Through applying the Golden Rule to our lives, we can achieve greater things than if we were just looking out for own needs and turning a blind eye to the needs of others.
Every time you smile at [someone], laugh at [someone’s] joke, thank [someone], or treat a stranger with graciousness and respect, you throw off positive energy. That energy makes an impression on the other person that, in turn, is passed along to and imprinted on the myriad others he or she meets. Such imprints have a multiplier effect. And ultimately, those favorable impressions find their way back to you.
You may not notice any impact on your life for years, apart from the warm glow it gives you inside. Nonetheless, we have found that the power of nice has a domino effect. You may not ever be able to trace your good fortune back to a specific encounter, but it is a mathematical certainty that the power of nice lays the groundwork for many opportunities down the road. These positive impressions are like seeds. You plant them and forget about them, but underneath the surface, they're growing and expanding, often exponentially.
Diane Karnett certainly never thought the young woman she met on a train home to New York City would transform her life. The woman was visiting her grandmother, who happened to live in Diane's neighborhood, so they split a cab ride. When they arrived at the grandmother's apartment. the woman asked Diane if she'd help her carry her bags up to the fifth-floor walk-up.
"I figured why not?" But by the time they reached the fourth floor, she could think of many reasons why not.
The woman's eighty-five-year-old grandmother turned out to be an ex-Ziegfeld showgirl named Millie Darling, who befriended Diane and showed her New York as she had never known it. "Through the years. I was treated like royalty at her favorite jazz clubs and saloons," says Diane.
That would have been more than enough reward for lugging a few bags up several flights of stairs. But it turns out Millie was the mother of Chan Parker, widow of the legendary jazz great Charlie Parker. When Diane was unemployed, Chan invited Diane to live with her in her farmhouse outside of Paris. Diane accepted and told her former employer about her move. They said that since she was moving to Paris anyway, why not set up shop and run a co-venture for them there? Diane remained in Paris for four glorious years, spending weekends at Chan Parker's farmhouse, socializing with Chan's fabulous and fascinating visitors—jazz legends, journalists, even Clint Eastwood. "I could have let that stranger on the train carry her own bags up. And missed it all," says Diane.
When we meet strangers on the street, we usually assume they aren't important to us. Unlike our friend Diane, we often avoid contact with the woman sitting next to us on the train or maybe even race ahead to beat her to a cab as we exit the station. The thinking is, "She's just some woman who has nothing to do with my life. Getting the cab is more important than being nice to her."
You have to treat everyone you meet as if they are the most important person in the world—because they are. If not to you, then to someone; and if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.
How true that is! Every person in the world is important to someone (or many someones)—including you—and each should be treated with love, respect, and kindness. Brian McFadden and LeAnn Rimes bring out this timeless principle in their song, “Everybody’s Someone.”
Watch it: Everybody's Someone
Rosalind Peters, the teenage producer of a Christian TV show in the UK, presents some excellent tips on how we can show God’s love in our day-to-day interactions with others, even with those we may not naturally like or get along with.
Watch it: How to Get Along with Everybody
In a nutshell, the Golden Rule comes down to treating people with the same love, respect, and integrity that you would like them to treat you with.
What is integrity?
— Integrity is being faithful to keep your promises and fulfill your obligations and commitments.
— Integrity means that your word is your bond, and that others can count on you.
— Integrity does not make excuses as to why it couldn't; instead, it finds a way that it can, come what may, hell or high water.
— Integrity is doing the right thing, no matter what it costs you.
— Integrity does not depend on the situation or the circumstances; it does what it should, what is right, no matter what the situation or the circumstances.
— Integrity is being honest, not lying or deceiving or knowingly misleading others.
— Integrity is sincere, truthful, trustworthy, and reliable.
A person of integrity…
…does not react based on how others treat him or her.
…treats others as he wants to be treated, no matter what their treatment of him is like.
…shows love and concern even in the face of dislike or scorn.
…is kind and courteous even when others are not.
…respects others and shows consideration even when they do not reciprocate [it].
Living the Golden Rule is a tough challenge. Every day we’re faced with all kinds of situations where we choose to act in a way that either falls within the Golden Rule or that goes against that loving principle. However, sadly, our first reaction often is to think about what we would want and what would be best for us. Even if we want to live the Golden Rule, it can be discouraging when it doesn’t come naturally.
The good news is that Jesus understands where we’re at. He knows that our love doesn’t naturally point toward others and that the only way that we will ever be able to have the kind of love that He has is if we learn to love with His love—God’s love.
Human love only takes us so far, but God’s love never fails.
Let’s take a look at what Paul teaches us about love:
1Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Jesus wants us to have the same compassionate feelings for others that He does. He wants us to care enough about others that we are motivated to reach out to them, not just because we feel we have to, but because we really want to do what we can to help them.
1) Love is patient
Listen: Test of a Missionary
Test of a Missionary
An official of a mission board, who knew it takes more than desire to make a missionary, was appointed to examine a candidate for the mission field. He told the young man to be at his house at six o’clock in the morning. The young man complied and arrived a six o’clock sharp. The examiner kept him sitting alone in the room until ten.
Then he finally came in and said abruptly, “Young man, can you write your name?” A little taken aback by the simplicity of his question, the man paused. Before he could get a word out, the examiner blurted, “What, you don’t know what it is?” The mission board official put him through a series of questions of that nature and then went to report to the mission board.
“Okay,” he said, “he will do. I tried his patience for hours and hours and he did not break down; then I insulted him and he did not lose his temper. This candidate answered with patience, fortitude, and gentleness. His faith was vindicated by the very quality of his character. He will make a good missionary.”
Whether we realize it or not—we all are in the mission field. Our patience is bound to be tested in ways we’ve never imagined and we’ll most likely find it unfair and unkind at times. But standing strong in the Lord in the face of offensive treatment and enduring seasons of long-suffering is a testimony in and of itself—and that will win souls!
2) Love is kind
One practical way we can show kindness to others is through our speech. Have you ever found out that someone said good things about you behind your back? What a wonderful feeling!
Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
But when we hear of unkind words that have been said about us, it provokes just the opposite reaction inside of us.
In the washroom of his London club, British newspaper publisher and politician William Beverbrook happened to meet Edward Heath, then a young member of Parliament, about whom Beverbrook had printed an insulting editorial a few days earlier.
“My dear chap,” said the publisher, embarrassed by the encounter. “I’ve been thinking it over, and I was wrong. Here and now, I wish to apologize.”
“Very well,” grunted Heath. “But the next time, I wish you’d insult me in the washroom and apologize in your newspaper.”
Too often, we allow ourselves the liberty to say things for which we end up being sorry later. We really need to think before we speak! I heard one person put it beautifully.
Before we say something let’s “THINK”:
T — is it True?
H — is it Helpful?
I — is it Inspiring?
N — is it Necessary?
K — is it Kind?
If what we’re about to say does not pass those tests, let’s not say it!
God has great things for us to be doing. We must allow Him to refine us and prepare us for His work! Let’s strive to think before we speak. There’s so much work to be done!
James 3:5-6 NIV Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
3) Love doesn't envy
Can you be happy for others when they succeed?—Even if they succeed at something that you were hoping to succeed at? Or if someone gets to do something that you really wanted to do, can you be happy for them?
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are tempted to feel envious of someone else, let the words from the Bible give you the strength you need to choose to be happy for them instead; that’s love.
4) Love doesn't boast
Here are some synonyms for the word boast:
toot your own horn
sing your own praises
Have you ever been around someone who bragged often of their skills, good looks, or achievements? How does it make you feel to be around someone like that? The Golden Rule is a constant reminder to us that we don’t want to treat others in a way that we wouldn’t want to be treated ourselves.
Here are some verses that remind us that we should thank God for the good that He helps us to do, rather than boast.
Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
If we let God work through us and help us to take on more of His loving nature, He’ll get the credit and we’ll benefit as well. People will feel more comfortable around us if we are boasting of God’s greatness rather than our own.
5) Love isn't proud
When you think of pride, what traits come to mind? Perhaps self-centeredness, impatience, boastfulness, rudeness, lack of respect for others. All of those attitudes and more define a proud person, and you’ve probably noticed that all of those attitudes are the very ones that Paul tells us that love is not. Why is that? Because love is, in many ways, the very opposite of pride.
What does Scripture tell us about pride?
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
1 John 2:16 … the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.
James 4:6 God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
6) Love isn't rude
Some dictionary definitions for rude are:
impolite, especially in a deliberate way
lacking good manners
Here’s an example of rude behavior:
A group of people picked up hotel lounge chairs and transported them down to the beach in various ways. As they clogged up the entrance to the beach they could be heard commenting, “We’re probably not supposed to bring these down to the beach, but I saw some down here yesterday and they were back by the pool this morning.”
Later on, most of them marched back up to the hotel and left the chairs on the beach. A few of them were hanging out on the beach and watched as two staff members made about 15 trips to return the chairs to the hotel in the extreme heat.
Being rude is really being self-centered. If you want to stand out in a good way, show concern for and kindness toward others—that’s love.
In Jay Leno’s foreword to The Power of Nice, he writes:
Today being nice is so surprising it becomes a news story. I recently told a joke on the show and got a letter from a woman saying she was offended by it. I called her to apologize and say that I was sorry if I hurt her feelings. For some reason, she contacted the newspapers, and my apology became headline news! We live in a society where common courtesy is so uncommon that it is treated as though you just saved someone's life.
When you choose to be polite rather than act in a rude manner, people will take notice and they will appreciate your sincere act of kindness.
7) Love isn't easily angered
Now there's a challenge! Think of some of the things that trigger an angry response in you.
All sorts of things can trigger irritability in people, from minor traffic jams to major headaches. Everyone gets upset or annoyed sometimes. We all have lost our temper and reacted without thinking. We have succumbed to anger that drives us to say and do things we normally wouldn’t. And it’s when we lose control over our thoughts and feelings that our irritability and anger can do some major damage to our love walk.
When irritable, we are very likely to become easily angered at others, sometimes at the slightest provocation. We might even become hostile and behave in ways we will later regret. Gaining control over our thoughts, feelings, and actions when irritated and angry is the best way to keep from acting in unloving ways.
Self-control communicates love. It can be seen whenever we:
Take responsibility for our reactions
Do not accuse or blame others for the way we feel
Treat others graciously although they irritate us
Keep from saying something hurtful and unnecessary
Do not take our anger out on those around us
Think things through before we react
Allow ourselves a time-out to gather ourselves together
Do not expect more from others than we should
The disposition of love is self-control and a good temper. Having self-control and a good temper is easier said than done, especially for those individuals who are more prone to irritability for various reasons. Even so, we can all learn to gain greater control over our tempers and how we react under pressure. Irritations will never cease, nor does our love need to when they come.
We may not be able to control stressors and pressures in our lives, but how we respond to them is up to us.
It’s interesting that the verse doesn’t say “love is never angered.” Jesus Himself became angry—eventually—at religious hypocrisy; however, He never “lost control.” In the few instances in the Bible where Jesus did get angry, you’ll notice that it was never immediate, spontaneous, uncontrolled action; things didn’t get to Him easily.
The key to managing your temper is to think about how your actions reflect God and affect others. After all, that’s what love does.
8) Love isn't self-seeking
One reason that love isn’t easily angered is because love isn’t self-seeking, meaning it’s not primarily concerned with self. Those who have a lot of love for God and others, like Jesus did, are able to override their own feelings and inclinations, and behave in a way that uplifts God and others.
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, age five, and Ryan, three. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson, so she said, “Now boys, if Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’”
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus.”
That’s pretty funny, isn’t it? But how many times are we like Kevin? Love chooses to play the role of Jesus.
9) Love is forgiving
Another way to put it could be, “love doesn’t keep a record.” Forgiveness is in the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” This line was very important to Jesus, because after He prayed, this is the only part of the prayer that He explained to His disciples. He said:
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The apostle Paul also emphasized this point:
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
10) Love doesn't judge
This description isn’t included in 1 Corinthians 13, but it’s another important definition of love. Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” How true that is! It’s hard to love someone you’re looking down on or judging. As Peter Amsterdam said:
Only God is in a position to pass wise or fair judgment. We can’t know the burdens and weights that people carry, or all the reasons why they make the choices they do.
We shouldn’t feel compelled to judge every person we encounter that has something wrong in their life. We should be more concerned about helping people and loving them into heaven than judging them on earth. God is the judge; He knows the hearts of people and He understands everything about them in a way that we would never be able to. He doesn’t need our help to judge people; that isn’t what Jesus commissioned us to do.
Watch it: Character Essential: Respect
God is love, and He’s not willing that any should perish. He loves every single man, woman, and child, no matter who they are, where they live, what color their skin is, what their ancestors did or didn’t do, and what they believe or don’t believe. He still loves them, even if their lives are consumed with sin or they live in spiritual darkness. This is one of the things that make Christianity so beautiful—God’s love compels us to love everyone and to share His truth and love with as many people as we can.
When it comes to judgment, God looks at the individual. Each person is a unique individual, created in His image, and He loves each one as if they were the only one. Each person is someone Jesus died to save. He loves and cares for all people—even those who don’t know Him or haven’t received Him, or have rejected Him.
Love = Actions
Many people have good ideas, good morals, and good plans for how the world could be made a better place. But so often those ideals are empty, because what’s missing is the love to back them up. What gets people’s attention more than great words are real deeds. Gayle Erwin commented on this point:
Listen: Treating People
At a Christian festival I had a conversation with two couples, one of whom was Buddhist, in response to a session I had had in the afternoon. About halfway through the conversation, the Christian man lit a cigarette and apologized, saying that he wanted to give them up because they hurt his witness. The Buddhist woman responded with a statement that continues to shake me:
She said, “We non-Christians, when one of our rank becomes a Christian, do not watch them to see how well they live up to some self-imposed standard of piety. We watch them to see how they start treating people.”
Watch it: Character Essential: Integrity
Here’s a story taken from Leading as a Friend, by John C. Maxwell and Mark Littleton, which shows love put into action through caring about someone else:
Listen: Love Speaks Louder Than
Love Speaks Louder Than
Shelley and Jean had a great friendship. But as they got older, Shelley began to mix with the wrong kids.
One evening Shelley invited Jean on a double date with two cute, older boys Shelley had met recently. The girls told their parents they were going to get a pizza, then see a movie. But to Jean’s surprise, the boy who was driving didn’t head toward the pizza place; he headed toward a dark road! When Jean objected, Shelley told her to relax, that they were going to have fun that night. Then the boys laughed and passed Shelley a bottle of whiskey, which she promptly turned up and started drinking.
Jean told Shelley and the boys that she didn’t want any part of what they were doing and demanded that they take her back home. “Oh, come on,” Shelley said. “Just once, don’t be so righteous!”
“I mean it, Shelley,” Jean said. “This is dangerous, it’s against the law, and we could get in big trouble. I’m not doing this! Tell them to take us home!”
“Oh, take her home, Zeke. She’s just going to ruin everything,” Shelley told the boy who was driving. Angrily, Zeke spun the car around and sped back toward town. When they got to Jean’s street, he slammed on the brakes at the corner and yelled, “Nice meeting you!”
“Please, Shelley, come home with me,” Jean whispered. “Don’t go alone with them. You don’t know them!” But Shelley wouldn’t leave the car, so Jean, crying, walked home by herself.
The next morning, Jean got a phone call from Shelley’s parents. Shelley was in the hospital. Someone had dumped her, unconscious, on their front porch in the middle of the night, then left. When the paramedics got Shelley to the hospital, her parents discovered she had drunk so much whiskey that she suffered alcohol poisoning and was nearly dead when they found her.
Jean visited Shelley in the hospital. Jean thought long and hard about what to say to Shelley.
When Jean sat down, Shelley said with contempt, “I suppose you’re going to tell me I shouldn’t drink or hang around with the wrong people?”
Jean shrugged. “No, I wasn’t going to say that.”
“Then what were you going to say?”
Jean smiled. “That I love you. That’s all. That I love you.”
Shelley stared at her. Suddenly, her eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know everyone who tells me how bad I’ve been is right, but you’re the only one who seems to care about me.”
That night, Jean and Shelley prayed that they’d start looking out for each other and listen to each other in the future when they were tempted to do something that was wrong.
It’s not always easy to do, but love never fails to help others. It might not win the first battle or the second, but it will win the war.
Shelley didn’t need Jean to rub it in that she had made a mistake by staying out with those guys who obviously didn’t care about her; she needed to know that Jean truly cared about her. Once Jean showed Shelley that she really cared about her, Shelley was ready to let Jean help her. If Jean had come across in a proud or condemning manner, she probably would have lost Shelley’s friendship. But because she was loving and caring toward Shelley at her low point, their friendship was not only saved, it was strengthened.
John 15:9 As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you: abide in My love.
An ancient story in Church history tells of the apostle John. He would constantly repeat the words, “Little children, love one another.” And his disciples became weary of the phrase. Finally, in his old age, as John was being carried to their assembly, the disciples asked him, “Why do you always repeat these same words?”
“Because, friends,” John replied, “it is the Lord’s commandment—and if only this one were fulfilled, it would be enough.”
What is the greatest witness we Christians have to the world around us? I can tell you it’s not our words of wisdom, though they may be wonderful. It’s not our knowledge of the Scripture, though it may be vast. It’s not our material giving, though it may be great.
The greatest witness we have is the kind of love that the Bible defines above. Have we been patient and kind with others? Perhaps instead, we’ve been envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered. I know I have. Have we kept a record of wrongs? Have we delighted in evil? Ugh. When we express the true love of God, we always rejoice in the truth, protect, trust, hope, and persevere.
Love never fails. Love can turn evil to good, darkness into light, and enemies to friends. True love can totally transform the world around us.
The love and kindness that we share with others lives on in their hearts forever. In fact, it seems that even some animals remember kindness that is shown toward them! How neat is that?
Watch it: A Lion Remembers
Love is never forgotten.
Prayer: Jesus, I want to love people in the same way that You love me. I want to treat others the way I would want to be treated, and I want to remember that every person I come in contact with is important to someone, and most of all, every person is important to You. But, even though this is what I want, I fall so short. At times my love runs out, so I ask You to please teach me how to love with Your love. Please fill my heart with Your love for others, amen.
(All verses are taken from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.)