The “Golden Rule” is the synopsis of the commandments that Jesus summed up in the words “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It is the Lord’s prescription for successful human relationships, a system of thought where the place to start is our very own selves: taking stock of our likes and dislikes in the totality of our lives and activities. Having performed this appraisal, when we come to interact with each other, we need to realize that the other person is exactly as we are in these matters. Hence we are to put ourselves constantly in the other person’s position, being careful in our dealings to do or not to do those things that please or displease us ourselves.
It is commonly agreed that man’s great problem in the modern era is the problem of relationships. If people applied the Golden Rule in their lives, this problem would be addressed. But there are those who believe that all that is needed is to hold up a standard for people to follow, and things will work out fine. But that is precisely what Jesus came against when he confronted the scribes and the Pharisees, those who upheld rules and regulations for people to follow, to conform to the letter of the law.
Jesus made a resounding proclamation in saying that the golden rule “is the law and the prophets”; it is their whole object and purpose. The Lord was concerned about portraying to the people the right and proper view of God’s law. Problems arise because we do not fully understand the meaning of God’s law, its character and content. Many times we are engulfed in the number of directives and ordinances, that we forget what is the spirit of the law.
It is also perilous to view the law as something negative and prohibitive. While there are negative aspects of the law, the Lord went to great lengths in the Sermon on the Mount to demonstrate the law as having a positive and spiritual nature. It was never meant to be mechanical, and it was the fallacy of the scribes and Pharisees that they diminished something that was inherently spiritual into something in the realm of the mechanical, making it an end in and of itself; they failed to see the spiritual intent and character of the law. Most of all, the scribes and Pharisees neglected to comprehend the great end and purpose for which the law had been given.
Why should we not covet our neighbor’s spouse, goods and possessions, why should we not kill and steal, why should we not commit adultery? Are these directives designed simply for the sake of following rules and regulations and to keep our lives confined within certain boundaries? No, the whole purpose and true spirit behind the law is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we are to love one another.
Love lies at the very heart of the golden rule. Love is truly the consummate summary of the law and the prophets.
*** Reference: David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”, Martino Publishing, CT, 2011, pp. 206-210.