Do Unto Others
by Patrick Oden 11/27/2006 / Christian Living
The Golden rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you", is as well known as anything Jesus said.
It's not wholly original in its basic premise, though curiously stated. Confucius said about 500 years before Jesus, "What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others."
About fifty years before Jesus the great Jewish teacher Hillel said, "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man."
Following his lead, about 600 years after Jesus Muhammad said, "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you."
In essence these are telling people to avoid doing wrong to people. You don't want someone to do something, make sure first you don't do it to others. It's the basic ethic. You don't like "that" don't do "that".
Avoiding wrong actions led by our own perception is how we interpret the words of Jesus as well. Though he phrases it differently we take it to mean much the same as we read more literally Hillel or Confucius or Muhammad saying it, a phrasing which seeks to stop wrong or hurtful actions.
However, that's not what Jesus is getting at. He's about more than telling people not to be hurtful. The verses that proceed the Golden Rule in Luke 6 say this, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back."
Jesus is not about simply avoiding the doing of wrong. He is about the doing of right. Christians do not merely avoid vice, they embrace virtue. They are not merely trying to make it through this world with the least amount of bother, they are called to be a blessing.
What this means is that in my list of complaints, worries, frustrations, irritations, and whatnot it's sometimes easy (this morning in a peculiar state of crabbiness being one of them) to be bothered by lack of response or lack of presence or lack of assistance or lack of whatever that I feel people in my life can provide but stay strangely silent. This irritation and frustration at others may have a valid foundation, only it's not right for me to hold onto. That frustrates not only my mind, but also my soul, counteracting the command towards thanksgiving.
That's what is so important about what Jesus is saying. He's not saying avoid. He's saying do. He's not saying stop. He's saying go. Do to others. If I need encouragement, I need to encourage. If I feel like I would value someone reading my work, I need to step forward and read or listen to theirs. If I want people to "show up", I need to show up myself, not so I can then expect a tit for tat, but so that I can recreate in my soul the perspective of Christ by taking my needs and asserting them outwardly to others in a positive fashion.
I need to be to others who I need others to be to me, and strangely by doing this the weight lessens as I renew my thanksgiving and the Spirit comes to encourage my soul for stepping out of the muck and mire to embrace that which is higher even when I am feeling particularly lower.
This is one of the biggest lessons of humility, and one of the stronger lessons I'm learning. I cannot blame others. I am only to do to others. In this is light.
Acting this out regularly and with gusto is rather more difficult than it would appear, because it is an assertion of humility that we are owed nothing, but instead always owe. We are always to pay first for services that may never be given. We are debtors to those who have loaned us little, and committed to those who may entirely ignore us. Because, Christ loves them, and in doing this we become like Christ… who died on a cross, a point of action for others we've not nearly reached.
Patrick Oden lives and works in the mountains of Southern California. Education web design pays the bills. Writing and enjoying the beauty of God's Creation fills his soul.