Golden Rule

Jesus encapsulated all the Old Testament laws into two commandments: one defining relationship with God (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind) and the other defining relationships between people (Love your neighbour as yourself.)  This love for neighbours is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule.  Despite differences in doctrine and practice, most faiths incorporate some form of the Golden Rule.


Ancient Egyptian: "Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.


Hinduism: "This is the sum of Dharma: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." Mahabharata, 5:1517


Judaism:  "…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Leviticus 19:18 


Confucianism: "Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you." Analects 15:23


Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien.


Islam “...and you should forgive: Do you not like God to forgive you? For God is Oft-forgiving, most Merciful.” Qur'an (Surah 24, v. 22)


Buddhism: "…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta Nikaya v. 353 


Christianity: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Luke 6:31. "Love your neighbour as yourself." Matthew 22:39.


One explanation for this global knowledge of the Golden Rule is that variants originate from the same source. If Jesus was speaking the mind of God, why would other prophets - who recited the same commandments - not also be speaking the mind of God? A shared revelation to all peoples would reinforce the belief that all humans are children of the same God and striving to attain the same ideal of righteousness.


The Early Church recognized that other religions, particularly the twin roots in Judaism and Greco-Roman Paganism, were familiar with the Golden Rule. Jesus had criticized some of his Jewish compatriots for creating legalisms and loopholes to fulfil the letter of the Law while ignoring the Spirit. (Mark 7:9-13). The parable of the Good Samaritan is also a study in whether ‘neighbour’ is meant to be defined narrowly to include only people who share values, culture and religion, or expansively to include the entire human race.


The Pagan Roman Empire had grown to control the entire Mediterranean region by tolerating cultural and religious differences of many nations.  Romans did not love their neighbours but they agreed that all Roman citizens should enjoy the same rights and freedoms. Early Christianity went much further, teaching that all humans were equal in the eyes of God; Jew and gentile, freeman and slave, plebeian and patrician.  The manifestation of love was mostly limited to members of the Christian faith, but was unconditional among believers.


Augustine redefined Christianity as a religion of wrath.  Because of the rebellion in Eden, God cursed the entire human race with an undying wrath. According to Augustine, the only means of forgiveness was the sacrament of baptism.  Absent baptism, even innocent babies were excluded from both the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life. Augustine’s Gospel of Wrath was created as a weapon of mass conversion. Its power to terrify Pagans into submission was dependent upon the ruthlessness of its enforcement: no baptism, no forgiveness. After enduring centuries of persecution, Augustine’s new form of Christianity began to persecute its Pagan neighbours.   


The doctrine of Original Sin condemns fallen mankind and all non-Christian religions. Some religions, like Judaism, are deemed essentially true but fatally flawed by not recognizing Jesus as the true Messiah. Most non-Christian religions are dismissed as demonic frauds or counterfeits.  The Gospel of Wrath warns non-Christians of hellfire and damnation. Sinners who repent and accept Jesus are extended, at least in theory, Christian love. Sinners who refuse to repent and accept Jesus as their personal saviour may be pitied, but they must be kept at a distance to prevent contamination of the true faith.   


What about non-Christians who are moral, righteous and god-fearing? According to the Gospel of Wrath all non-Christians are depraved to the core. Therefore non-Christians might counterfeit morality and righteousness but they are not serving the right God for the right reasons and none of their ‘good works’ will count for anything on the day of judgement.


Catholic Christians of the Dark Ages frequently persecuted non-Christians – particularly Jews – during plagues and natural disasters, to appease their angry God.  They also fought centuries of Crusades against Mohammedan hordes.  During the first 1,000 years that Christianity prevailed over Europe, periods of gentleness and justice were rare.


Reformation Protestants had much to be angry about. Christianity of their day would not have been recognized by Jesus and the Apostles. It had become decadent and confused. Popes were selling divine grace under the brand name of Indulgences. The Papacy itself was for sale, and controlled by the wealthiest families of Europe. Luther and Calvin wanted to restore Christianity to its pristine purity.  It defies logic that they chose as their spiritual leader not Jesus, but Augustine; not the Gospel of Love, but the Gospel of Wrath.  Both Luther and Calvin preached Original Sin and predestination; they fervently opposed freewill. 


Luther and Calvin urged Catholics to join the Reformation and flee the Church of Rome and its antichrist ruler. Animosity between Catholics and Protestants exploded in centuries of violence and bloodshed. Can anything be farther from the Golden Rule?   


Modern Charismatics disassociate themselves from the horrors of the Crusades, the Inquisition and Conquistadors, not to mention religious wars between Christians. The modern Church, and indeed the modern world, at least in Western democracies, has a renewed commitment to human rights and freedoms. Modern Christians who embrace the Gospel of Love and the Golden Rule promote dialogue with other faiths which share these ideals.  We might not be travelling down the same path, but we are heading for the same destination.


Other Christians define the Golden Rule to include only born again Christians. For them, the entire ecumenical movement is anathema. Wherever Original Sin is dominant, the Golden Rule is narrowly defined and practiced.


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