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Are You Following the Right Rule?

Ken Hubbs, 9 November 2022

Just a little food for thought. It may come as a surprise (or shock, depending on your ability to process alternate viewpoints) to learn that the golden rule (Matthew 7:12) that Jesus espoused in connection with asking and receiving from God isn’t actually Jesus’ rule. “So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” is the application we’re supposed to make in response to the fact that God doesn’t hold back blessings from us. When we ask for good things (Matthew 7:7-11), the reasonable expectation is that God will give them. If God is generous towards us regarding what we need, then we should be generous in treating others the same way we would want them to treat us. You can fill in all the blanks for yourself (respect, kindness, love . . .). The last part of verse 12 is interesting, and I’ll get to that shortly.

There’s an abundance of variations of this rule, and each one has different versions of each variation. Take the Silver Rule, for instance: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” It’s saying almost the same thing, except it emphasizes not doing harm more than doing good as the Golden Rule requires—though it doesn’t exclude doing good.

Then there’s the Bronze Rule: “Do unto others as they have done unto you.” This is a clear departure from the generosity of both the Golden and Silver Rules. While it asks us to reciprocate when others do good t

o us, it also keeps the door open for vengeance, which Jesus clearly would not endorse (though our culture often celebrates this).

The Iron Rule says, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” It’s a variation of a popular saying I remember as a kid in reference to the war in Viet Nam – “Do unto others but do it first.” I suppose it could be made to endorse doing whatever good is exchanged between parties preemptively, but it’s usually intended as a sort of preemptive vengeance that doesn’t wait to be harmed before taking action.

The Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them,” appears more considerate than the Golden Rule because it attempts to anticipate the needs of others. It features what the iron rule barely hints at. What you might want someone do to you is rendered moot because it focuses on the needs of others even if they’re not your needs.

Then there’s Jesus’ rule, the Titanium Rule. There are variations to this, but the one that gets closer to the heart of God is this one: “Do unto others as I have loved you.” As Dr. Leonard Sweet says, “Lay it down.” The last part of Matthew 7:12 reveals that, though Jesus clearly endorses the Golden Rule, it’s source is the Law and prophets, not Jesus. Finding the quote in the Old Testament is a bit of a challenge, but it’s a good summary of at least one dimension of loving one’s neighbor as yourself.

But that Titanium Rule. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This does not in any way negate the Golden Rule. It does not replace it or minimize it or reduce it to a level of less importance. Both rules are true at the same time. It’s just that following the Golden Rule while failing to follow the Titanium Rule completely undermines both. Yet, when following the Titanium Rule, the Golden Rule is unavoidable. In other words, you can follow the Golden Rule without following the Titanium Rule, but you cannot follow the Titanium Rule without following the Golden Rule, as it sums it up and includes it in its application.

Jesus went on to say in John 13:38 in response to Peter’s asking Jesus where he was going (we know to the cross, then to glory)—after Peter boldly stated he would lay down his life for Jesus—Jesus said, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” It’s a challenge to anyone who would say such a thing carelessly, even flippantly—and to anyone who might find comfort in merely stating one’s willingness to lay down their life for Jesus. Just saying so, even really, really meaning it, lacks resolve. I believe Peter was absolutely sincere. But Jesus knew he would break when he was put to the test.

Jesus said in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” And in verse 17, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” Here and in chapter 13 is the unqualified, ultimate expression of love. God gave his creation himself, as Jesus. Immanuel gave his life for his creation. It was given freely. No conditions, no give-and-take, no negotiation, no reciproci

ty, no transaction. It was purely preemptively given.

The Golden Rule is written in imperative form, but the Titanium Rule is a non-negotiable, non-optional, hard, direct command. Nothing you do as a disciple counts for anything without it. The only legitimate indicator that we follow Jesus is that we walk as he walked, which includes—so importantly—that we ‘lay it down’ as he did. How did God love the world? Yes, he sent his Son, but the ultimate expression of that love is Jesus laying down the life given to the world that God loved. There is no greater love.

There’s so much more I want to say about this, but I need to leave you with some questions to ponder.

  • Be honest, which of the above rules do you find yourself following most often?

  • While you could argue that following the Titanium Rule can only be done once in an absolute literal sense, what other sacrificial ways can you think of to love one another? To ‘lay it down’?

  • Is there anyone you would not die for? Especially if you’re thinking of your brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer should be 'no one'. But, be honest. Do you have something you need to lay before Jesus and get resolution on in order to be able to say this?

  • What do Jesus’ words, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another,” mean to you? Can they mean anything other than ‘lay it down’ for one another, even if it means the ultimate sacrifice for them?

  • How are you ‘laying it down’?

  • What’s holding you back?'

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