At the heart of the Golden Rule is reciprocity: when we do good, others will do good back to us. In a perfect world, we’d all be falling over ourselves trying to out-serve one another, but the reality is that many people are simply uninterested in doing good to each other. It’s enough to harden even the softest of hearts.
Have you ever tried to practice the Golden Rule on someone who isn’t interested in doing the same? They ignore or berate you for your friendly gestures and acts of service. It’s sometimes all you can do to not do anything negative, let alone something good.
Pastor Henning of Lutheran Hour Ministries writes in this devotional about the Golden Rule from God’s perspective. Even on our “good” days, we’re still sinful people deserving of punishment. Despite this, God offers us unending grace. While we might snap at someone for slightly inconveniencing us, God patiently endures even our worst sins. We should be thankful that he does:
When commenting on a number of the commandments, Martin Luther explains that we should treat others as we want to be treated, be it our brother or sister, father or mother, our co-worker, our neighbor, or our pastor. Now while this is a useful guide for how sinful human beings should reciprocate toward one another, it doesn’t quite capture the way a perfectly just God deals with us.
If God’s response to us was in keeping with our conduct toward Him — even on our best behavior — we wouldn’t stand a chance. His justice is beyond human comparison; it is perfect, absolute, and incapable of being satisfied by our efforts or best intentions. When we treat God with disrespect, or neglect Him and His Word, He is still patient with us. When we go out of our way to sin and scorn the very relationship we have with Him, He is still forgiving — ever ready and willing to draw us back into a genuine and healthy fellowship with Himself.
Rather than retribution, God offers grace — the unending and undeserved fount of love and forgiveness shown to mankind through the sacrificial offering of His Son, Jesus Christ, upon the cross. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men …” (1 Timothy 2:5-6a).
How do you enact the Golden Rule in your life? What does it mean to you to accept God’s gift of grace?