Suggested Reading: Leviticus 19:9-37
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets—Matthew 7:12
Everywhere we have lived during the course of ministry, we have tried our best to be good neighbors: making sure our front and back lawns were free of unsightly junk and weeds, keeping our garbage area clean and fresh smelling, making sure our tree limbs were trimmed, the exterior of our home attractive, not throwing wild parties or doing things in a disrespectful way that would cause disruption; all the things that constitute being a good neighbor. That does not mean our neighbors were always as respectful toward us, but our behavior and attitude could not be shaped or determined by theirs. We knew being a good neighbor was pleasing to God and in keeping with the Golden rule.
These things might not come to mind when we read Jesus words here, but they apply. Doing unto our neighbor the same as we would have them do unto us covers a multitude of areas and topics including being respectful, considerate, the way we respond to others, keep our property or area; behaving in any way toward others the way we want them to behave toward us. In Jesus’ book, being a good neighbor is not optional but the responsible way to live, our Christian duty.
When our daughters were growing up, sometimes the three of them needed to share the same bedroom. When this was necessary, we always made sure they had the largest bedroom in the house so they could spread out and be comfortable. However, inevitably someone would have times when they were not keeping their area very neat and I would have to remind them of the Golden Rule, which meant being a good neighbor to their sister(s) and keep their area clean. They could relate with that because they grew up with the Golden Rule as a guide and always before them.
The Golden Rule Jesus quotes in Matthew 7 during his Sermon on the Mount, was actually first mentioned in the Book of Leviticus which Moses wrote so the people would know how to love one another and live-in community with one another, and one of the laws that Jesus brought forward and incorporated into the New Covenant: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).
This reminds me of the song we sang in our elementary school choir that went, “No man is an island, no man stands alone…” We are interconnected, we are not only our brothers and sister’s keeper we have a responsibility to be good neighbors, in every way that being a good neighbor constitutes. And to do unto others what we would have them do unto us, even if they don’t do it back to us.
Whether we like it or not, want to believe it or not what we do impacts others. My sin or my issues are only my sin and my issues when they don’t touch or impact the lives of other people. As Paul so aptly wrote to the Church of Corinth, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (I Cor.10:23). The minute I cease to be all by myself is the minute I am not only accountable to others, but the minute what I do impacts others.
As a married woman I cannot say, just because I am a grown woman, I can do what I want, because what I do will impact my husband, and vice versa. Just like someone who has children ceases to be able to do what and how they like without thought or regard to their children or family, since what they do will impact more people than themselves. Whether good or bad, actions are consequential and the things we do can be like the pebble thrown into the pond that make a ripple. The bigger the stone or pebble the further out the ripple.
Maybe Jesus wanted us to be aware of our responsibility of being good neighbors and practicing the Golden Rule, not so we would have yet another thing to feel guilty about, another weight to bear, but because we are his new creation we are capable of so much more than the world requires or expects from us. Even in neighboring we are an example for the world to follow. We are to be looked up to and even mimicked. The way we treat our neighbor: being respectful, compassionate, considerate, thoughtful, kind, reconciling others to God through Christ Jesus, honoring, having a godly attitude, should inspire others to do likewise. Fulfilling our Christian duty to practice the Golden Rule is golden indeed! Let’s Pray,
Dear God, the Golden Rule is a Law of love, one that we can rejoice in and be glad to live in. May we do our very best and be conscious always of how we treat others. Not just because we want them to treat us the same way in return but because living respectfully, thoughtfully, compassionately, is what pleases you and that is our end goal in living this life. May everything we do, even fulfilling our Christian duty to treat others right, be fulfilled in and through us this day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen