As a source of moral teaching, the Sermon on the Mount must rank as one of the greatest messages ever proclaimed. Lessons about forgiveness, not judging or condemning others, seeking reconciliation, and the importance of keeping your word (among other lessons) are topped off by the all-encompassing lesson on morality that is known as the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Many non-Christians find this particular sermon from Jesus to be a valuable guide as they seek to live out a “good” life as a member of their community.
Unfortunately, most people, Christians included, don’t know the context in which the Golden Rule is given. In context, there are three words that immediately precede this nugget of wisdom. These three words are “So in everything,” which thereby ties what follows (the Golden Rule) to the verses that come immediately before it. These verses, Matthew 7:7-11, focus on our need to be in constant prayer with our Father in heaven. Jesus tells us to “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Without a relationship with our Father in heaven that compels us to pray without ceasing as we seek His wisdom, it is impossible to implement the Golden Rule. We will try, but we will fall woefully short – especially when it comes to blessing those who persecute us and loving our enemies. One need only look at the division and venom that are so prevalent in our nation today. It is so easy to love those who love us, and be kind to those who are kind to us. But when it comes to dealing with those who disagree with us, it is as if we have determined that the rules no longer apply.
Jesus’ teaching is consistent. He is the vine, we are the branches, and apart from him we can do nothing. Apart from him, we cannot abide by his moral teachings. We may be tempted to redefine his teachings so that it seems like we can uphold them, but those efforts fail miserably when looked at in the light of selfless, sacrificial love. Only through a relationship with the One who is love can we hope to keep the Golden Rule.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron