The Golden Rule

Posted on 03/18/2019 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***


Public Prayer Requests:


Please pray for April's housing situation and for William's upcoming brain surgery.


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Please click one of the offering plates in Second Life or at http://almcyberchurch.org, and give as the Lord leads.

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I HAVE THE JOY
by George W. Cooke
edited by Benjamin R. Faust

I have the joy joy joy joy
down in my heart
down in my heart
down in my heart

I have the joy joy joy joy
down in my heart
down in my heart
to stay

I have the peace that passes
understanding
down in my heart
down in my heart
down in my heart

I have the peace that passes
understanding
down in my heart
down in my heart
to stay

I have the wonderful love of my
blessed redeemer way
down in the depths of my heart
down in the depths of my heart
down in the depths of my heart

I have the wonderful love of my
blessed redeemer way
down in the depths of my heart
down in the depths of my heart
to stay


CHORUS

And I'm so happy
so very happy
I have the love of Jesus
in my heart, my heart

Yes I'm so happy
so very happy
I have the love of Jesus
in my heart


I have the love of Jesus
love of Jesus
down in my heart
down in my heart
down in my heart

I have the love of Jesus
love of Jesus
down in my heart
down in my heart
to stay

(CHORUS)

And if the devil doesn't like it
he can
sit on a tack
sit on a tack
sit on a tack

And if the devil doesn't like it
he can
sit on a tack
sit on a tack
to stay

(CHORUS)


JOYFUL JOYFUL
lyrics by Henry van Dyke
music by Ludwig van Beethoven

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow'rs before Thee,
Op'ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow'ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o'er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.


BLESSED ASSURANCE
by Frances J. Crosby

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
oh, what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

This is my story, this is my song
praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
praising my Savior all the day long

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love


*** Choose your connection speed and listen to the audio to hear the introduction. ***


We're all familiar with what's generally referred to as The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

While we tend to remember these as the words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, the Golden Rule is prominently taught in most if not all of the world's major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.

Three weeks ago, we talked about the passages in the Bible that tell us the law of God is written upon the hearts of every single man, woman, and child on earth. Well, we can at least agree that the concept of the Golden Rule is widely recognized regardless of one's religious upbringing, since it is presented by them all.

Today, I'd like for us to explore this universal moral directive a little more deeply, and consider how we can live by it ourselves.


First, let's take a look at some potential problems with the way this rule is worded. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Suppose I absolutely love thrash metal music, and I love to hear it at an extremely high volume while I sleep. And so, in my desire to live by the Golden Rule in the crowded apartment complex when I live, I crank up my stereo and blast my collection of Slayer albums on repeat before going to bed.

Now I realize that's a ridiculous example, and most sane, rational, caring people wouldn't dream of doing such an absurd thing. And yet, on a smaller scale, we tend to make the same error in judgment when it comes to our perception of others and, thus, in our dealings with them.

We all too often forget that others do not experience life the same ways we do. And here are a couple of examples that hopefully will help clarify what I mean.

Our past experiences significantly color our perceptions of our current ones. If, for example, a girl was raised by and around controlling, abusive males, when she grows up, she might perceive the words and actions of all men as being controlling, manipulative, uncaring, and threatening.

If we do not have that same mental filter ourselves, we might not understand their actions or reactions. They are not us, and their mind is not ours just as our mind is not theirs.

Similarly, our religious beliefs are not as much a personal choice as most of us seem to think they are. Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Muslims, and Pagans may be as firmly convinced of the truth of their god or gods and their sacred texts as you are of Yahweh and the Bible.

According to statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center, 84% of children raised by two devout Christian parents and 81% of those raised by a single Christian parent retain their Christian beliefs as adults.

The numbers for Muslims are similar, with about 80% of those raised as Muslims retaining their belief in Islam as adults.

The numbers for Buddhists are a bit lower, but still over half of those raised Buddhists retain those beliefs as adults, with similar numbers being true for Hindus.

The point is that our predominant childhood influences shape our perception of what is obviously and undeniably true. Of course people do convert to other religions, often based upon inner feelings and emotional responses, while a surprisingly small percent of us manage to make their choice of religion, if any at all, based purely on a completely rational evaluation of observable and testable facts.

In other words, you might suppose that the Hindu or Atheist just needs to hear the Bible explained to them, and unless they're purposely shutting their eyes to the "truth," they will undoubtedly become a Christian.

But the Muslim tends to think the same thing about YOU.

So in this example, how would we apply the Golden Rule in our conversation with them about matters of belief? Would we approach them in the same way we would want a preacher to approach us -- by quoting Scripture and assuming that we believe the Bible is the infallible word of God?

That's all fine and dandy for YOU; but what happens when someone tries to convert you to THEIR religion by simply quoting the Vedas? Or the Sutras? Or the Hadith? Or the Bhagavad Gita? Or the Book of the Dead?

Apologists from every religion will point out supposed scientific and medical knowledge found in their scriptures which they claim were before their time and thus miraculous. They might use reason, often based upon the presupposition that their texts are true, or personal stories of people who have witnessed miracles, personal transformations, or amazing mystical or spiritual experiences.

We could inform them that who they thought was god or angels were really satan or demons, but they might do the same to us.

So how would the Golden Rule apply?

Well, let's look at that rule in a different way. And instead of approaching it from the viewpoint of someone who can't see beyond themselves, let's consider looking at it from the perspective of the other person.

Would we want them to listen to what we're saying and respect us by not just dismissing what we say? After all, a person's religious beliefs are usually a deeply-rooted part of who they feel themselves to be.

People generally don't say, "I am a being whose mind believes teachings from the Bible." Rather, people tend to say, "I am a Christian." It is a part of their identity.

And the same is true for people of other religions. "I am a Muslim." "I am a Buddhist." "I am a Pagan." Their identity is seamlessly interwoven with and is indeed one with their system of belief, especially if they were raised in that religion or point of view.

Their beliefs are like parts of a tall building, that building being the "Mary" or "Greg," or "Stacy," or "William," or whatever name they consider to be their own that points to the person they believe themselves to be. And attacking their religion or calling it wrong is like attacking the building's foundations and walls. The person feels threatened, and feels as though YOU are evil for seeing part of THEM as evil or wrong.

Suppose that someone pointed to passages from the Bible and claimed they are the words of an imaginary deity whose supposed actions are evil, immoral, and obscene.

And if you're having a problem imagining how that would feel, hang in there with me for a few minutes and consider how you would feel if someone made the following claims about the Bible:

In Numbers 31, Moses rebuked the Israelite army for letting all the women and children live, and commanded them to kill all the women who weren't virgins, and to kill the little boys, but to keep the virgin women and little girls for themselves.
(Numbers 31:1-18)

In Deuteronomy 20, God told the Israelites that when they fight against a city that he gives them, they should kill every male but keep the women, children, and cattle as property, as spoils of war.
(Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

In Judges 21, When there weren't enough women for all the men to have wives, they solved the problem, with no objection from God, by attacking a city, killing all the men and non-virgin women, and taking as sexual partners the 400 young virgins they found.
(Judges 21:7-12)

In Judges 21, The sons of Benjamin were instructed to kidnap women and take them as forced brides.
(Judges 21:20-23)

In Exodus 21, God said a man could sell his daughter as a sex slave.
(Exodus 21:7-10)


How do those claims make you feel? Angry? As though someone is attacking you? Filled with "righteous" indignation?

Well, the Muslim feels the same way when you say that Allah is a false god because his messenger, Muhammad, was a pedophile because he married a 9-year-old girl.

We could point to the Hadith that says this, just as they could point to the passages in the Bible that condone taking virgin women and girls as property. But what would that accomplish?

Neither the Christian nor the Muslim are likely to honestly say, "Yes, you're right! I'm leaving my religion and converting to yours!"

Instead, each one is likely to feel attacked and thus respond in kind. Each one is likely to defend their own scriptures and beliefs and perhaps explain away the claims of the other, and neither one will come any closer to the truth.


Now I realize that some people hearing this may very well have either already left or are planning to never listen to our services again because of the examples I just gave. But if that's the case, then those examples accomplished their purpose, which was to help us experience our own words and actions the same way people who believe in other religions would.

This is called Empathy, which is the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

And perhaps the Golden Rule could be summed up using that one word: Empathy. Experiencing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of someone else without judging that person as evil or deceived just because they are not us.

If we would want others to do this for us, then shouldn't we do that for them?

We want intellectual honesty from others. We want others to hear our point of view openly and with the admission that their own firmly-held beliefs might not be as true as they are convinced they are.

We want others to examine their own beliefs and their own holy texts in a truly objective way without making up excuses.

We want others to continue to seek after the truth, even if that truth hurts or conflicts with what they have always firmly believed.

And if we want others to do these things, shouldn't we do them ourselves?

Okay, I know I'm preaching to the choir and you already know all these things. But we all need reminders from time to time.

And hopefully our little thought experiment today helps us understand the far-reaching implications of true empathy.

We want others to continue to seek for the truth, for as Matthew 7:7-8 (KMV) says,

7 Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and it will be opened unto you.
8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Is verse 8 true? If someone keeps seeking for the truth, and doesn't stop just because they're convinced they've already found it, will they find? I suspect most of us believe Jesus said this, and therefore we believe it is true.

And since we realize that we cannot find truth if we don't give ourselves room to be wrong about something, perhaps we can see how a little bit of agnosticism can go a very long way.

When discussing the Bible with others, we want them to admit to themselves that they might be wrong about their own religious beliefs, and then listen to our point of view. So in the spirit of the Golden Rule, we should do the same for them.

And if continued seeking results in finding the truth, then openly questioning our own beliefs and being open to data which might conflict with those beliefs is not something we should fear.

And I'm putting it this way to drive home our point today. We should treat others the way we would want to be treated if we were them, and we should not expect of others what we are unwilling to expect of ourselves.

Now, while I didn't intend for today's message to be a philosophical exercise, perhaps that wouldn't be a bad thing.

Philosophy can be partially defined as the rational investigation of truths and principles, or the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge.

Or put another way, seek and keep on seeking. Not so we can find something that feels true to us and therefore stop seeking, but so we can be as open and honest with ourselves about our own firmly-held beliefs as we want others to be about their own.

Is this too much of a challenge? The sad truth is that, statistically speaking, we tend to determine what is true based on feelings rather than on reason and fact. But the law of reciprocity states that if we give unto others, it will be given unto us. If we give openness and personal vulnerability to others, some just might respond in kind.

So a challenge we can accept from that example is this: when being presented with challenges to your own beliefs, be brutally honest with yourself and genuinely open to others' points of view. And just maybe they will do the same thing too.


Do you want others to show consideration and kindness to you? Then show consideration and kindness to others.

Do you want others to refrain from giving you a hard way to go when you're just doing your job? Then be kind and understanding when you're at the checkout line or talking to customer support.

Do you want others to value your opinion and not just reject it because they already have their own? Then genuinely do the same for them. And to make that possible, we should learn how to step back from our mind and its imaginary person we call "us" and see it as fallible and very quickly passing away.

Are you loading groceries into your vehicle? Put your cart where it belongs and throw your trash away. After all, no one wants to find that one good parking space only to discover it's occupied by your shopping cart.

All of this requires thinking outside of your little mental world and considering others. And that's not some really grand spiritual act. Instead, it's the basics -- it's the least you can do.

Doing big things can be wonderful. But the little things make all the difference. And if you are inconsiderate in the little things, no matter what lofty act of charity you might perform, you are not living by the Golden Rule.

Show love, kindness, and compassion -- make someone's day a little brighter. Not so others will accept your beliefs or be nice to you, but just because it's right right thing to do. And your own experience of life will become a little bit brighter too.