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A simple (but golden) rule

From the Christian Science Sentinel - May 4, 2005

Originally appeared on spirituality.com


When I was in grade school, my family moved from an old house into a brand-new one. We were all very excited. The new house was modest, yet charming. But the day after the boxes, furniture and other belongings arrived, we went back to the old house. My mother insisted we get it ready for the new owners. So, from top to bottom, cellar to attic, we scrubbed, dusted, swept, waxed, polished, until our old home sparkled.

Later, I realized the reason my mother had insisted on leaving the old house in perfect condition had to do with her understanding of the Golden Rule. It was about genuine caring and concern for the new owners.

In varying ways, the world’s major religions—Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam—incorporate some version of the Golden Rule. The Christian version, as based on Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, reads, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

This all sounds simple enough! Behave toward other people in the manner you want and expect them to behave toward you. Share a smile or say hello during a morning walk, perhaps. Help a stranger with groceries. Refuse to engage in gossip about a friend. Be kind when kindness is not reciprocated.

But what about the exact opposite of good will: indifference, rudeness, disdain, lack of concern for others, cruelty? What about road rage, abuse, violence in families, schools—even churches? How do we react in these situations?

Well, none of these should be ignored. But when we encounter them, we can't allow ourselves to be pulled into reciprocal bad behavior. Practicing the Golden Rule can provide the opportunity to turn things around. Why? Because it is based on a spiritual stance that refuses to accept that ungodlike behavior—that anger, frustration and hate are normal. The Golden Rule provides the opportunity for us to treat everyone with the same respect and dignity we expect and want for ourselves. It supports the desire to live a more unselfish and loving life.

How does this happen? Mary Baker Eddy made an arresting statement in Science and Health: “Whatever holds human thought in line with unselfed love, receives directly the divine power” (192:30). The power of divine Love is evidenced in the successful healing it brings to discordant relationships, financial need, loss, lack, accident and illness.

Loving others—and loving our own innate spiritual selfhood—brings results. It is much more than etiquette and good manners. It’s about listening to, cherishing and acknowledging each individual’s genuine spiritual nature.

To base our love for others in divine Love is to put a healing touch into brotherhood and forgiveness. This draws us together, uniting us under God’s loving government. Each of us has an essential role in divine Love’s family. As God’s spiritual creations, we aren’t limited or frustrated human personalities. Distrust, suspicion of others’ motives, aloofness, criticism and cynicism begin to lose their hold on us as we are willing to see ourselves, and others, as part of God’s universal family.

Jesus expounded on the importance of understanding our oneness with God when he commanded his followers, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27).

The extent to which we stop being offended or hurt by what others think or say has everything to do with the Golden Rule. It doesn’t matter who was wrong or right, or who is supposed to initiate an apology.

Whether we’re at the checkout in the supermarket, at dinner with friends, at church, school or home, accepting God as our number one “priority” enables us to experience brotherhood, forgiveness and harmony in tangible ways—to feel genuine love for others, not merely to talk about it.

Establishing this closeness to God results in more connection to others. It brings peace of mind, joy and satisfaction to all areas of our lives. And it takes the effort out of loving others unconditionally, just as God loves us all.

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