“Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Jesus was not the first one to say something like this. Did you know that? This basic moral idea predated Jesus by several hundreds of years. You can find a similar idea expressed in numerous other ancient religions. Okay, well doesn’t that seem to give credence to the idea that Jesus is just another moral teacher like so many others have been? Not so fast.
For starters, while the basic idea had been around for a very long time, it was almost universally stated in a negative form. Don’t do to someone else what you don’t want them to do to you. The basic thrust was the same, but the difference between the two is significant.
The whole ethic of the kingdom of God is active and outwardly oriented. It is not primarily about advancing your own interests, but rather sacrificially advancing the interests of those around you. Christians are called to live what Spike White, the founder of Kanakuk Camps, called the “I’m third life.” God first, others second, I’m third. If we simply sit back and don’t do to others what we don’t want done to us, we become very passive and inwardly focused.
If there is a common thread running through what Jesus taught and what some ancient moralists who pre-dated Him taught, this does not mean Jesus was simply another moral teacher. The rest of His life and ministry should thoroughly disabuse the astute observer of that rather quickly. No one else said and did the things He said and did.
Rather, it points to the fact that certain ideas are universal to humanity. And if certain ideas are universal to humanity, then we need to begin asking whether or not there’s a reason for that. Is this just a common evolutionary adaptation, or is there a moral law that is external to us? The harder you look, the more it seems like the second option is the more likely reality.
The other thing that makes Jesus different is this: He didn’t leave things at the Golden Rule. In what Andy Stanly calls the “platinum rule,” Jesus took things another leap forward and in a way that demands we see Him differently than all the others who came before Him or since Him. Jesus commanded His followers to love other people after the pattern of His own love for them. He said to love others as He loved us.
This completely revolutionizes the Golden Rule. What we want them to do for us is meaningless on this adaptation. Now we do for them whether or not they’ve done for us. We do for them even when they haven’t done for us. We do for them because Jesus did for us. Jesus didn’t simply raise the standard to the roof, He shot it right on through the roof and up into the heavens.
Jesus was unlike anyone else. He was in a class all to Himself. If we are going to be His followers, we’re going to have to be different too. We can start with this. Everything else will fall into place from there.