Following the recent events in Baltimore and other cities across the United States (see “Baltimore riots: Why it’s not 1968,” CSMonitor.com), I’ve been reminded of the power of the golden rule that Jesus taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).
And as I’ve been praying for healing for the world, I’ve reflected on the power of loving my neighbor as myself, the basis for the golden rule. At times when we’re faced with seeming injustices, injury, disappointment, betrayal, or frustration, loving those we believe to be the source of these problems can seem like a tall order. It’s easy to think that feelings of sadness, anger, retaliation, and apathy are justified under the circumstances. However, this is where following the golden rule can help us gain a sense of dominion over those feelings and find healing that solves problems and blesses everyone.
The golden rule is generally understood to be about treating others as you would want to be treated. This expression of brotherly love is important. But in my life I’ve also found that it’s about seeing and identifying others as you want them to see and identify you. This takes the concept of the golden rule beyond acts of kindness to a place of deep spiritual understanding about our true identity as the child of God.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, established her church and its teachings on the spiritual understanding of God, of divine Truth and Love, which were demonstrated through Christ Jesus’ life and works of healing and salvation. The tenets of the Church of Christ, Scientist, which can be found in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” establish the main points of Christian Science and clearly outline how we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Obeying the golden rule is paramount to these teachings, as can be seen in the sixth and final tenet: “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure” (p. 497).
Seeing and identifying others as loved children of God may not come readily, but it becomes easier as we understand and feel in our hearts what is true of God and man. This understanding is illuminated for us in the Bible, which tells us that God is Spirit (see John 4:24), and that as Spirit He made man – the generic term for His sons and daughters – in His likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27). This means that our real identity is spiritual, and that we reflect and express the qualities of Spirit.
Mary Baker Eddy explains this further in Science and Health: “[M]an is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63).
When I was a child, I attended a school in an area of the city renowned for its history of racial strife, economic depression, and violent rioting. Shortly after the beginning of the school year, a group of girls began bullying me and a group of my friends based on racial differences. This was surprising and hurtful, because I had been friends with many of these girls the prior year. It finally became so serious that all of us were scheduled to meet with the vice principal of the school.
As a student in a Christian Science Sunday School, I had learned about the golden rule. I had also learned that God is Spirit. I realized that instead of being confused, hurt, and upset about the situation, I could apply the golden rule and see these individuals spiritually – as pure and good. As I did this, I became calmer, and the fear and stress of the situation disappeared. I felt myself genuinely loving my friends for who they truly were as the children of God.
The next day when everyone met again in the principal’s office, I prayerfully held on to this spiritual view of everyone there. We stood around awkwardly at first, but then I was prompted to ask, “Why can’t we be friends?” One of them said, “I don’t know. I want to be friends.” That broke the tension, and the situation was healed. We remained friends until we all left the school for junior high.
As I go through my day, I strive to apply the golden rule more consistently in my life. I recognize that the golden rule is a powerful tool that can bring healing to relationships and even to the broader community as we apply it in our daily lives.