The Golden Rule
Treat others the way you want to be treated. These words, a common refrain from parents and teachers of young children, are known as The Golden Rule. Generations of children have heard these words and they can clearly articulate what it means to them. The Golden Rule is present in Scripture; it also appears in other religions around the world.
In today’s first reading from 1 Samuel, Saul and three thousand men went looking for David in the desert of Ziph. David and Abishai crept among Saul and his soldiers while they were sleeping. These foes of the Old Testament had no reason to give each other mercy - except for their beliefs. David could have easily killed Saul and men around him in their sleep. However, David knows that Saul is anointed and belongs to the Lord - by harming someone anointed by the Lord, David himself was risking divine punishment. Instead, David stole Saul’s spear and water jug. David saw these actions as divinely planned: though Saul and David crossed paths, David knew not to harm him in order to receive his own eternal reward.
Jesus gives advice in the same vein to His disciples in today’s Gospel reading. Love your enemies. Go good to those who hate you. Pray for those that mistreat you. And then, buried in the lines provoking us to ask, “Are you really asking this of me, Lord?”, He speaks the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Today Jesus implores us to give mercy to those around us. Mercy can be a hard concept to understand. Doesn’t it just mean being nice to people and giving to the poor? Mercy goes beyond kindness. In the second half of the Gospel, the words of Jesus elaborate on how we can show mercy: Stop judging. Stop condemning. Forgive others. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.
The psalm today sings out “the Lord is kind and merciful”, but do we show that mercy to others? While our disagreements may not lead us to walk in darkness through an enemy camp in search of a foe, do we show mercy in the 21st century? Social media gives us an edited version into others lives. Do we judge others for how they live? Do we compare ourselves to an unrealistic expectation?
The Lord is kind and merciful. God will not judge us; He calls each of us by name and His mercy washes over us. Give that same mercy to those in your life - particularly those which made make it hard. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do not judge. Do not condemn. Instead, pray. Pray that all may feel the kindness and mercy around them in a harsh, cruel, sad world. Live the Golden Rule every day, and you will show the mercy of our heavenly Father in your daily life.