In the February 26, 2011 Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy Graham takes on the problem of why the Golden Rule doesn’t work. He tells his readers that the Golden Rule is not sufficient and that people need something more. In order to sell his position, he sells people short. (Billy’s full article)
Just in case you have been living under a rock for the past several decades, here is the traditional statement of the Golden Rule attributed to Jesus: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT)
Here is the question posed by Billy’s reader: “As far as I’m concerned the most important thing about religion is following the Golden Rule and treating people kindly. After all, isn’t that what Jesus told us to do? We’d have a lot fewer problems in the world if everyone did this, in my opinion.”
Billy agrees with the sentiment expressed by the reader, but calls the application of the Golden Rule into question. Billy says, “… the world certainly would be a better place if everyone put the Golden Rule … into practice.” Then Billy tries to explain why Jesus’s instruction doesn’t work. He says, ”The problem is within our own hearts and minds. … we are selfish and demand our own way …” Billy then says that only if we confess our sins to Jesus can we be unselfish.
Billy’s problem is that he wants to promote his religion and to bring converts to his church. To do this, he must say that people are not able to be good without Jesus.
This just isn’t true. People in many non-Christian religions are good people. People who have no belief in God or gods are good people. To say that people can only be good with the help of Jesus is wrong.
Perhaps the problem is not the application or lack of application of the Golden Rule, but rather the way the Golden Rule is stated. I prefer the statement of Rabbi Hillel the Elder, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.”
The distinction is subtle. Jesus would say, “Treat your slaves in a reasonable way so that if you are enslaved, your master will treat you reasonably.” Hillel would say, “If you would not be a slave, do not enslave others.”
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