“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” - Matthew 7:12
You’ve probably run into a lot of people who say they follow The Golden Rule. They might say, “I’m not into church or religion, but I follow the Golden Rule.” Or, “I’m a pretty good person. I try to live by The Golden Rule.” But God’s word answers back, “No, you don’t! You don’t live by The Golden Rule, because you CAN’T live by The Golden Rule! It’s impossible—utterly impossible—for you to consistently ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.’ You CAN’T do it! You WON’T do it … unless I do it through you.”
You see, it’s impossible to follow The Golden Rule on the OUTSIDE unless Jesus Christ is working on the INSIDE. And faithful, heartfelt, persistent prayer is the only soil from which The Golden Rule will grow.
Jesus shares The Golden Rule this way in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Critics of the Bible like to make the case that Jesus didn’t come up with this Golden Rule. They say it was around for centuries before he spoke it. They point out that Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” And the Greek king Nicocles wrote, “Do not do to others the things which make you angry when you experience them at the hands of other people.”
There’s no doubt that many ancient philosophers and teachers taught something very similar to The Golden Rule. But all of them are NEGATIVE forms of The Golden Rule: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you.” But Jesus did something revolutionary. He gave us a POSITIVE form of the command. And there’s a big difference between the negative and positive forms of The Golden Rule.
William Barclay explains it this way: “It is one thing to say, ‘I must not injure people’ … It is quite another to say, ‘I must go out of my way to help other people and to be kind to them.’ Barclay goes on to say, “It is never difficult not to do things.… A man might forever refrain from doing any injury to anyone else, and yet be a quite useless citizen to his fellow men. A man could satisfy the negative form of the rule by simple inaction; if he consistently did nothing he would never break it.”
Think about it. If being a successful brain surgeon only requires us to not injure anyone during surgery, we could all be millionaire brain surgeons right now without any medical training. All we’d have to do is scrub up, walk into the Operating Room and do nothing. Doing nothing would mean success. And our Yelp Reviews would all be 5 stars because we would never injure anyone’s brain.
So many people think that they live by Jesus’ Golden Rule. But the truth is, they’re just living by Confucius’ inferior, negative version of it. They think, “I have a perfect record. I’ve never murdered anyone, never raped anyone, never robbed a bank, never cheated on my wife.” Well, whoop-dee-doo! Just about every atheist on the planet can say the same thing.
Once again, Jesus raises the bar. His Golden Rule is not natural. It’s supernatural. The reason most people who know The Golden Rule don’t live it out is because they can’t. Living out The Golden Rule requires a supernatural overhaul on the inside—an overhaul that can only be done by Jesus Christ. Unless Jesus gives you a new heart, a new mind and a new love for those around you, and helps you every step of the way, you can never live by The Golden Rule. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. You can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.
So, how can you learn to live out The Golden Rule? Well, you can begin praying these three prayers:
Prayer #1: Father in heaven, please forgive me for my sin. If you have unforgiven sin in your life, you will not be able to “do unto others.” You cannot love supernaturally if your heart and mind are filled with unnatural wickedness.
Prayer #2: Father in heaven, please help me get to know and love you better and better. Because The Golden Rule is supernatural, there’s no way that you could possibly live it out until you see it lived out by your supernatural Savior. You must spend serious time in God’s word and in prayer to know Him better. Jesus Christ is your role model, the only One to perfectly live out The Golden Rule. Pay careful attention to the way He loves undeserving people, so that you can love undeserving people too. And your love for Christ must deepen in order for your love for people to deepen. You can’t love people better unless you love Christ better.
Prayer #3: Father in heaven, please help me to LOVE as Jesus loves. If you want to live out The Golden Rule, God will help you. But you’ve got to really, really want it. You’ve got to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. And if you do, God will answer your prayers. He will help you love the people around you with a supernatural, unconditional love. And when that happens, the people around you will experience heaven on earth like never before. They will experience Jesus like never before—through you.
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at