The Gold Standard for LIFE

January 4, 2015 ()

Bible Text: Matthew 22:35-40, Matthew 7:12 |

Series:

In 1863 a lithographer named Milton Bradley decided to try something a little bit different. He decided to invent a board game that people would play, and by playing it they would learn life lessons; they would learn about the risks and rewards in life. They would learn about decisions and consequences. The game was called The Checkered Game of Life. That’s actually the box that it came in from 1860. And it was a checkered board game and you spun a little device and then you moved forward along the game board, like the game board you see here.

And as you landed on certain steps or certain boxes you came to find that there was an opportunity and there was a cost with the opportunity and there was a potential reward, or there was a tragic event that happened and there was a cost associated with that.

Anyway the whole thing was designed to teach something about life.

A hundred years later the Milton Bradley Company reissued this game with a new game board and a new way of playing the game. A different kind of spinner; little cars with people in it. And that’s the game most of us grew up playing at some point or another. How many of you played the game of LIFE sometime? And most of you if you haven’t you’ve at least seen it and you know a little bit about it. And again it’s designed to teach lessons and to be a lot of fun to play.

Well as I began to think about this series of messages after Christmas to start out a new year and remembering our theme – Sterling UMC: A Church for Life, I started to think about what are the life lessons that we most need to know so that if we don’t get this right life is just going to be harder; it’s going to be more difficult. But if we do get it right there is a greater chance that we have joy and success in life.

During this series we’re going to look at seven simple lessons on life. These are lessons that you know already. They come right out of the scriptures but many of them are commonplace; they’re common knowledge but somehow knowing them and practicing them are two different things.

Now the reason why they work in life, the reason why they are so important and fundamental to our existence is that God designed us and He designed us in such a way that we would do these things. So when we don’t do what God intended for us to do, these very simple ideas, we find it’s just more difficult in life.

I think about a hammer as an illustration. And you know if you were to take this hammer and you were to say, “I really don’t want to use this end to hammer with. I want to use this end. Now the hammer was designed to be used a certain way. If we decide to use it in a different way and you start trying to use the wrong way and somehow it just doesn’t work the same. I’m guessing that if you worked at it really hard you could figure out how to do this. But it would take you 2 or 3 times as long to nail in every nail and you might lose a few fingers in the process.

But if you just use it the way it was designed to be used it’s amazing how much simpler life works. But this is how it is in life. You know, you were designed a certain way, you do life the way it was intended to be done and somehow it just works better. So I want us to look at these 7 simple rules for life.

Now if you take out of your bulletin your GPS you will find that there is a place to take some notes. This sheet will also be the resource we will use beginning on Wednesday night in the CrossWalk class I am leading in which we will have a sermon talkback session. At the top of the sheet you will find a scripture memory verse. I want to challenge you to try to commit this scripture verse to memory. And the aim here is that if you can commit this verse to memory it helps you daily to practice this. There are extra scriptures for you as well as additional practical ways you can discuss this with others or simply reflect on it and go deeper on your own.

So let’s get to it. The first truth is found in this passage of scripture that we have before us, The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is something we have all learned from the time we were children. We may not have realized that it comes from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gives this teaching, but we certainly knew this passage.

One of the things I want us to recognize up front is this passage, this Golden Rule, is not unique to Christianity. It actually predates Christianity. It appears in almost every ancient religion, philosophical system or system of ethics. It appears in the world’s great religions. Islam has a version of it. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, they all have a version of the Golden Rule.

Now the version Jesus gives us though is different from what we find in virtually all of the other ancient versions of the Golden Rule. In fact I don’t know of any other ancient versions that were the same as Jesus.

Let’s take a look at how Confucius gave the Golden Rule. He said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Virtually every other statement of the Golden Rule looks like this.

Now let’s see how it’s different from what Jesus said. Jesus transformed this to, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”

“Do not do to others…” “Do to others…” What’s the difference here? On the one hand we are refraining from doing what would harm other people or what would bring displeasure to them. And yet on the Jesus version of the Golden Rule we’re finding that Jesus is telling us positively, not just refrain from doing what harms but to positively do what brings blessing to others.

Now I was thinking about that this week and pondering what that might look like. And this morning it’s raining here in Sterling. So imagine you’re driving down Sterling Blvd or Route 7. And as you’re driving down the road you see there’s a car on the side of the road and the hood is up. And the person’s standing outside in the rain, getting drenched and they’re looking at their engine shaking their head. You can tell they’re not happy and they’re in a difficult place. What do you do?

Now if you follow Confucius’ version of the Golden Rule, what you say is, “I’m not to harm this person.” So I need to move as far to the left as possible so that there’s no chance that I could hurt them when I pass by. And I don’t want to splash them when I drive by and so I’m going to shift lanes to the far lane and keep on going past.

Now you would have refrained from doing harm but you didn’t actually help the person. Jesus is not satisfied with you refraining from doing harm to someone. He’s going to ask you that you positively stop to help.

Now you may not actually physically stop. It may be that if you were to slam on your brakes on Route 7 while it’s raining you’d cause other people to be in an accident. You don’t want to do to them something that you don’t want done to you. And so it may be instead of stopping its possible if you can’t stop safely you just call on your cellphone and you ask for the authorities to send someone to help the person. But if you know something about cars or you’ve got an umbrella and you can stop, and it looks safe to stop, then you’re called to stop. It’s not adequate according to Jesus’ version of the Golden Rule to do nothing.

So we must not only refrain from doing harm; that’s implicit in the Golden Rule. But we also have to positively try to do good.

Now I was thinking about the early Methodists and John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in the 18th Century taught the folks who were trying to become serious about their faith in Christ, he taught them 3 rules. He said if you’ll follow these 3 rules it will take you a long way in your journey to becoming the kind of person God wants you to be. And hopefully you remember them because I did a whole series of messages on them a year or so ago. These were called the General Rules.

The first one is “Do no harm.” Or to refrain from doing evil. The second one is to “Do good.” Do all the good that you can. And the last is to “Stay in love with God.” Practice the spiritual disciplines; that is to pray and to worship and to read the scripture, to receive communion, etc. To do the things that will help you grow spiritually.

It struck me that the first 2 General Rules of the Methodists were really the 2 sides of the Golden Rule. Wesley was drawing straight from those. Refrain from doing evil; that’s how Confucius taught it and that’s implicit in Jesus’ Golden Rule. And positively do all the good that you can, to everyone that you can, as often as you can.

So the Golden Rule has these 2 dimensions. There’s put off or stop doing. And then take up and start doing this.

Now throughout the New Testament we find this taught in a variety of ways. The apostle Paul has this rhythm of put off, take on; stop doing, start doing. Listen to this passage of scripture in Ephesians 4:25-32. Listen to those 2 movements in this passage:

“So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another… Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. (So stop stealing and start sharing with those in need) Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear… Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

So stop telling lies and start telling the truth. Stop stealing and start sharing with the needy. Don’t speak words that hurt others instead speak words that give grace to those around you. Don’t show anger or slander or bitterness to another but instead be kind and considerate and tenderhearted towards them. That’s the taking on and the putting off.

Now it’s interesting when Jesus was asked to summarize all the commandments you remember what He said, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And then in our particular scripture he says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For this summarizes the law and the prophets.”

So clearly these are very very important rules. Now when we look at that we realize that the second great commandment and the Golden Rule are really two different ways of saying the same thing. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Same thing.

When we talk about doing to someone, what are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to do the loving thing towards them; we are to love them with tender loving-kindness; to do the loving thing.

Now when we think about that we realize that this is sometimes challenging for us. I mean we know the Golden Rule but somehow we have a difficult time living it. And sometimes it’s because we’re in a hurry in life. We’ve all had this happen. You’re running late for church, you know, I’m running late for a meeting and I’m riding right up on somebodies tail, something that drives me crazy when someone does it to me, and I’m getting more and more frustrated. And all of the sudden I see them put on their signal to pull in to the church. And they can tell, you can’t miss that truck, Pastor Randy is right behind me. He’s really living the talk.

Living the Golden Rule is not easy. We have to think about it. And not only do we have to think about it, we have to be thinking of other people. And what tends to happen with us is that most of us are pretty self-absorbed. We’re primarily thinking about ourselves. And it’s awful hard to overcome that to begin to think about other people. And yet that’s what the Golden Rule is asking us to do.

The apostle Paul captures the Golden Rule another way in Philippians 2 where he says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.”

When I think about the Golden Rule, when I think about adjectives that describe people who actually live it, one of those is humility. The people who live the Golden Rule consistently are always thinking about other people before themselves. They don’t think that they are up here and that someone else is down here. It doesn’t work that way for them.

I remember when I was in seminary and we had a pastor who was pastor of a large church come and speak to one of our classes. And he taught us something very important and I’ve never forgotten it. He said at his church he had a multiple staff church, so they had a number of different staff people. And he said, “In my mind how I treat the custodian says volumes of the kind of person I am and whether I take seriously my faith.”

He said, “I recognize that the people who clean the toilets here are the people who make this place possible. Without them caring for our facilities and setting up the rooms and taking care of the building, we couldn’t do anything else that we want to do. And so my aim is to know everyone by name, to make sure that they know that they are respected and they are appreciated and they are among the most important people on our team.”

I wonder at your company, if you’re in management, how do you treat the people who are entry level workers in your company? How do you treat people who are several rungs down from you on the corporate ladder? And do those people see the same measure of respect for them that you show towards the boss? Because that’s part of what the Golden Rule is asking us. And really the test of this is not how well you treat the person who will determine your salary for the next year. The real test of whether you’re living the Golden Rule is how you treat the people who won’t.

Now another adjective that describes the Golden Rule is thoughtfulness; that is being considerate, considering the feelings and the thoughts of other people.

I read a wonderful story this week of a garbage man in Colorado went above and beyond when he found a small Christmas gift accidently thrown into the trash.

In an effort to clean up under the tree Christmas morning, Jason and Brenda Edwards’ $50 JC Penney gift card made its way into the trash. But, lucky for them it wasn’t lost forever.

“I was just dumping the cart in the back of the truck and saw the card on top of the pile of trash,” garbage disposal worker Jimmy James said.

Jimmy passed on the card to his driver to check the balance. They found out there was $50. “So”, he said, “I put it in my wallet and then when we got off work I went back to the Edward’s house.”

Jason said he couldn’t believe someone would take the time to drive back on their own time and personally return the card.

“It was kind of a shocker to me for sure,” Jason said. “I called my wife and told her, you’re never going to believe this guy… he just returned this card. It’s not a lot of money it’s just basically a simple principal that someone would take their time out to do something like that. It’s pretty cool.”

In return, the family gave Jimmy an envelope with $75. On the outside it said, “To Jimmy, Thank you for your honesty.” 1

And so we know this is one of life’s simple rules and we know that it works better if we follow it – I mean life just goes better – but sometimes we forget. So let me ask where and with whom do you struggle with being considerate?

So I’m thinking about this when it comes to the family. We know it works in the workplace and in the business world. And of course it’s a principle. You know it breaks down at certain points. But it is meant to guide us. But I began thinking about our family relationships. You know in every family relationship the Golden Rule is central to making this work.

Parents and children. You know as teenagers it’s sometimes hard to be considerate of our parents. To think about their feelings. As parents sometimes we’re only looking at our teenagers as little children and we still treat them like little children, and it’s hard sometimes for us to be considerate of one another. And yet we desperately need that. This only works in the family if we’re doing this and Christ is demanding it of us. He’s saying, “This is what it’s all about. This is the proof of your faith, are you considerate of your parents? Are you considerate of your children?” This is where the rubber meets the road.

Now when it comes to marriage when you talk to couples who have been married for more than 50 years, and when you ask them, “What does it take to make this work?” You know what they almost always say? It’s living the Golden Rule. “We’ve been married 55 years because I always tried to treat her with the same respect I would want her to treat me with.” “I tried to demonstrate the love towards him that I would want to be loved with.”

And so this becomes the key. Its thoughtfulness. Its mindfulness. It’s putting the needs of the other before yourself. Its doing unto them as you would have them do unto you.

Actually the Golden Rule breaks down here in marriage just a bit. Because it really isn’t to be taken quite so rigidly. It’s not doing to them what you would have them do to you. Its doing to them what they would be most blessed by. And sometimes that’s not the same thing.

So on Valentine’s Day, when I’m thinking I’m going to practice the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, I’m going to go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy for Robin the Black & Decker cordless drill for Valentine’s Day. Because maybe I want that for myself. But you know that’s probably not going to cut it for Valentine’s Day. I need to understand what would be a blessing to her.

Some of you may have heard of Gary Chapman’s wonderful little book, The 5 Love Languages. And he talks about the fact that we each speak a different kind of love language. We have different languages. And for some of us its words of affirmation. For some its quality time. Some of us its physical touch. And there’s several different ways that we speak love and we receive love. And the challenge is that most of us receive love one way and we tend to give love the same way assuming that our partner receives love in that same way.

But their love language may be different. So we’re speaking our love language to them and they’re not hearing, “I love you,” by what we’re doing. So it’s critical that we’re mindful of or thoughtful of their love language and speaking love in a way that speaks to them.

And so a key to living the Golden Rule in marriage is really taking the time to understand the needs of our partner and to minister to them; to bless them; to do to them what would be a blessing for them.

Now again in marriage we find well it’s easy to not really be mindful of our mate or to not be considerate.

The other day I was thinking about this message and Robin had cooked a great dinner, chili, and I was thinking and after we ate there were all these dishes piled up in the sink and I’m getting ready to walk out of the kitchen to sit down and watch one of the football games and all these dishes are piled there and I’m thinking to myself, “Housekeeping will take care of it later.” I didn’t actually think that, but I just thought I don’t need to clean the dishes. I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to do it. Why? What does that say? And I’m thinking, “You’re preaching on this this weekend, you know. Do the dishes!” So I turned around and put the dishes in the dishwasher. But we find that’s a regular pattern for us sometimes.

I wonder if you have ways that you’ve lacked consideration for your partner or your friends or your parents or your neighbors or your coworkers? Because Jesus is saying this is where the rubber meets the road – the law and the prophets is summarized by how well we do this in the little things and the big things.

Now of course the Golden Rule applies not only in business and in employee relations, it relates not only to how we relate to our neighbors and also how we relate to our spouses and our family members, I think of the 20,000 foot level, the Golden Rule is meant by Jesus to guide us in how we live as human beings in society. You know sometimes we forget this. Sometimes we become pretty self-absorbed as individuals or as a church or as a nation. So I think the Golden Rule really compels us as a society and as a human race to ask questions about how when we’re organized together we live towards other groups of people. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How would the world be different if we truly sought to live this truth in our relationships with other groups of peoples?

Sometimes it might require taking a stand. Sometimes it might require speaking out. Sometimes to live the Golden Rule requires great moral courage. It requires a willingness to sacrifice. And I was reminded of that this week.

Earlier this week Robin and I went to see the movie Unbroken. It’s the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and World War II hero, and it tells the amazing story of his courage, perseverance, valor—and miraculous survival. It’s a very intense and gripping story and film that I would recommend.

But the movie doesn’t tell the full story of Zamperini’s extraordinary life.

He had been brutally tortured in Japanese prison camps and, when he was finally freed, came home filled with bitterness toward life and rage toward his captors. He experienced constant nightmares, became a heavy drinker, had a violent temper, and nearly destroyed everything that mattered to him, including his marriage.

Then persuaded by his wife went to hear a young, little-known evangelist named Billy Graham. Gripped by the power of the Gospel and overwhelmed by the realization of how broken his life had become, Zamperini gave his life to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. He left the tent with God’s complete forgiveness.

From that day forward, everything changed. He started reading the Bible. His nightmares disappeared, he gave up drinking, his hatred and violent anger melted away, and he began to live for Christ.

To his own amazement, he soon found himself desiring reconciliation with his Japanese tormentors. He traveled to Japan, visited prisons that held war criminals, shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with many, and expressed forgiveness personally to any of his wartime captors that he could find. These extraordinary acts of reconciliation were widely reported in the media across Japan and the United States, and God used the stories to touch many hearts and bring the power of forgiveness and reconciliation into many more lives. Right up to his death this past July at age 97, Zamperini never tired of telling people about the Savior. 2

Friends that’s the power of the Gospel. That’s the power of the Golden Rule – it’s one of those simple rules. And when you live it, you do it, life works better. It just does. God gave this to us as a gift. And he calls us to practice it when it comes to our businesses, when it comes to our relationships with our neighbors, when it comes to our closest family members, and when it comes to those around us in the world.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Amen.

References:

Garbage Man Returns Found Gift Card to Family, Then Gets Gift Himself. POSTED 9:39 AM, DECEMBER 30, 2014, BY STAFF WRITER, UPDATED AT 11:40AM, DECEMBER 30, 2014. http://whotv.com/2014/12/30/garbage-man-returns-found-gift-card-to-family-then-gets-gift-himself/
Franklin Graham: The Rest of the ‘Unbroken’ Story. By Franklin Graham. December 29, 2014. http://billygraham.org/story/franklin-graham-the-rest-of-the-unbroken-story/?SOURCE=BL151YEBL&utm_source=prayer+letter+email&utm_medium=bgemail&utm_campaign=bgemailnewsletter&content=12.30.14

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