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The Golden Rule. The Law of Reciprocity. What Goes Around . . .
You get the idea. Jesus said: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12 KJV).
Tell some of my Christian brothers and sisters that Jesus didn’t express that concept first, and they look at you like you are the devil incarnate. The hackles rise, the necks redden, and veins pop as a look of angry horror comes across their faces as if you are saying the Nazarene rabbi was a philosophical plagiarist!
Well, no. Of course not. Truth is Truth, whenever, wherever and by whomever it is uttered. It is the universality of such spiritual principles that underscores (to borrow from comedian Steven Colbert) their “truthiness.”
For Christians, the fact that Jesus reminded his followers of this particular timeless principle should make him no less the Son of God. It just means he taught a Truth that has such value that it crosses time. cultures, faiths and philosophies to be expressed repeatedly, albeit with varying nuances.
Jesus likely learned the Golden Rule principle as a child, listening to the local rabbi in Nazareth quote from Leviticus 19:18: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Muslims can cite the Prophet Muhammad’s admonition to “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.”
Buddha is credited with saying, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
The Hindus’ Mahabharata text declares, “Do not unto others which would cause pain if done to you.”
Similar expressions can be found studying Plato, Confucius, Lao Tse, etc., etc.
Where Jesus perhaps laid special claim to the Golden Rule, though, is how he taught it should be applied. . . not just to your countrymen or co-religionists, but to all.
One example: Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, where the hero is the shunned outsider whose compassion shows up two self-righteous members of the religious establishment by coming to the aid of a robbery and assault victim left to die on a road. The Samaritan chooses love over prejudice, action over excuses for bias.
That extension of empathy to everyone, regardless of their faith (or lack of it), ethnicity, citizenship status (!) or political affiliation (had to say that, given the presidential campaign now under way), makes the Golden Rule something we can all follow – and can all lay claim to.
In our multi-faith, multi-cultural melting pot of a nation, finding common ground on morality can only be a good thing.
And in these times all too little common ethical ground, that could be the mortar for rebuilding our social contract . . . before our divisions kill the dream that is America.