‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12
When you read the teachings of Jesus, some of it shocks and jars (as it was no doubt intended!). That verse about “plucking out your eye” (Matt 5:29) comes to mind, for example. It seems savage and unreal at first glance.
Some people struggle similarly with that call (in Matt 5:44) to “Love your enemies.” Some have a kneejerk reaction of “But you don’t know what they did to me!” while others refuse to accept that they really have any enemies.
Disagreeable acquaintances, yes. Enemies, no.
But when you come to this verse, all seems a lot clearer. Isn’t this how “Love your enemies” gets translated into normal life? If plucking out eyes seems bizarre, here at least we can get a handle on how to do it. I may even have a go!
The negative form of the “Golden Rule”, (“Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you”), appears here and there in Greek and earlier Jewish writings, not to mention popping up in Buddhist and Confucian literature.
But by complete contrast, Jesus is utterly positive. What does that mean? It means that we step out to work actively for the good of others, and don’t simply desist passively from doing harm.
It is a playful approach to life, isn’t it?
And you see it all over the place, like little splashes of sunshine breaking through a cloudy grey sky, like the film (and concept of) Pay it Forward, and like the whole thing about “Acts of Random Kindness.”
When my kids were very small we used to travel regularly over this toll-bridge near Lincoln (UK), and it used to be a point of fun to pay the guy in the tiny booth for the car coming up behind us. It was ever so slightly mischievous, but why not make a game of something that is so utterly important?
Kindness is such an underrated virtue, don’t you think?
There’s something of this subversive niceness in if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Pray for those who persecute you
if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
When you fast, put oil on your head and your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret.
And this…THIS… said Jesus, comprise the “law and the prophets.” It’s a way of saying: This is all you need to know! It’s everything.
Active, unconditional kindness.