Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Silver Rule

Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, you have surely heard the words of Jesus at least once. Matthew 7:12; “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”, is one of the most quoted verses for children. And, whether in a memorable context or one we would rather forget, we remember it as adults. Teachers quote it, encouraging kids to treat each other fairly, husbands and wives bring it to mind, reminding each other to love the way they desire to be loved, or business partners treat each other well, so that the favor might be returned. We refer to this verse as “the Golden rule” and we have worked hard to keep it.

This past week, I was on my way to a teacher’s conference in Kelowna with colleagues of mine. Just before we were to reach the toll booth on the Coquihalla, the engine gave up, and we coasted to a stop on the side of the cold, dark, road. Stranded, realizing we would not make it to the conference, our driver began to do everything in her power to make things right, waving for cars to pull over and offer assistance, making cell phone calls for a tow truck and apologizing repeatedly that our destination would not be reached. Our only destination was back to Vancouver in the cab of the truck.

As I sat in the warm truck, a question began to form in my mind. As teachers, don’t we give kids grace when they make a mistake? When we do the same, whether we have control over the situation or not, shouldn’t we give ourselves the same grace? At my school, we work hard to teach the next generation to obey the golden rule. But we forget the silver lining in it. If we personalize it for ourselves, it asks us to “Do to yourself as you would do to others.” What would this look like?

Two verses in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians focus directly on our responsibilities towards each other and ourselves. My paraphrase of Ephesians 4:31-32 goes a little bit like this.

“Forgive your friends, enemies and yourself because in Christ, God has already forgiven you. All bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and all forms of malice are history. Therefore, be kind and compassionate to one another.” Isn’t it better this way?

The effect of being forgiven is amazing. Like removing a huge weight from around our shoulders, the feeling of forgiveness is certainly underrated. We all agree that we should do it more often, but forgiving ourselves is and always will be difficult in a society that demands perfection of its members. What makes it worse is that we demand perfection of ourselves. Therefore, Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll's (see Insight for Living) hypothesis that, “we are the last to forgive ourselves” makes sense.

But if we remember the silver rule we may find forgiving our friends, enemies and especially ourselves much easier.

"If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

1st John 1:7-9

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