Christian Articles Archive

But I Keep the Golden Rule

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

"I keep the Golden Rule," said the financial planner over breakfast, "though I don't go to church. Never did."

What do you say to a person like that? Certainly a person who keeps the Golden Rule is following the teachings of Christ. Perhaps the man really is a Christian. Just what kind of Christian is a Golden-Rule-keeper?

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" a man asked Jesus one day.

Jesus answered this way: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:34-38, NIV).

So the very most important, greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God with your total being. To deeply revere God, to serve Him, to honor Him with worship, to seek to learn more about Him, to teach your children about Him, and to care so much about Him that to hear someone using His name as a swear word would be utterly offensive. A pretty tall order.

The Pharisees of Jesus' day thought they were pretty good at loving God, but they failed miserably at loving other people. So Jesus didn't stop there. "And the second is like it," He continued. "Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (vss. 39-40, NIV).

The Golden Rule--"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"--explains how to put into practice Jesus' second most important commandment. That's the commandment my breakfast companion focused on. I must say in his defense, that I've known so-called Christians who said they loved God, but their words and actions showed they cared solely about themselves. Much less actually love other people. One of the chief reasons our faith has gotten a bad reputation is that nominal Christians act unloving in a thousand ways.

Now let me ask you this: can a person be a Christian if he neglects Jesus' most important commandment, to love God? Not really. That's like saying, "I'm a good employee. I work four hours a day," when your employer expects you to be there for eight hours. In the same way, you can't be a Christian if you won't love God.

When I was a boy, an elderly lady asked me in a quavery voice, "Sonny, do you love the Lord?" I didn't know what to say. I guess I was confusing the emotional feeling of love with trust, obedience, and faithfulness. It's wonderful when our feelings and our actions coincide--and they can. But our love for God is discovered more by our behavior than our changeable emotional state.

I heard it put this way once. "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" Good question. Perfection isn't what I'm talking about. Nobody's perfect, least of all sincere Christians. But direction, orientation.

A commitment to follow Christ is just that, a commitment based on some degree of faith that He is the divine Son of God and that He was raised from the dead. Commitment begins the relationship; the feelings generally follow later on. (Though, I must tell you, there are some days I do not feel very in love with God at all.)

Let's sit down again at the breakfast table and sum this up. Does keeping the Golden Rule make you a Christian? Not in itself, no more than owning a bare V6 engine makes you a car owner. You have to love God, too.

How? you ask. The best way I know is to learn all you can about Jesus. You'll find that He is the most compelling, and at the same time the most freeing, Person in all history. As you get acquainted with Jesus, you'll come to know God. As you learn to follow Jesus with your heart and being, you'll be keeping the first and most important commandment, to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

What a shame it would be to stand before God on judgment day and give him your little speech: "I followed the Golden Rule."

"Honestly," God might ask, "Couldn't you have cared even a little bit about Me?"

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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