There is no Christianity without the Bible. That is the bottom line.
Many would like to accept the morality of the Bible but reject the rest, especially the Old Testament. After all, the Golden Rule was not a concept completely unique to the Bible, so versions of it are a largely universal idea. But as Pastor Josh pointed out on Sunday in Matthew 7:12 (ESV): “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (The Old Testament). So Jesus not only made this age-old idea active, He also pointed to the legitimacy of Scripture as the whole reason for the action.
In many ways, the Golden Rule has become one of the most recognizable nuggets of insight around. Teachers and gurus of nearly every stripe have tried to find ways to claim it as their own, and rightfully so, as it is indeed timeless instruction for all of us to follow. And yet, when Jesus teaches on this principle in the “Sermon on the Mount,” He does what He is so good at and takes us one step further than where we think we need to be. He brings up an old philosophy and turns it on its head—giving us a more complete picture of what the roots of this Golden Rule truly are.
In the Bible’s living and active way, we are reminded here that as Christians who want to follow the ways of Jesus, we must be people of the Book—the Holy Bible. As He explains, this Golden Rule cannot be truly lived out without bringing into the picture that “this is the Law and the Prophets.” Take Leviticus 19:18 for example, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” The Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy) is full of God’s call for us to show love, kindness, and mercy to others, as well as His desire that His people live set apart, for He is holy.
Dive into the Prophets (a large chunk of the rest of the Old Testament), and we get even more insight into God’s amazing heart and desire for His people. Consider Isaiah 58:6-9 (ESV): “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”
It is no coincidence that this Golden Rule comes on the heels of Jesus expounding about the generosity of God: how we can partake in that generosity through prayer and regular communication with Him (see “Prayer is More Than Good Enough”). God has more blessings for His followers than we could possibly imagine, and all of it is made clear as we spend time with the revelation of God’s Word that crescendos in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are heirs in the Kingdom of God. As it says in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV), “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
As recipients of a mercy we did not deserve, we simply cannot keep from extending that same mercy to others. James 1:22-25 (ESV) puts it this way: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
The Bible is the baseline, and “the Law and the Prophets” Jesus refers to in our initial passage give us the reason the Golden Rule matters. It is about far more than simply being nice to others. It is about true love, which we can only understand through the Word of God.
For as only God can do, and as witnessed in the full breadth of His Word to us, 1 John 3:16-23 sums this up beautifully:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us.”
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF …
- How is the Bible informing my daily life and interactions?
- How is the true love of God spilling out of me into the lives of those around me?
- In what ways can I love others, even strangers, this week, “…because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19)?