Beyond the Golden Rule
Maundy Thursday: March 28, 2013
Whether Christian or not, we’ve all been taught the Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Jesus said it in a positive restatement of something in the Jewish oral tradition. It sounds simple, but as we all know, living it out is very difficult. Not to mention that within the Golden Rule is the focus on “you.” No matter how many lessons you learn from doing to others, they’re still your lessons, and it all still depends on your human capacity to love. And unfortunately, too often, that capacity is more like a dinner plate than a deep well, far too shallow when compared with the task at hand of living a different, loving kind of life.
Jesus takes us beyond the Golden Rule when he commends the great commandment about loving God in Deuteronomy 6:5, and again in Leviticus, when he says to "love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus calls on us to look at this not through our own love, but through the understanding of what is meant by “neighbor.” He calls on us to be a neighbor, moving the focus from ourselves to others, especially another who is in need of our support, our respect, our hope and our love!
It is in the Gospel of John that Jesus takes the final step to setting all of this right, by giving a "new commandment": "that you love one another, just as I have loved you." This isn't a plea but a final charge to the believing few, a command (in Latin, mandatum; in Old English, maundy).
There is a new rule, and it is to love as Jesus loved!
Right after he said that, Jesus went on his way to setting a standard of love beyond our wildest imaginings: from the table, to the garden, to the cross and the tomb. As we are reminded of the bottomless well of boundless love that comes from Christ alone, no longer do we have to dish out our own love in saucer-size portions; we can now drench ourselves and everybody we meet with love from beyond ourselves, so much so that it actually has a chance of seeping in! We can now dare to live the life of holy love, trusting that. in the end, there is no loss where that kind of love is found.
The gift of servant love that Jesus shared and modeled so well prior to the holy meal is just another example of his perfect grace. May we all strive to serve others with equally intentional love as we do the work our God calls us to do.
Maundy Thursday Challenge
I'm sure that most of you are like me in falling extremely short of this commandment. Though we have heard it over and over again, sadly, it often becomes one of those “wish-I–did” scenarios. So I challenge you to think of one person in your life who needs a boost, and then write down at least one way in which you can be more loving to that person—and then go DO IT! Keep writing down names and ideas and implement them one person at a time.
As we close this meditation in prayer, there are no better words on this day than those that Jesus himself prayed:
“My prayer is not for them alone [the 11 disciples]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message [that's you and me], that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one —I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then [when we are one] the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Amen! And amen!!
Carmen F.S. Vianese is a director of United Methodist Women.