Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do Unto Others

Even people who have never picked up a Bible love to quote from it, and while I don't have research to back me up, I think one of the favorite and most often misquoted/misinterpreted scriptures is some version of "Do unto others as you would have done to you." (The other most misquoted has got to be "Judge not that ye be not judged" but that is a whole different blog post. Or two.)  I have seen some pretty interesting takes on this; even what I just wrote above is not exactly what the Bible says. The two scriptures that  Golden Rule quotes are usually derived from are:

Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
Matthew 7:12 
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

There is so very much that one can say about these scriptures and the principles that are taught in their context.  I will not attempt to explain  exhaustively, or even partially what they mean. I would like to think for a few minutes about what I think they do NOT mean. 

My thoughts were brought here this morning by a friend's status update.  Basically, she tried to treat someone the way she would like to be treated and it didn't go well.  Story as old as time, yes? 

First, let me say we aren't responsible for how others act, only for ourselves. We can't say, "oh, they were mean" and then return evil for evil (how come the scripture telling us not to do that isn't on greeting cards and coffee mugs?).  The other person's action or reaction does not excuse me from doing what I know to be good. 

Secondly, and what I was really thinking of when I read my friend's status was this:  treating others the way we would like to be treated does not always equal "being nice."  This is a big pill to swallow, I know.   It has been drilled into us since preschool to be nice.  Especially as Christian women, we are supposed to, above all, be nice.
But more than "nice", I value being treated justly, rightly.  No, thank God, I'm not treated the way I often deserve (ouch), but our obedience to the Golden Rule doesn't mean we must open ourselves up for abuses.  
Don't forget Micah 6:8, we are to do justly and love mercy--this is what God requires of us.  I believe that within the context of mercy, within the context of "do unto others", it is entirely appropriate to treat people with justice.  This means that I do not have to, under the guise of "being nice", open myself up for others to take advantage of or misuse me.  I do not have to extend the same privileges of trust and friendship to every person in my life.  Everyone should be treated with justice (while loving mercy), but not everyone gets the same access to my heart/emotions/home/bank account. 

There will always be people who take advantage, who hurt us, who misuse us.  Jesus told us this would happen to even expect it and that we are blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness' sake.  But not all of our hurt comes from righteousness' sake...sometimes we are so focused on being nice that we don't think of being just. Treating people with justice isn't mean (although they may not like it). Doing unto others as I want them to do to me may not always be pleasant.

I expect that if I hurt someone, that I will have to work to regain their trust.
I expect that people will speak with me truthfully, even if it is painful to hear.
I expect that if someone needs to set boundaries or alter their expectations of me, they will.

I need to be brave enough to treat others in these same ways.