Love Each Other
Human beings. We are a curious crowd. Our faith tells us that God made us in his own image and likeness and that, though we were made for Paradise, we rebelled (and continue to rebel) and fell from that original grace. We know that God’s love for us remains true and constant, despite our rebellion. We also know that God manifested that love for us in Jesus, who entered our humanity, suffered and died for us, rose again from the dead, so that our relationship with God, which had been broken by sin, could be reconciled and eternal life could be ours again. This is the truth. It is also true that, because we are fallen creatures, we need God’s grace every day in order to live lives worthy of God’s love. A life worthy of God’s love is a moral life. I would like to propose and to meditate, then, on three rules that can be used as guides to the moral life: The Silver Rule, The Golden Rule, and what I will call, The Platinum Rule.
The Silver Rule is commonly stated this way: ʺDo no harm.ʺ This is the basis of the Hippocratic oath that doctors take upon graduating from medical school, for example. It recognizes that the first duty of a human being is to abstain completely from doing any other being any harm. It is best understood, though, as a way of ʺstaying out of troubleʺ when it comes to one’s behavior in society. The Silver Rule is universally recognized as the moral ʺminimumʺ that is required in order to maintain justice in societies.
The Golden Rule is familiar to all Christians because it has its roots in the scriptures, in both the Old and the New Testaments. It is stated this way in the New Testament: ʺSo in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.ʺ (Mt. 7:12) In fact, this Golden Rule appears, in one form or another, in the scriptures of every one of the world’s major religions. Jewish scholars would say that this the centerpiece of the Law, and all else is commentary. In the case of the quote from Matthew, the rule is stated in the positive form. It implies a new view of justice. It is not observed simply to ʺstay out of trouble,ʺ rather, it is observed out of love and respect for the self and for the other. It is a duty of gratitude toward God. One observes the Golden Rule best by acting positively towards others, out of generosity and loving respect, in imitation of Jesus.
The Platinum Rule comes from the New Testament too. It is stated as a command by Jesus in John’s Gospel: ʺMy command is this: love each other as I have loved you.ʺ (John 15:12) This ʺups the antyʺ even more, I think. In the synoptic Gospels we hear of the Two Greatest Commandments: ʺLove God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself.ʺ These distill and transform the ten negative commands, the ʺthou shalt nots,ʺ of the Old Testament into two positively stated commandments in the New Testament. They demand a proactive moral behavior, not just an avoidance of sin, but an active commitment to love the other as one loves oneself. In John’s Gospel, Jesus distills the Ten Commandments and the Two Great Commandments even further, into their purest form yet. He commands us to love the other as he has loved us. He offers himself as the example of this love. He is inviting us into his way of being, his level of ʺmoral behavior.ʺ It is behavior rooted in love, not fear. Jesus is telling us, not only that we must love as he did, but that we can. Indeed, that is what we were made for. He is inviting us into the holy. He is inviting us into the sacred. This is the only foundation on which true and lasting justice can be built in this world. He is telling us that this is the code of heaven. He is asking us to join him in it. In faith we know that this is what we are called to by Jesus and, with God’s grace, we can do it.
The child can be taught the Silver Rule and can develop the habits of it in order to avoid suffering in the world. The Golden Rule requires an adult’s knowledge and faith commitment. But the Platinum Rule requires the inner attitudes and the outer actions of a saint. And God is calling each of us to be saints.