What is the Golden Rule?

I occasionally hear people invoke the Golden Rule as an argument against sin being identified. Most frequently, I hear this line of thought regarding gay marriage. The reasoning is essentially this: "I would not want people telling me who I can or cannot marry, therefore, I should not be telling other people who they can or cannot marry."

The Golden Rule comes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." It is entirely true that we do not like being told what we can or cannot do. But, that is not the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is not "keep your beliefs to yourself because you do not want others pushing their beliefs on you."

The Bible instructs us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The Word of God commands us to always be ready to give a gentle and respectful defense for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15). We are to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus Himself taught people to "go and sin no more" (John 5:14; 8:11). So, clearly, the Golden Rule is not properly understood as "keep out of other peoples' business."

The concept of the Golden Rule is simple. We are to do to others what we would want them to do to us. Treat other people with love, dignity, and respect because you would want them to treat you with love, dignity, and respect. The Golden Rule is not a muzzle. The Golden Rule is not intended to lead us to ignore sin. The Golden Rule is not something that can be used to drastically revise or cancel other teachings in the Word of God.

No, the Golden Rule is doing to others what you would want them to do to you. If you were living a life controlled by a depraved and destructive sin, that, according to the Bible, leads to eternal separation from God—would you want people to tell you everything is okay, or tell you the truth? Before I came to faith in Christ, I was a slave to sin. I was on the path of eternal separation from God. For a time, I didn't want to hear anything related to the gospel. If this warped understanding of the Golden Rule had been applied, I would still be dead in my sin. Instead, I am now imminently and eternally grateful for those who declared the truth to me—the truth about my sin and its consequences, and the forgiveness, deliverance, and salvation that is available through Jesus Christ.

S. Michael Houdmann

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What is the Golden Rule?