“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12)
“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Almost everyone – if not everyone – has surely heard this phrase. Yet many may not know it’s origin.
To be true, Jesus was not the first to ever utter this sentiment, but He was the first to say it this way. That is, in a positive sense.
The Egyptians and the Jews would teach people not to do to others what they did not want done to them. This implies a defensive, preventive stance, which ultimately restricts movement and limits freedom.
The focus is on what one cannot do.
Jesus turned this around.
By preaching to be proactive, the focus is now on the freedom to do whatever you want – so long as you accept the repercussions.
By living this way, you demonstrate how you will handle certain situations, how you will deal with people, and how you expect to be treated in return.
Two pitfalls in this practice, however, are hypocrisy and unfairness.
Sometimes we wonder why someone is acting a certain way – with rudeness, arrogance, or aggression – only to realize they are merely mirroring ourselves! We might not notice our own behavior and declare that we are being treated unjustly; when the truth is we are getting just what we deserve.
But then there are times when it truly is unfair. We have been kind and polite, shown love and acceptance – yet still they are rude and disrespectful.
This is something we cannot control.
The verse does not say: “Do to others what you want done to you, and this will make them comply.”
Because that’s not how it works.
You can’t control others – how they think, what they want, what they say, what they do.
You can only control yourself.
Treat others how you would have them treat you.
As an example? Sure.
Out of love? Certainly.
But not out of desire to control their behavior.
Rather, do so simply because God commands you to.
Ask Him to grant you patience and grace in dealing with difficult people as you choose to show them the respect and kindness you yourself wish to receive.
“Ask, and you shall receive.”