How Good is the Golden Rule? A Line to Toe or a Rule to Work

“Those who can do and those who can’t teach”

This adage is something that annoys teachers but those who hurl it at them often point to a genuine truth. As we evolve into the “Information Age” the kings of the world are those who work with words and ideas. Words and ideas are powerful things but masters of them like to imagine that they are all we really need. Those who work with their hands know differently. The implicit gnosticism of our Information Age tempts us to build imaginary mental Christians instead of growing real ones that do, and don’t just talk.

Warren is a life long doer who in his retirement decided to play with words but with his words he very much wishes to share some wisdom built from a life of doing.

The Golden Rule

I often ask my friend Freddie from The Freddie and Paul show what the Sunday sermon was about. He always says “treat others the way you want to be treated” no matter what I preach on that Sunday. I sort of laugh but in reviewing Warren’s book I’m beginning to think Freddie has a point. It is possible that most of my sermons SHOULD be able to be summarized in that way. Freddie, who mostly works by intuition, might be intuiting something profound.

I suspect that many people imagine “the Golden Rule” and a lot of other Biblical commands as lists on the walls of the Heavenly Gates courtrooms. Somehow we know we will be judged by these things but we think of them as some sort of third-person standard outside of ourselves. Warren, in his book How Good is the Golden Rule suggests that The Golden Rule is not so much a standard to be attained as an idea to be worked and integrated into one’s life.

The pervasive secularism of our age casks skepticism on any writing imagined on any heavenly rule book but what if a world of wisdom is available not by speculating about words on a wall but rather by trying out an idea in one’s life. This is what is at the heart of Warren the Doer’s words.

Mindless Lo-Resolution Presumption

I also think that most people walk around in a solipsistic bubble thinking “I’m a good person. The problem with the world is all those bad, stupid and wrong people out there exerting influence on the other sheeple.”  The irony of course is that this is exactly what the other person thinks too. So here we are, a world of people thinking themselves to be pretty good, above average people and that the problem with the world are other people or institutions or something or someone else.

Warren’s book invites us to stop speculating so much and perhaps start doing and trying what most of us say is the most obvious and simplest place to start. Most people will affirm that the Golden Rule is a good maxim and slightly more learned people will verify that many world religions offer similar maxims to Jesus’ words. The Golden Rule was not unique or original to Jesus.

Warren inverts the imaginary court-room game of holding other people to the rule and invites us to see what we might learn about ourselves by actually trying to DO it ourselves. What would happen? How might the world change?

The Church of Obvious Avoidance

Warren for all of his years of Christian living as a doer observed to me that he almost never heard Jesus’ Golden Rule preached in churches or its people actually exhorted to just simply do it. Why not? Because it’s not only hard, but also because we’re bad at it and we don’t like being seen by others or ourselves against this standard.

If this is true of us in church where those of us who go try to look our moral best in order to gain status among our piers, how much more so isn’t it true at home, where we sometimes treat our loved ones worse than we would treat a stranger on the street.

Warren advises that we begin the working of this rule at home.

First, we need to repair our most personal intimate relationships so that we have less regret about lost opportunities, lost family and friends and, if possible, fewer enemies, or people who hate us . This does not mean that we need only to apologize for all that we have done wrong, because words are cheap . It does mean, however, that we have to act differently toward each other, especially toward family members and friends who already care for us . If we can accomplish this, then we need to turn our vision further outward and to include our enemies—not necessarily to agree with them, but to want what we think of as being good for ourselves to apply to them .

 

This is no easy solution . In fact, in some cases it will not work at all, but that is the reality we have to accept after we have given it our best shot . This is not blind obedience to God that many have already rejected as a fait accompli . Rather, it is the first reasonable step in a process of learning how to be on good terms with each other and within ourselves, as an antidote to self-loathing and despair . Our engagement with the Golden Rule will lead us further and deeper toward discovering that it not only works because it helps us to understand ourselves and our world more, but because it leads us to the source of life, and to the realization that God is love .

Why Might You Listen to Warren? 

Again, much of this seems obvious, almost without having to say, but any cursory glance around most of our lives might reveal that we are not, in fact, good lovers of people at all. Warren is a man who has lived most of his life doing, and now after a lifetime of doing, trying, and both failing and succeeding, he is offering us some of what he has learned.

A quick perusal through the footnotes might lead you to imagine he is an academic because you’ll find quotes from Alfred North Whitehead, Jacque Ellul and Soren Kierkegaard. Warren has spent his life doing, thinking, and also reading. He’s digested the thoughts of many of the world’s great thinkers in his doing and applied them practically to his quest of living the Christian life.

All of this comes together in his life, but also in his book.

Bunch of Blokes Working Together

Warren has not only learned to write in his retirement but also founded an organization in Australia named “Bunch of Blokes” which brings together doers to think, pray and work with the Golden Rule, learning to love practically, one person and one relationship at a time.

Warren’s book would be an excellent book for a book group or study group who isn’t afraid of some hard, relational and thinking work at not just imagining a rule to be something out there that we might be judged by but is a practical tool for the sort of transformation of a life that Jesus wants to bless us with.

(Warren gave me a complimentary copy of his book but has not paid me for this review.)

 

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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