The words “Do to others as you would have them do to you” are known as the “Golden Rule.” With those words, Jesus is giving direction on how to actively follow him and is giving us a clue to what it means to be a Christ-centered leader.
As a follower of Jesus, you take the initiative to love others the way you want to be loved. People pay attention to who you are, what you say, and how you behave. As a Christ-centered leader, your words and actions shape the reality of the people who are entrusted to your care. So, you model for them the “Golden Rule.” To “do to others as you would have them do to you” is a primary action on your part as a leader.
Love and Truth
With that in mind, people are watching you on how to respond to the challenges of communicating love and truth in the midst of cultural changes. They are watching to discover just how they should be living their lives in relationship to the people around them.
One area people want and need you to be their leader is around social media. As human beings, we need connection and companionship with one another to be healthy and to thrive in life.
The Strength of Our Connections
The strength of our connections has a huge impact on our emotional and spiritual health, as well as our witness to God’s love in everyday relationships. Being socially connected to others eases stress, anxiety, and depression. It also boosts self-worth, provides comfort and joy, as well as prevents loneliness. Social media has begun to serve as a major connection for many people you serve.
Just as social media can be a positive influence in developing relationships, it can also be a negative influence. We are living in a time when our use of social media has elevated loud, intense, and conflicting voices. Instead of helping build stronger and more healthy connections, the disciplined use of social media has provided a false sense of security that leads to the erosion of relationships. Lacking strong social connections can pose a serious risk to who you are as a follower of Jesus.
So, the question is, how do you model “do to others as you would have them do to you” in a culture that supports and propagates the extreme voices that are causing harm and division?
Let’s look at the “Golden Rule” for guidance.
Read Matthew 7:12
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
These words, known as the “Golden Rule” are Jesus’ words in response to, “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asked for bread, would give a stone? Or if the child asked for a fish, would give a snake? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
In essence, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you,” Jesus is teaching what God wants to see in our lives. What God wants is initiated by the things God has already done for us. Said another way, God is doing for us what God wants us to do. According to William Barclay, this is the high point of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Golden Rule in Positive and Negative Form
In history, there are negative parallels to this statement. Statements like, “Whatever angers you when you suffer at the hands of others, do not do to others” (Athenian in the fourth century B.C.), or “Whatever is displeasing to you do not do to your neighbor” (Hillel), or “What thou thyself hatest, to no man do” (Tobit 4:16). There are negative parallels found in other religions like Buddhism and Confucianism. Confucious said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
But Jesus placed this teaching in a positive form. He made it a model for action for his followers. “…you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you…” This is the fulfillment of the will of God as revealed by the prophets in the Old Testament.
A Focus on Love and Relationship
Here is what is important. The positive form of the golden rule differs from the negative form. When you put it in a negative form, you are taking love and relationships out of the teaching. To be who God has created you to be, you take the initiative to love, to do good, and to care for the well-being of the people around you.
When you put it in a negative form the teaching becomes a rule not to do certain things like not hurt others. It means not developing relationships with people with whom you disagree or see the world differently than you do. In other words, it is a contradiction to God’s goodness to just not do something.
When the teaching is lived positively, you actively do to others what you want them to do to you. As a Jesus follower, you love with the love of God you have experienced in Jesus. You forgive as you want to be forgiven. Praise as you wish to be praised. You understand as you want to be understood.
Your Faithful Response
On the one hand, this makes life more complicated. On the other hand, it is your faithful response to what God has already done for you. It means less time to spend on your own desires, activities, and preferences and more time loving others as you have been loved.
To live this teaching to its fullest, you will have to become a new person, with a new focus, and with a new motivation. The love of God, experienced in and through Jesus becomes your new mode of operation. You begin to live doing to others what you want them to do to you.
Living the Golden Rule
Now, what does this “Golden Rule” have to do with Christ-centered leadership?
Healthy relationships, whether face-to-face or through online activity, reflect respectful communication. It is never okay for you to say or do anything contrary to the Golden Rule.
Just as the spoken word has power, the written word communicated through social media has power. Whether spoken or written, words create images and assumptions. They shape the way people view one another and the world.
Words either encourage and build up, or they discourage and tear down. Words can cultivate relationships and set the course for decision-making. They can also feed prejudices and create images of hatred and fear. All words, in whatever form communicated, shape us either in love and hope or in anger and despair.
Your Words Matter
So, as a leader, your words make a difference. The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “…no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body, we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. (Ephesians 4:25, The Message).
When you stand to preach or to address a group, use words that encourage and support, words that do good to the people who hear them. Put away general characterizations, innuendo, and inference.
Before speaking or writing, not only check your references but check your motives. If it is anything other than to bring God glory or to introduce people to Jesus, put it away. Your agenda is to be the leader who models the love and care of the living God for all persons. There is no place for anything other than the good news of God’s love experienced in and through Jesus. Your words reveal your agenda.
When You’re Speaking of Others
When you are speaking of others, use words that encourage and support them, words that do good to the people who hear them. Put away gossip. Share only information you have checked out personally, and don’t share harmful or hurtful words. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Speak out of your integrity. Your words reflect who you are.
When you are speaking to others, be generous. Being aware of your own thoughts and feelings will help you speak words that give care and encouragement to others. Keep in mind that when you are hurting you hurt others. So, care for yourself and be aware of when you are projecting your pain upon others.
Speak to others the way you want them to speak to you. Offer support and praise even in difficult situations. Keep in mind that people are doing the best they can. Give them the benefit of the doubt and offer words of support, praise, and encouragement. Put your words of care and support into action.
Social Media and the Golden Rule
When it comes to social media, keep in mind what has been said above. Your self-awareness is even more critical regarding your words on social media. Treat others with the same respect you want for yourself. Keep in mind that it is easier to put words on a screen than it is to speak to them face to face.
Because people do not see your face or hear the inflection of your voice, your words can be misunderstood. So, take advantage of the opportunity to develop and maintain relationships with your spoken or written words. Your social media presence reveals more about you than you might want to reveal. Remember, even on social media, who you are is how you lead.
In the midst of cultural changes, model how to adapt to the changes. Model the Golden Rule. Use “Do to others as you would have them do to you” to model:
Relationships We all need relationships and the face-to-face company of others to be happy and healthy. Social media is not a replacement for those relationships. Model how to build and nurture meaningful relationships using social media as a means of support.
- Set aside time each week to interact offline with friends and family.
- Make time to meet face-to-face with a friend. Initiate the invitation. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
- Don’t let social awkwardness be an excuse to bypass face-to-face meetings.
- Invite a coworker out for lunch or ask a neighbor or classmate to join you for coffee.
- Interact with strangers. Look up from your screen and connect with people you cross paths with at the grocery store or the coffee shop. Simply smiling or saying hello is important.
Keep your focus on Jesus. Your words are a reflection of who you are. Use social media as a way of witnessing to God’s love for you and for the people who are listening to you online.
Feeling and expressing gratitude about the important things in your life can be a welcome relief to the resentment, animosity, and discontent sometimes generated by social media.
Keep in mind that not everyone is as interested in your opinion as you are. Be fully engaged in the present. How might you use social media to share God’s goodness?
Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus. Even though he could have…he didn’t. Take a moment to read Philippians 2:1-8:
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Reflect upon the relationships that bring meaning and joy to your life. Model by expressing your gratitude on social media. As you reflect, be generous, kind, and loving. Remember to do to others what you want them to do to you.
Jesus is teaching what God wants to see in our lives. What God wants is initiated by the things God has already done for us. Said another way, God is doing for us what God wants us to do. So, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” Even social media.
Who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. How did you use social media today? How did you use your words to “do to others as you would have them do to you?” How might you model the Golden Rule tomorrow? With whom do you need to confess your struggle to offer grace to others? With whom do you need to celebrate God’s grace for you?
O God, be my guiding light that I may have a clear vision for the days in which I am living. You are my wisdom, strength, and guide. In you, I find my joy and peace. You are my true goal. Only you can satisfy my soul. Help me be your love in human form. As people are learning to live by your love, use me to develop true relationships of love that bind your people together. I am grateful, O God, for your love and hope in Jesus. Amen.