Interesting Commentary on Golden Rule

One very learned person in Facebook just posted this:

I prefer Wattle’s (1996) New Testament interpretation:

“The flexibility of a rule which remains widely accessible and reasonable, while conveying a high standard, can be understood as engaging the hearer/reader in a movement through several levels of interpretation, including at least the following.

1. The golden rule of prudence. Do to others as you want others to do to you . . . with realistic attention to the consequences of your choices for the long-run welfare of your recipient. This rule must be distinguished from a pseudo-golden rule of self-interest: Do to others as you want others to do to you with an eye to avoiding punishment and gaining rewards for yourself. It is altogether legitimate that one have a prudent eye to the long-term welfare of one’s own soul; prudence “counts the cost” of a proposed commitment or course of action. And it is altogether fitting that Jesus gave warnings about the consequences of selfish living and gave assurances to calm the fears and intrigue the imagination of those who are open to choosing the way of love and service. Jesus’ promise of eternal life to all who will receive it in faith subverts natural concern about doing what is right at significant earthly cost to oneself. The prudent course is to do the will of God, and that is to act with golden-rule regard for the neighbor. But the logic of the golden rule requires that this same farseeing and forward-looking concern be extended to the recipient. Prudence combined with the golden rule thus involves the next level.

2. The golden rule of neighborly love. Do to others as you want others to do to you . . . as an expression of consideration and fairness among neighbors, where the scope of the term “neighbor” extends to all without regard to ethnic or religious differences. Since the neighbor can be the enemy, however, fulfilling a “conventional ethic of fairness” can require extraordinary love, which involves the next level.

3. The golden rule of Fatherly love. Do to others as you want others to do to you . . . imitating the divine paradigm. The rule has its paradigm in the way the Father loves, giving good gifts and being merciful, and in the life of Jesus, which shows that love is not without its severe disciplines. These three levels are implied and blended in Jesus’ teachings. His authoritative teaching gave assurance that those who upstepped neighborly love to fatherly love–loving enemies, giving generously, being a peacemaker, enduring persecution, and so on–would not thereby sacrifice the eternal welfare of their souls. A due appreciation of the spirit of Jesus’ golden rule, I believe, comes from the recognition that he made use of the cream of scriptural and oral tradition which he invested with new meaning by virtue of his other teachings and by his life. By the same reasoning, the intention to express the parental love of God must avoid falling into the trap of adopting a superior and condescending stance. Rather, what is fitting is the same attitude of service that one would welcome as the recipient of someone else’s divinely parental love in like circumstances.”


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