Chaplain's thought for the week

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Chaplain's thought for the week

Revd Tom reflects on the value of the Golden Rule


In the Junior School this week, the pupils are considering the theme of ‘Respect’, the first of six core values we’ll be looking at. I was really struck in their assembly on Monday how many of them were able to quote the ‘Golden Rule’ when asked what they understood by respect: always treat others as you would like to be treated. It sums up perfectly the message about respect which we want our pupils to learn.

The teaching comes from a saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.’ (Matthew 7.12). Of course, it is a teaching we find in many world faiths and philosophies. Hinduism puts it like this: ‘This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.’ Or in Buddhism: ‘Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.’

What is clearly distinctive about Jesus’ saying is that he is not only encouraging us to refrain from certain behaviours, he is asking that we take action. We’re not only supposed to make sure we don’t lie, or steal, or cheat, or act unkindly (with the rationale that these things would hurt us if we were on the receiving end of them). Rather, according to Jesus, we should go out of our way to be kind, to be generous, to be loving and to be truthful to others. These are ways in which we would like to be treated.

I love the Golden Rule because of its simplicity: children in Form One can understand it just as well as pupils in our Upper Sixth. It’s simple... but, like most profound spiritual guidelines, that doesn’t make it easy! Living by the Golden Rule asks a lot of us, but we can find that if we follow it we are following the way of Jesus, which is to love our neighbours as ourselves. In doing this we can transform our attitudes to others.

I leave you with a rather amusing story to illustrate this point, which I shared with our Junior School pupils.

A young girl named Li-li got married and lived with her mother-in-law. Since the mother-in-law was obnoxious, Li-li decided to poison her. Li-li went to her doctor to get slow-acting poison. The doctor said, "Just so that people don't suspect you, treat your mother-in-law very nicely, just as you'd like to be treated." So Li-li was kind to her mother-in-law as she slipped a little poison into her food each day. Now a funny thing happened: the two started getting along much better and became best friends. So Li-li went back to the doctor and said, "I now love my mother-in-law and don't want to kill her; please give me something to counteract the poison." The doctor replied, "I gave you ordinary vitamins; the only poison was in your attitude."