The Golden Rule is NOT “do unto others as they do unto you” NOR is it “do unto others before they do unto you.” Rather, it is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Or, as we taught our kids when they were younger, “treat others the way you want to be treated.” In the rabbinical tradition, the Golden Rule is stated this way: “if you don’t want someone to do it to you, don’t do it to them either.”
The way of Christ is the way of peacemaking, of forgiveness, of praying for your enemies, of blessing your enemies. Jesus says it this way:
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
The first followers of Jesus patterned their lives after his, asking him to strengthen and guide them through the Holy Spirit in accordance with his word. When it came to relating to those who considered them to be enemies, the followers of Jesus knew what to do, and so do we. The way is Christ is the best way. It is the right way. It is not always the easiest way or the more popular way. But it is the way that brings glory to God and points people to saving faith in Jesus.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But, If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. 21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
When someone hurts you, human instinct kicks in and you want to seek revenge. But if the pattern of hurt and revenge continues to go back and forth, when does it end? As a follower of Jesus, we learn from Jesus that we don’t have to repay people evil for evil. We can let the offense go. Give it to God in prayer. Forgive the person. Allow God to handle that person how he chooses – with justice or mercy – and trust that he is in charge.
As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. The other person may not choose peace, but you can. With the Holy Spirit within you, you can choose peace! Peace in your heart and peace in relationships. Ask yourself this: “is there anyone that I have evil feelings toward?” If there is, seek peace in that relationship. You cannot control what the other person does, but you can control you. Ask God to help you and he will!
Do not seek revenge when someone hurts you. Rather, pray for them and look for ways to bless them. This will rock their world. They will probably be expecting you to retaliate in vengeance. When they see you being kind to them in practical ways, perhaps they will open their heart to God’s love in Christ.
In the time of Jesus, the nomadic families would move from place to place on occasion, breaking camp and resetting it in their new place. One of the most valuable resources they had was their campfire, which brought warmth and the ability to cook food. They did not have lighters or matches to start a fire at the new place. One way they transported the coals from their old place to their new place was by wrapping them in multiple layers and carrying on their head. These coals of fire on their head gave them safety and provision in their new place.
In Romans 12:20, we are instructed to feed our enemies if they are hungry and give them water if they are thirsty. When we do this, it is like we are putting coals on their head to be a blessing to them for provision and safety. You are to be a blessing to those who consider you their enemy.
This principle applies to people in your family who are causing conflict with you. Find practical ways to bless them. Make them a meal, pray for them, invite them over to just hang out, write them a letter, or something else that would bless them.
It also applies on a much larger scale. Right now, friends from our church are traveling to Germany to minister to Syrian refugees who have been displaced due to civil war in their country. Most of the refugees are Muslim. As these Christians minister in the name of Jesus to the refugees, they show the love of Jesus in a powerful way. They pray with the refugees and show themselves to be peacemakers. For some of these refugees, these people are the first Christians they have ever met who showed love to them. All glory to God. May many people come to faith in Jesus.
The bottom line is this. In every situation, we should overcome evil with good. We are not to be overcome by evil, but rather we overcome evil with good. In every situation in life, may the Lord show you the good that he wants you to do to be a blessing to others, no matter how they speak about you or treat you. You overcome evil with good. Jesus will be honored as you walk in step with him and as people are drawn to saving faith in him.