A few years ago, I read that all major religions have characteristics of the Golden Rule in their beliefs. I don’t remember where I read this, but the knowledge stuck with me. The Golden Rule says something like, “treat others as you would want to be treated.”  

This rule is not only found in the major religions, but also in schools of thought and philosophies throughout the world and across all time periods. This says to me that people have found how we treat each other has been important across cultures and time. How we treat each other is basic to living in community.  

Rev. Dr. Linda Holbrook

Recently, I have been wondering if we have forgotten this rule or if we still consider this rule important. I know there are many people in our culture today who don’t consider themselves religious, but many of these same people say they are spiritual. My guess is that as members of humanity, we all like to be treated well whether we are members of a religious community, or spiritual, or neither.  

We can take this rule personally and reflect on how we are treated, whether good or bad. When people tell us how great we did on a job we were doing, or how kind we were in a situation, or how generous we are, we are grateful that someone has noticed.  

On the other hand, we notice when someone says something that hurts us. We notice when someone does an act that puts us in danger. We notice when someone is not honest with us. And we react with our emotions. We might be hurt, or angry, or sad.

However, I want to take this rule a little further and ask, “How does this rule apply in our local community to those people who are our neighbors?”  

I was out walking a few weeks ago and passed a synagogue. I could hear voices coming from inside the building. Outside was an armed guard there to protect the people attending the gathering. I was struck that in the middle of the afternoon, an armed guard was needed. It brought tears to my eyes. Is this how we treat one another? Needing protection when we gather? What can we do to turn down the hate and remember that our neighbors deserve compassion and dignity?  

How do we deal with people in our own communities who have no permanent place to live, not enough nutritious food to eat, or people who can’t get the services they need (health care, physiological services, help finding work, etc.)? These people are our neighbors, and we can make a difference in their lives as we address our systems. It helps to keep asking the question, “Is this how we want to be treated?”  

The Golden Rule applies not only to how we get treated as individuals, but how the services in our communities apply to all the neighbors of our communities. It is my hope that as a faith community we remember the Golden Rule and be the leaders in treating all of our neighbors as we want to be treated.  

Rev. Dr. Linda Holbrook is the pastor of Morgan Hill United Methodist Church. She is a member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance and may be contacted at [email protected].

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