In the last week, I have been in a conflict that I caused with one person and in a conflict with another that I did not cause. It wasn’t until I longed for grace extended to me by the first person that I recognized how little I extended to the one who had wronged me.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 ESV
Note the phrase at the end of Matthew 7:12, “for this is the law and the prophets.” This phrase is similarly used in the Greatest Command.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
The Greatest Command teaches that all the law and the prophets hang on the foundation of loving God and loving others. When I put Matthew 7:12 together with Matthew 22:36-40, I see that the Golden Rule is a great summary statement of what it means to love others as the Greatest Command instructs. While we are given a very specific definition of love in I Corinthians 13 (love is kind, love is not rude, love is patient, love doesn’t take into accounts wrongs suffered, loves believes the best of others), the Golden Rule shows us that love, the foundational principle of the law and the prophets, can be summed up, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”
When thinking about biblical love in conflict, the Golden Rule gives me an interesting perspective to consider. When in conflict, if I want to fulfill the command of loving my neighbor as myself, then a great summary question to ask myself is how would I want to be treated if I were the other person? Most of the time in conflict, I am self-righteous and self-absorbed with my own wounds, and the last thing I consider is how I would want to be treated in a similar situation if I were the other person.
Thinking about what I would need if I were the other person is very informative. When I have been wronged, I want the other person to seriously consider how their actions affected me and take responsibility for making that right, and when I have wronged others, I want them to extend me grace, not anger. I want them to say, “I forgive you.” Then I long for a response from them that lets me know they really are not going to hold my actions against me.
Think about the last time you were genuinely wrong about something (and if you can’t remember the last time you were genuinely wrong about something, you need to ask yourself some hard questions about your beliefs about yourself and the gospel). What led you to recognize your sin or how seriously you had hurt others? How did Jesus draw you to repentance? If someone else was involved, what about their response was helpful in seeing your sin? Or maybe the other person’s response made it harder for you to repent, not easier. If so, what about their response created a stumbling block for you?
After asking ourselves those questions, we start to get a picture of what confrontation and restoration looks like when it is governed by the Golden Rule and Greatest Command. I humbly submit that any confrontation that is not governed by the Golden Rule and Greatest Command has little hope of accomplishing anything spiritually healthy. May God teach us all how to minister the kind of grace to others when they have wronged us that we hope someone will show us when we have wronged them. May we respond to others that they see both their sin and the hope of reconciliation that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross gives us. And may God’s grace flow through us so that we can draw others to make things right instead of giving them impossible hurdles that leave them with no hope.
**My pastor has a helpful sermon on this topic here.**