Golden Rule Halfway

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Tuesday in the week of Proper 21, Year 1 (Pentecost 18, 2015)

Matthew 7:12 ~ In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Ah, yes, the Golden Rule, or at least one Christian version of it spoken by Jesus. When I think of the GR, I cannot help but remember the opening lyric of the song Iowa Stubborn from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man:

Oh, there’s nothing halfway
About the Iowa way to treat you,
When we treat you
Which we may not do at all.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was nothing halfway about the way people lived and applied the GR? Unfortunately, in my experience (and today that experience celebrates 63 years) folks seldom live the GR even a quarter of the way, let alone half, let alone all the way!

Did you know there’s a Silver Rule? It’s the negative formulation of GR and is attributed to Hillel the Elder, a First Century rabbi who was a contemporary of Jesus. The story told in the Babylonian Talmud is that he was challenged by a Gentile who agreed to convert to Judaism if the Torah could be explained while standing on one foot. Hillel, standing on one foot, replied: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn.”

In one form or the other, positive formulation or negative, this idea that we should gauge our own treatment of others against how we would wish those others to treat us is common to nearly every religion and ethical system known to humans. It seems to be both universally recognized and universally ignored. If we would only live it halfway, as the Iowa song suggests, how much better the world might be!