Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31, New International Version)
This statement follows a passage in Luke’s narrative, where Jesus pronounced blessings on any of his followers who were poor, hungry, grieving, or hated. He asked them to rejoice, to leap and shout for joy, because there would come a day when their misfortunes would be reversed, not by personal merit, but by their entry into a heavenly kingdom for having suffered in the same way the true and faithful prophets of old had suffered.
Jesus then pronounced a type of cheerless foreboding on those who were rich, well fed, haplessly content, and respected. They too would one day experience a reversal of fortune, but he refrained from saying where that reversal would take place. Instead he drew a comparison between how they were being treated in this life and the way the false prophets of old were treated. The implied outcome was that they would find themselves sharing the same fate as those who lied about God’s will in order to curry favor with the political and economic powers of the day. Seems harsh, but it only became more so in a surprising way.
These were just generalizations he made to a large crowd, who had gathered to hear him speak and to seek relief by having their illnesses healed. Turning his attention fully on his own followers, he told them that they must love their enemies, bless those who cursed them, and pray for those who abused them. He left no room for his disciples to equivocate about the implementation of these directives. If they were hit, they were to turn the other cheek. If their cloak was forcibly taken from them, they were to offer up their tunic as well without any thought of asking for it to be returned to them. The harsh expectations of Jesus’ teaching were revealed as being even more demanding of his followers than of those who merely listened without becoming encumbered by a conviction.
And then came the capstone of this passage, a proactive statement requiring his disciples to do only good to everyone in every circumstance. Goodness was determined by what any faithful person would regard as the goodness they wished to experience for themselves; faithfulness being defined in the pronouncement of blessings and woes at the start of his address.
We call it The Golden Rule and understand its value to be in the non-legalistic realm of moral choice rooted in the Christian concept of grace; the gift-giving mindset of knowing that nothing good is earned. Otherwise we all would be dead in our sins.
This week the Supreme Court heard a case about a baker’s refusal to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The baker’s defense is that he, as a craftsman, should not be forced to perform his trade in a manner which violates his religious beliefs. An aversion to a sexual preference not one’s own is clouding the true issue of Christian service as it was promulgated in a Judean revival meeting conducted by an undocumented rabbi.
We can rest assured that in Jesus’ day there were people among those who earnestly waited to be healed, who would identify with today’s LGBTQ community, and whatever other letters you wish to add to this acronym. They were not turned away. Jesus, who was described by his followers as someone who knew peoples’ hearts, would have been able to easily discriminate against the sexual lepers among the crowds, who desired at the very least to touch the hem of his garment, but he didn’t. And therefore neither should we.
The Supreme Court will determine the rule of the land. Jesus has already determined the rule of the heart. We call is the Golden Rule and it should lead us towards making the best of cakes for those who are forced to seek protection as abused minorities in a society where the rich, well fed, content and respected majority imitate the false and doomed cake makers of old.
If I could choose an appropriate anthem to play for leading a redemptive cause that could lead us out of the self-incriminating, self-destructive strategy of suing our enemies rather than loving them, I think I would overlook the many hymns I grew up with, though their words are inspiring and their melodies in perfect harmony with their messages. Instead I would chose Mary Gauthier’s plea for “Mercy Now” since she is someone who has experienced the injustice of our religious taboos and yet understands our need for a virtue the Supreme Court will dismiss as irrelevant in reaching their lifeless, legalistic decision about the solid cold facts of rights.
The fourth verse of Mary’s song is one we all should be able to identify with and affirm. So let us all join hands and sing in unison:
Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now