Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. [Matthew 7:12 (NLT)]
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. (Hinduism: Mahabharata)
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Buddhism: Udanavarga)
In “Baby Blues,” drawn by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, the mother discovers Zoe, the bossy big sister, putting salt in her little brother Hammie’s milk. “What about the golden rule?” she asks her daughter. “I am following the golden rule!” Zoe responds, “Do unto brothers before they do unto you!” Having endured my share of brotherly aggravation, I sympathize with Zoe. Hoping to beat him to the punch, there were times I’d yell, “Mom, Steve’s hitting me again!” even before he managed to make a fist. “Do unto brothers before they do unto you,” however, isn’t what Jesus said; Zoe’s mother wisely says, “Let’s go read that again.”
Like Zoe, non-Christians tend to have a somewhat cynical view of life—do unto others before they can do to you. Of course, many also have another golden rule—whoever has the gold makes the rules. Neither interpretation is what Jesus had in mind when he gave us what has become known as the “golden rule” (although that term is found nowhere in Scripture).
This “golden rule” reflects the very character of God—His benevolent heart and grace regardless of whether or not it is deserved. We, in turn, are to mirror His love—a love that is not based on reciprocity but rather on God’s unconditional regard for all of mankind. Instead of looking out for the other guy only because we expect him to stab us in the back, we look out for the other guy out of love for him and obedience to God.
Many Eastern religions have a similar command regarding how to treat others. There is, however, a subtle but major difference between their philosophy not to do to others what we don’t want done to us and Jesus’s command. Jesus tells us it’s not enough to refrain from negative behavior; we are to act in a positive way to everyone. It’s not enough not to hurt someone; we are expected to act in love to everyone (even our enemies). Sorry Zoe: that even applies to troublesome little brothers!