Nina’s challenge isn’t a surprise. Even Christians wonder what the Golden Rule looks like in real life. Here are three big questions that pop up:
1. Can non-Christians really obey the Golden Rule when they don’t know God?
Yes. You don’t have to be a Christian to live out biblical truth. In fact, sometimes unbelievers follow the Golden Rule more feverishly than some Christians! Unbelievers can live out the Golden Rule without knowing that God is its source simply because treating others like you want to be treated makes sense. Here’s the catch: As kind and loving as an unbeliever can be, salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, not through following the Golden Rule. Loving others isn’t enough. People need a friendship with God, the source of love.
2. What does the Holy Spirit have to do with treating others like I want to be treated? You can’t deny that lots of people-unbelievers included-manage to follow the Golden Rule on brute willpower. But to live this “love ethic” day-in and day-out takes supernatural power from inside-the Holy Spirit’s power.
You see the difference when loving gets hard. When nasty, negative people challenge your determination to treat others according to the Golden Rule, it’s way easier to flip-flop the rule-to dish back to them what they dished out to you! Or when you get tired or stressed, your willingness to love wears thin. You can know what’s right, but you still need the Holy Spirit’s power to do what’s right.
3. What’s the difference between how the Bible defines love and how my conscience and common sense tell me to act? You might be able to trust your conscience and common sense most of the time, but they aren’t perfect. Your conscience can take its cues from influences around you, urges from inside you, and even temptations from the devil. “Common sense” just means something is widely accepted crowds of people and whole countries can be twisted by the same ungodly pressures that affect personal conscience. Without a changeless standard for behavior-those moral “absolutes” anchored to God himself and expressed in the Bible-eventually you miss the mark.
REFLECT: How would you have answered Nina?
PRAY: God, there are great people all around me. Show me how to help them see that they still need to know you.