Practicing the Golden Rule

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Most people, religious or not, recognize the “golden rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is based upon Jesus’ statement in our text above. We know the statement, but how do we put it into practice? Let us consider a few thoughts.

We Must Take the Initiative

Jesus did not say, “Treat others as they treat you.” Instead, He said to treat them how you want them to treat you. The kindness of others is not a prerequisite to this command. In other words, if people do not treat us well, we are still to show love to them.

The reality is that people often may not treat us in the way we would like. This could be as simple as people ignoring or disregarding us, as Paul’s brethren did to him when he was on trial (2 Timothy 4:16). It could also take the form of persecution, something all Christians will face in some form (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus taught that we are to “turn the other [cheek]” when we are mistreated by others (Matthew 5:38-41).

We are not to treat others as they treat us, but as we would want them to treat us. Jesus said, “This is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This is what God has been consistently teaching His people throughout the ages (cf. Matthew 22:39-40; Romans 13:8-10).

Why We Treat Others This Way

On a basic level, we are to show love for others because God commanded us to do so. Jesus has “all authority,” so we are to do what He has said (Matthew 28:18-20). If we are wise, we will hear and obey His word (Matthew 7:24). If we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

Beyond this, we are to treat others with love because of the inherent value of each person. That means we practice the “golden rule” and treat others this way because they are worthy treating that way. All men were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus willingly died on the cross for each person (John 3:16) – even the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15, KJV). Everyone is worth the same before God.   (continued on back)

There is also the matter of our relationship with God. Jesus said that God will deal with us in the way we deal with others. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we use an unmerciful standard of judgment against others, God will use that against us (Matthew 7:1-2). John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). We cannot claim to love God if we do not love others (1 John 4:20-21).

How We Should Treat Others

We can start by showing respect for others. We typically think of the “golden rule” in terms of showing love (which we have already mentioned), but it is also important to think about it from this perspective. We should show the same respect toward others that we believe we deserve. This means we will do certain things:

Put others first – “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Paul said elsewhere that we are to “give preference to others” (Romans 12:10), being willing to put their well-being ahead of our own.

Be willing to forgive – “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Jesus said later that the number of times we are to forgive is “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). In other words, we are not to “keep score,” but be willing to forgive always.

Strive to live in peace – “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). We can accomplish this by showing “patience” and “tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

We should also help others when they are in need. We can ask ourselves the question: Would we want (or need) help if we were in their situation? Paul told the brethren in Galatia, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). We are to be like the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:30-37) who saw a man in need and did what he could do to help. James warned that failing to help those in need when we are able to do so is an indictment of our faith: “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17).

We can also practice the “golden rule” by leading others to the truth. At times we may be tempted to refrain from teaching the truth to someone for fear of offending them. However, if we were wrong, would we want someone to correct us and show us the truth? We should have that desire, so we should teach others as well. When we teach others as we would want to be taught, we should do it with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-25) and humility (Titus 3:2-3). Our initial text about practicing the “golden rule” sits between passages about correcting others (Mathew 7:1-5) and the fate of the unfaithful (Matthew 7:13-14), so the point about teaching certainly fits here. We need to learn how to talk to others about spiritual matters as Paul described: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).


Regardless of how others treat us, we are to treat them with love and respect. Let us treat others how we want them to treat us so the Lord will treat us with the same love, mercy, and kindness.  

(Andy Sochor,

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