Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where in the Golden Rule is That?

Someone (I'd use their name or handle, if they had left one) asked where in "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (sometimes called the "Golden Rule") did Jesus authorize "religious persecution," which (one supposes) is the pejorative term that folks these days us to refer to the Reformed position on the civil magistrate.

The simple answer is that the golden rule is not relevant to the government (I mean of course, the government of the state, though the same could be said of any government, as such), it wasn't intended to be, and we get God's instructions for the government elsewhere.

However, that may sound a bit glib, so let's look at Jesus' words in context first:

Luke 6:30-31
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

If you think that "as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" is supposed to be applied to the government, do you think that giving to everyone who asks is also to be applied to the government? Is this the welfare verse? Surely you can recognize that it is not intended that way. Nor is it a uniform principle that we must always give whatever anyone asks from us, nor that we must always do unto others as we would want done to us.

But that's just a start. From the slightly extended context, we learn that this is an exposition of the command to love our neighbour as ourselves:

Luke 6:27-29 & 32-35
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
[The passage above]
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

The whole thrust of the passage is toward doing good to those who personally injure you. It's not an absolute mandate that you can never seek legal recourse, but rather a general principle of how we should treat people who are our personal enemies.

In a parallel account of this teaching in Matthew, we see an additional point which shows that this teaching is part of an exposition on the law: "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Matthew 5:43-44
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That law was not new. It was an Old Testament law:

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

And yes, the same Old Testament law authorized:

Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Numbers 33:52-53
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: and ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.

Leviticus 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

Exodus 31:14-15
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Obviously, the government can't make anyone believe (nor prevent them from coveting). Obviously, as well, the government executing witches, destroying idols, stoning blasphemers, and enforcing the sabbath will not, in itself, save anyone (just as punishing rebellious children, murderers, adulterers, and thieves cannot save anyone). Nevertheless, it is consistent for the government to enforce such laws and for the duty of believers to be that they love their neighbor as themselves.


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