I once observed a person, whom I will refer to as “Bob,” disregards a phone call from someone I would like to call “Julie.” “It’s doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” was his explanation for not answering his phone. His face turned red as the phone continued to ring. Bob, aggravated by the call, expressed that Julie never answered his phone calls to her. By his action, he believed he applied the principle of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is, he taught Julie that if she wanted people to answer her phone calls, she needed to start to pick up theirs.
It is unfortunate that such a profound biblical principle that is widely known by both Christians and non-Christians undergoes such abuse. It is used mostly for personal gratifications, and its true meaning and application, however, are ignored. People generally agree with the principle—perhaps because it sounds beautiful—but not the application.
While Bob convinced himself that he did right by Julie, it was clear that his behavior reflected a sense of retaliation against her for occasionally ignoring his calls.
Bob’s reaction is not foreign to many of us. We all have a little bit of Bob in us since we often reason and behave like him. We treat others in a similar way when they do not conform to the way we would like them to treat us. We use the “do unto others…” speech as a shield to masquerade our wrong doings, and we justify our actions by claiming that we are advocating this holy principle. If truly we want to be an advocate of this principle, we must first understand its true meaning and rightly apply it into our lives.
Matthew 7:21 states “so in everything, do to others…” The emphasis here is not on others, but on you. In other words, it does not instruct others to do the right thing toward you. The command is given directly to you, not others. Therefore, you take the initiative to do unto others what you would want them do unto you. This means that if you want others to answer your calls, you must begin by answering theirs. The principle is for you to do right towards others regardless of what they do towards you.
You probably notice that the principle itself does not say that others would do right by you. The reciprocal blessing of the principle is probably omitted to keep you from having the wrong motivation in your application, because the principle’s purpose is for you to do right by others. What others may or may not do should not have any bearings in your application of it. If you would not like someone to do something to you, do not do it to him or her. This means, if Bob does not want Julie to ignore his calls, he should not ignore her calls when she calls him.
Could you imagine a community where people did unto others what they would like others do unto them? How about a society, city, state, nation, or country? Let us get rid of the Bob in us.