Do Unto Others
My brother, Scott, was here for a visit this week. We live over 1,000 miles away from each other, so spending a few days together is always a great time. We share memories and grandbaby photos, update each other on our families, and eat a lot of food! Whenever Scott visits, he always packs some special surprises—new items he wants to share or things he knows we’re not able to get in Florida. And there’s always music.
My brother is a lover of music. I may appreciate a tune for its lyrics or dance rhythm, but Scott understands the nuances of the style, the technique, and the history of the musicians as well as the music itself. Though he knows I may not fully appreciate the depth of these things, he spends a lot of time loading an immense library of songs onto a USB to share when he arrives.
Scott is not random in the songs he chooses. We grew up together, so he understands what bands will bring joy in nostalgia, what new tunes will fit my listening style, and what stories will intrigue me. He loves music, but in sharing that love, he is considerate of both the limitations of, and the differences in, my enjoyment.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
This commandment of Christ, traditionally known as the Golden Rule, follows Jesus’ admonition to his followers that they must love their enemies. The Greek word used for “love” in this case is agapan. According to William Barclay,
Agapan describes an active feeling of benevolence towards the other person; it means that no matter what that person does to us we will never allow ourselves to desire anything but his highest good; and we will deliberately and of set purpose go out of our way to be good and kind to him.
Barclay also notes that many writers of many creeds offer a similar ethic to the Golden Rule, but each one is formulated in the negative: What you do not want done to you, do not do to others. However, Jesus frames this ethic in the positive: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Avoiding treating someone poorly is much easier than going out of your way to intentionally and actively care for others. That requires understanding, thoughtfulness, and effort.
Scott could easily have compiled thousands of songs he thought I needed to know and appreciate regardless of how I would react to them. Instead, he chose thoughtfully, deciding what tunes and stories would challenge and educate me, but all with a gracious understanding of his audience. Treating others as you would like to be treated is not about pandering or pacifying; it’s about truly desiring the greater good of the other person, and investing yourself in the process in order to show value in the relationship.
Okay, truth be told, my brother hasn’t always been filled with agapan toward me, and I’m sure during our growing-up years I gave him plenty of reason to NOT desire my highest good . . . but those are stories for another day.
 William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 78.