Joel Belz: The Golden Rule

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Lots of talk lately about the lack of civility in our country. Perhaps we need to make the change -starting with the man in the mirror.  Here’s WORLD founder, Joel Belz.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: For a few hours on the morning of November 7, things seemed remarkably and almost unbelievably tranquil.

“Today,” said Nancy Pelosi, “you have to like being a Democrat.” But Republican Karl Rove countered, “Everyone gets a ribbon. Everyone leaves with something to brag about.”

Or call it “politics as usual”— the way we did it 50 years ago. Back then, we’d just forget the agonies and miseries of mid-term campaigns, and get on with the nation’s agenda.

It would be nice to think that’s what’s happening now. It would be so refreshing to know that—at least for a few months—rancor and bitterness might be set aside while we join hands in addressing our nation’s needs. I’ve read at least a dozen columns in various media calling on Americans to study the concept of “civil discourse.” And indeed, a large dose of polite civility on the national political stage is something Christians should work for and pray for. After all, don’t “polite” and “politics” come from the very same root?

The challenge, however, is enormous. “I don’t want ever—I mean never—to go through another campaign like this,” a visitor to my office said last week. Then he started weeping. And he told me how politics has divided his work place, his church, and now even his family. “We can’t talk about things the way we used to,” he said. “I remember when it was actually fun.”

But maybe it’s a mistake to paint the past with an overly rosy hue. If we think the mid-term campaign of 2018 has been especially ugly and mean-spirited, we should keep in mind that it was not unusual for some of our “statesman” forefathers to use pistols as tools of argumentation. And the pistols were loaded!

Yet neither should we suppose that “civilizing” our society is a simple matter of calming our rude and boorish behavior and conversation.

So while all this talk about civility certainly includes our culture’s need for better manners, it in fact involves much, much more. Specifically, it involves Jesus’s penetrating teaching in what we call the “Golden Rule”: “So whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them. For this is the Law and the prophets.”

Do we want to be treated in genuinely warm and civil terms by our political opponents? Then that’s exactly how we need to treat them. Keep in mind that Jesus’s instruction fits in both directions—regardless of our political and ideological alignment. So if you want those opponents to go beyond superficial kindness, try sizing up your own heart. As he did again and again, Jesus speaks to the inner person.

One friend told me he’s not so sure this part of Scripture is meant to apply to something so dark and ugly as politics. But if it doesn’t, what aspect of our sinful nature does it cover?

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(Photo/Ashbridge Studios, Flickr)

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