If you want to have a happy life, isn’t the Golden Rule a great rule to live by? Well, I guess it depends on whether you know what the Golden Rule is, right? Once upon a time you could use the term “The Golden Rule,” and almost everyone would likely know what you were talking about. I don’t know if that’s the case nowadays, because there may be many people who may be not familiar with that term at all, but I do think that most people still think it’s a good idea, even if they don’t know it is called The Golden Rule. Many of you, I assume, though, do know it: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s called The Golden Rule – a good rule to live by.
Our lesson for today from 2 Corinthians chapter 13 speaks to us about how we can treat others as we would want them to treat us, but it does so in a way that doesn’t just make it a good rule to try our hardest to follow to maybe end up getting God or others to love us more, but instead by providing a wonderful comfort that makes the Golden Rule a great way of life to enjoy just for the sake of loving God and others. It does so by connecting how God wants us to treat others by reminding us of how God has treated us – yes, by connecting what God wants us to do for others by assuring us of what God has done for us – as the apostle Paul speaks to us in the form of a blessing the wonderful work of our Triune God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – with the words:“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” So on this Sunday, when we especially marvel at the mystery of the Holy Trinity, I pray today’s words will be meaningful for you to think about now – and then to live as you leave – these words from our Lord about The Golden Rule and the Triune God.
I mentioned these words are words of comfort. They are the very last words of this letter of St. Paul to these people he loved in Corinth, Greece. The very first words he shared with them in this letter at the beginning set that tone: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the apostle Paul wrote in his first chapter, “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” What a comfort he gave them – and he gives us – in these last words at the of this letter, when he tells us that the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are all with us.
To see why that can be so comforting to us and then so meaningful for our daily life, it might be helpful to think about where in the Bible God gives the Golden Rule. It’s in a sermon Jesus preached in Luke’s Gospel, and the setting is one which can almost take your spiritual breath away. “But to you who are listening, I say,” said Jesus. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Would you agree that it’s one thing to do good to others who love you and who are easy to love, but a totally different thing to do good to others who don’t want to do any good to you at all – and who, in fact, show that with words or actions of hatred or bulliness or contempt toward you? It’s much easier to do the same bad things to others as they have done to us, so that we end up being the very same kind of people as the people who are making our lives miserable.
That’s who we were before God – and how we would have remained before God – enemies of God — if God had not given us his grace, love and fellowship. We hear those words so often, so it is always good just to think about them in our minds as we hear them. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ… Grace is compassion and mercy that is totally undeserved – compassion and mercy to people like you and me who have to confess that what we deserve is not Jesus’ blood poured out for our sins, but Jesus’ judgment spoken for our eternity. That’s what God says we have! The love of God the Father… Love is what the Bible says God is. The Bible says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God” – and not enemies of the one who made us and who watches over us every day. That’s what God says we have! The fellowship of the Holy Spirit… This kind of fellowship is the unity or the peace that exists between people who were not united nor at peace, such as was the case with us and God when you and I were born into God’s world. But through our Baptism; through receiving the body and blood in the Holy Sacrament which our Lord Jesus Christ poured out for us in his amazing grace; through the words we listen to in the Bible about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father, the Holy Spirit has given us fellowship – unity – peace with God himself. That’s what God says we have! When we begin our services in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; when we give our blessing that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all; we are doing so as humbly confident and respectfully bold people of faith – people who know that wherever we go, God goes with us, because wherever we go, God is for us. He is not just some being in the sky that we worship in a church. He is the Lord of our lives, and he lives in our hearts. To him you and I are pure gold – and that is Golden!
That is why the Golden Rule is not something to just try super hard to do in order to hopefully have a happy life. It’s a way of life for everyone like us, whose life belongs to the Triune God. So, “Brothers and sisters,” Paul says, “Rejoice!” When you have a spirit of joy, no matter the circumstances, sometimes even in tears or in pain, you are doing to others as you would have them do to you. Isn’t there just something special about being in the company of someone who fills your life with joy?
So, Paul says, “Strive for full restoration.” You may remember us saying at different times that the picture of these words is that of mending fishing nets so they can be repaired and restored and thus be used for what they are supposed to do – catch fish. When you have a desire to mend the hurt with someone because of unwise words, sinful actions, foolish greed, childish envy, you are doing to others as you would have them to do you. Isn’t there just something special about being able to give that handshake, that hug, that word of “I’m sorry – again,” that assurance of “I forgive you – always” to someone you have hurt or someone who has hurt you?
So, Paul says, “Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” When someone knows you are there for him or her; when someone knows you have a mind that wants to be one with Jesus and to think the exact same way you do; when someone knows that there is a peace in your life that shows itself in a don’t-get-so-excited-but-take-life-as-it-comes kind of way, you are doing to others as you would have them to do you. There just is something special about not having to be nervous about a conversation with someone, not having to be afraid of being vulnerable with someone, not needing to worry that someone will betray you or gossip about you or think you are the strangest person on the face of the earth. He or she is someone with whom you can just be you, because of who you both are in Christ.
The result of this kind of love as a result of the love of the Triune God is that we will want to always, as Paul encourages us here, “greet one another with a holy kiss” – to consider each other true Christian friends – brothers, sisters. As you and I grow in the grace, love and fellowship of the Triune God, we see more and more the evidence of people just liking to be with each other – just liking to greet one another – just liking to talk to one another in the hallway as we enter, in the church as we leave – all because we have so much in common with each other, since each and everyone of us shares a united faith in what has been done for us by the Father who in his love created us and watches over us, by the Son who in his grace gave his life for everyone of our sins, and by the Holy Spirit who has given us the faith – and who keeps us in the faith – of believing all that by having us continue to hear all that in the Word of God he caused to be written. Maybe we can say it this way: May the Triune God’s own wonderful Golden Rule of loving us as he would have us love him help us more and more every day do to others as we would have them do to us. As we do so – and to help us do so — the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with you all. Amen.