Relearning the Golden Rule

Paul David PopeThe Golden Rule. We learned it in kindergarten. Somehow, it seems to have turned from doing unto others as you would want them to do unto you, and into whoever has the gold makes the rules and can do unto anyone as they please without consequence. In a world where making enough to stay housed and fed is a matter of life and death for many, while others the prime concern is to conspicuously consume and flaunt wealth, even as the struggles of those further down the socioeconomic ladder become ever more desperate.

We have lost our concern for our fellow citizens, for their well-being, for the future of their children, and instead have learned to pursue fads that promise happiness in the next new car, phone, or fitness fad. The recent visit by Pope Francis highlighted the Holy Father’s concern with inequality and injustice. During his visit, he highlighted the need to not only call oneself Christian, but to emulate Christ as He charged his followers to do in Matthew 35 reminding us that whatever we provide or deny to for the least amongst us, we do this to Jesus Himself.

What is the value of a home to the homeless? A visit to the prisoner? Sanctuary to the stranger? Food to the hungry? In his speech to Congress, before some of the most powerful people in the world, he reminded us of the Golden Rule, and exhorted all of us as Americans with these words.

“Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples.”

Though the death of Christ occurred before the destruction of the Temple and early rabbinic period that followed as Jews adapted to Judaism without the priestly traditions, the concept that Pope Francis spoke of is ‘Tikkun Olam.’

We are called to repair the world with acts great and small, to advocate for the ultimate value of goodness and grace against the existence of human evil and even atrocity. We are asked to save the world by saving human souls with acts like those of Christ. Shelter the immigrant, the refugee, and the homeless. Feed the hungry. Treat the sick. All of them. Billions of them.

With all the wealth in this world, we must work to preserve and heal our nations and institutions from the sickness and madness of greed, might, and power and instill the values of wisdom, compassion, and peace. Or we must face our eventual demise at the hands of war, disaster, and pestilence not as a consequence of God’s wrath and judgement, but our own actions. And if the task looks insurmountable, think of the words of Rabbi Hillel the Elder.

“Whosoever shall destroy a soul, it shall be as if he has destroyed the entire world. But whosoever saves a life, it is considered the saving of an entire world.”

In my up and coming, soon to launch humanitarian effort, I will be addressing issues like this that impact the world.

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