The Radical Simplicity of the Golden Rule

North Texas Catholic
(Jan 2, 2024) Faith-Inspiration

The path to choose Christ is always open. (iStock/francescoch)

As a general rule, humans tend to overcomplicate things. I think this is a principle that pretty much everyone can agree on. We’ve all had the experience, in one way or another, of realizing that our way of doing something was far from the simplest, most efficient way of doing that particular thing.

This doesn’t only apply to the realm of the physical; we also, I would argue, overcomplicate our worldviews. And while this tendency has, like most other aspects of humanity, endured rather unchanged from generation to generation, it seems especially true in our day.
Perhaps, tugged along by some insidious influence exerted by our ever-iterating, ever-“improving” technologies, our subconscious selves feel the impulse to attempt to keep up until our individual lenses become as winding and convoluted as microchips. However, another thing I’ll bet we all can agree on, is that it’s not that easy to see the person in front of you when you’re looking through a kaleidoscope.
Unfortunately, Christianity has itself been a victim of this “kaleid-ification.” Due in no small part to the Protestant Reformation, so many brands of Christianity exist nowadays that it is a practical impossibility to keep track of them all, with no small number going extinct as quickly as they were born.
I feel genuinely sorry for non-Christians who may be beginning to entertain thoughts of conversion, only to run headlong against what will likely prove to be the biggest stumbling block on what is already going to be a long and arduous journey: the all-important question of “Which one?” Meanwhile, the true message of Christianity becomes all but completely obscured.
At its core, Catholicism (and Christianity as a whole), is a radically simple religion. And what could be argued as its most fundamental tenet is a statement equally as simple, and certainly as radical:
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7:12
As I’m sure you are already aware, the verse I have quoted above is known as the Golden Rule. It is one of those phrases that we hear repeated so often that, to the detriment of everyone, it begins to lose its force. We have forgotten just how profound this command of Jesus truly is, and the remembrance of which, I believe, is the antidote to spiritual overcomplication.
It was (and, sadly, still is in some places), the default for most societies throughout history to adopt the Golden Rule’s precise opposite, which could be stated as: “Do to others whatever you would never have them do to you.” This rather accurately summarizes the moral position taken by practically every ancient tribe and civilization on the planet. “They’re not us, so we’re free to dispose of them however we please.”
Go pick up any history book. and you’ll find more than enough examples of this attitude. Like any piece of bad logic, when universally adopted and followed to its ultimate conclusion, this “Anti-Golden Rule” results in nothing but destruction, bloodshed, and isolation. Christ’s injunction turns this on its head. This is our mission; the only acceptable “lens” through which we should be viewing the world.
It is so easy nowadays to get caught up in (and hung up on) all of the comparatively small, ancillary details of things. Contrary to how it may seem, I think we are a society at times too obsessed with details and minutiae when we’ve gotten the broad strokes all wrong.
We should be examining this issue in our own spiritual lives, as well. Are we obsessing too much over things that, in the final accounting, won’t be what gets us to heaven? Are we making sure we’re painting the broad strokes correctly? Do we see ourselves and, more importantly, Christ, in everyone with whom we interact? Hopefully, the answer is simply, “yes,” and we can do away with the kaleidoscopes.
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