The Word — Rockwell’s ‘Golden Rule’ shares what Jesus practiced

Published 12:33 pm Friday, August 5, 2022

Norman Rockwell was one of the iconic American artists of the 20th century. Among his most incredible works was his cover for The Saturday Evening Post, “Golden Rule.”  He had traveled the world and studied comparative religion, realizing that all religions and philosophies included some version of the Golden Rule, articulated by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel as, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

Rockwell sought to represent the world in his painting – and in the process, he found the world at his doorstep. His models for the painting came from his neighborhood: people of all races and backgrounds united around a common way to live in community and flourish in peace.

I find Rockwell’s painting reflects the ethic of Jesus’ way of life for human beings to thrive together. Jesus taught an other-focused way of life filled with compassionate action. Whether an older woman bent double with physical turmoil, a blind beggar overlooked by everyone who passes, a woman abandoned by her partner to the religious zealots, or a foreign mother desperately seeking help for her child, Jesus saw the people around him. He saw their need and heard their cry, and then stopped what he was doing to help. Why? Because he loved them, of course – but even more basic than that, because it’s what he, and all of us, would want others to do for us.

That may be easy to do with some people – friends and neighbors come to mind. But Jesus invites us to expand our minds while opening our hearts. Jesus’ Golden Rule doesn’t come in a description of how to get along with family, friends or even neighbors.  His command to do to others what we would want them to do to us is the summation of a passage on how to treat enemies, of all people: the folks who curse you, steal from you, and slap you on the cheek.  Even for those who are the worst people to us, Jesus asks that we treat them the way we would want them to treat us.

That’s tough to do. Sometimes, people hurt us in big, important ways. Sometimes, they hurt us so much that we need to walk away from them, even hold them to account for the things they’ve done to us or to others. But in the midst of all of that, we are still to practice the Golden Rule.  This basic human behavior – treating others as we want to be treated – keeps us from seeing others as the other. It keeps us from treating them worse than they deserve, because they are still people made in the image of God, still children of the Lord of Heaven. When we treat others as we want to be treated, we practice what Jesus did – and discover how to live together in peace, love, and joy.

Rev. Dr. J. Adam Tyler is the Senior Pastor for Farmville Baptist Church and he can be reached by email at pastor@farmvillebaptist.org.