(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Gold Standard
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
What we often call “the great commandments” and the Golden Rule (which we will read tomorrow) present the same premise for human behavior: treat others as you would want them to treat you. Israel’s Levitical code of laws was the first written form of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It didn’t place that command in isolation, but used it to sum up a list of specific ways of loving your neighbor.
Matthew 7:11-14, Luke 6:27-31
People often call Matthew’s version “The Sermon on the Mount;” in Luke it’s often “The Sermon on the Plain.” (Fact is, both writers’ descriptions could apply to the same site on the edge of the Sea of Galilee.) In this sermon, which laid out his kingdom’s guiding principles, both Matthew and Luke said Jesus included the command, “You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you.”
Luke said, “A legal expert stood up to test Jesus,” which seems to show that he was not just curious but taking an adversarial approach to Jesus. Jesus answered a question with a question, in good Middle Eastern style. The expert quoted the law from Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus agreed with the Scriptures he cited. The expert’s concept of “neighbor” was quite narrow, though, and Jesus went on to tell the famous parable of the Good Samaritan to try to expand his view.
The Apostle Paul started a new church in Galatia (modern day Turkey) that had fallen into disagreement and struggle. After Paul left, “false teachers” came to the church and began convincing people they still had to follow certain rules and laws in order to for God to accept them. Paul, through his letter, resisted the false teachers. He urged his readers to claim their freedom in Christ, but to use that freedom to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
1 Peter 3:8-15
Many Bible students believe 1 Peter put in writing some of the instruction the early church gave to converts before baptism. These Christians lived in a hostile Roman world, where they would often face contempt and persecution. The apostle Peter wrote to them that loving others as themselves was the best way to defuse whatever hatred they might meet.
Living and traveling in Nero’s corrupt, cruel Roman Empire, Paul must have sometimes felt the urge to lash out in anger against evil. There was so much that was unjust, dishonest and immoral! Yet Paul, and Christians who lived out his counsel, formed a movement that has long outlasted Nero and the Empire by living by completely opposite principles. As Paul said it in today’s reading, they committed themselves to “defeat evil with good.”
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord, help us to act less like warriors and more like ambassadors for peace. Teach us the language of peace and instill in us the attitude of peace. We long to love as you would have us love, honestly and completely with a heart that listens and longs to serve. May your Spirit overcome our nature, instilling humility and justice while eliminating self-importance and vengefulness. In your name, Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
As an American society, do you think we are more, A. nostalgic for the past, B. looking forward to the future, or C. just living one day at a time? Does our personal focus on yesterday, tomorrow or today have any effect upon our attitude toward and treatment of others?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Leviticus 19:11-18. Don’t, don’t, don’t! Why was the Old Testament so filled with “thou shalt not’s”? If the Old Testament spoke to people from barbaric backgrounds who had no boundaries to their lives, wouldn’t God need to first establish some boundaries? Even so, note how God’s Spirit inspired the writer of these verses to close with perhaps the most basic admonition of what we should do. Does the New Testament also seem contain many “thou shalt not’s”? Why would this be? How much more “civilized” would the people of New Testament times have become than those more than 500 or more years prior? How much more civilized are we today?
Read Matthew 7:11-14, Luke 6:27-31. What a turnaround from the “thou shalt not’s” of the Old Testament! Here is Christ switching from a “do no harm” approach to a “do all the good you can” approach. Do we Christians sometimes find it hard to adhere to this advice from Jesus? Is there a difference between knowing the golden rule and proactively seeking opportunities to practice it? Is Christ just saying, “Be nice”? Can you think of circumstances in which limitations to the golden rule need to be established to protect yourself and others?
Read Luke 10:25-28. Think about your own neighborhood. Is there a difference between not being thought of as a bad neighbor and being thought of as a good neighbor? Should Christians do what they can to make a real effort to be a really good neighbor? Aside from your own reputation, does being a really good neighbor have any effect on the image of Christ and Christianity? Does this effort need to extend to strangers? To your own friends and family? Is there at times a difference between how we should act and how we feel? Is this what is meant by saying that God knows our hearts?
Read Galatians 5:13-16. What does “walk by the Spirit” mean to you? Is it limited to how we act? What about how we think and feel? Although as Christians, we may control our actions, do we sometimes indulge our negative thoughts and feelings? What kinds of things can we do to reduce or even eliminate negative thoughts and feelings toward others? How do we strengthen our ability to “walk by the Spirit” in these circumstances? Remember: we’re not perfect in this life. We are committed to growing better and better every day with the help of the Holy Spirit. How have you felt those subtle changes within yourself?
Read 1 Peter 3:8-15. Have you noticed how the New Testament constantly reminds us to be humble? Why is humility so important to God? Is it important to our own quality of life? If so, how? Does humility have more to do with how we act or how we feel? If we feel better than someone else, are we more or less likely to treat them well? Let’s try a real life test of the golden rule: You are a manager with a subordinate whose performance is terrible, and who refuses to accept warnings to change. Could firing that person ever be consistent with the spirit of the golden rule? What if firing might be the only thing that would get their attention and get their career back on track?
Read Romans 12:17-21. Does this passage encourage us to reinforce bad behavior? Or do these verses speak against all forms of revenge in the case of bad behavior, and then encourage us to act contrary to how that person might expect us to act? Can you see a difference between rewarding bad behavior and acting more positively than your “enemy” might expect? Can you see how this might turn your relationship around?
From last week: Did you reflect on the fact that the Book of John is, for many, a favorite of the Gospels? Did you consider how our focus on this Gospel, your reading and study, affected you in any personal, spiritual way? Did this study help you understand how you could be a better disciple and “fisher of men”? Please share with the group.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, April 14, 2013:
A willingness to imagine what I would want if I were walking in someone else’s shoes is really important. And when we do that, and then follow the Golden Rule, it affects our relationships and interactions with others.
Some years ago I had become consumed by my work here. It was a really busy season and I was at meetings virtually every night of the week for two weeks. One night when I got home LaVon said to me, “I want you to imagine what it would be like if the roles were reversed. What if you were here every night with the kids, and I was in a busy season at work and was gone every night for two weeks. How would that feel to you?” I’m embarrassed to say that I had not considered this. But once I did, it forever changed how I looked at my work life. It helped me think differently about marriage and my actions towards LaVon.
The Golden Rule also calls us to treat every person we meet differently. When the telemarketer calls, you imagine having an $8 an hour job calling people, and the amount of rejection they receive. Treat them how you would want others to treat you if you had the job. We had to replace our furnace this week. We’d received four bids and finally decided upon one. I wrote a note to each of the guys who had bid on our system thanking them, explaining our decision and describing something I appreciated about their presentation or bid. That’s how I’d want to be treated if I didn’t get the bid. One guy wrote back and said, “Thank you so much for writing. No one ever takes the time to contact me to let me know they went a different direction.”
Often, particularly when we’re frustrated, we don’t follow this rule. Joe Stowell, president of Cornerstone University, was in a Starbucks one morning. The customer ahead of him was the first customer in the store that morning. All he wanted was a New York Times. He was waving a $50 bill and becoming increasingly agitated at the barista because he didn’t have change for $50 yet. Joe finally said, “Put it on my bill.” The guy left with his paper. The clerk said, “That was really nice. The world would be a lot better place if more people were like you.” It was a small thing—only cost him $1.50, but he had compassion on the clerk. And the barista was right—the world would be a lot better place if everyone treated others the way they would want to be treated.
Listen, the Golden Rule works in marriages, in interpersonal relationships, and also in business. One of you reminded me this week of a guy named James who grew up in Hamilton, Missouri. His dad was a pastor who taught him, from the time he was young, to live by the Golden Rule. So ingrained in his heart and values was the Golden Rule, when the boy grew up and started a dry goods business in the little mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902 he decided he would build his business on the rule, and he even named his store The Golden Rule Store.
James taught his employees that their task was to treat each customer the way they would like to be treated. He then treated his employees the way he wanted to be treated, calling them associates and sharing the profits with them. The store was so successful that he soon opened another, and then another, and another. Within 26 years the company had 1,000 stores nationwide, but by this time James Cash Penney had renamed the stores, JC Penney.
Herb Kelliher was the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, and with his former Administrative Assistant, who became its President, led Southwest to huge success with this one key principle. He said, “Treat people the way that you want to be treated, and pretty much everything will fall into place.”…
There are 20,000 members of this congregation, one in every 100 people who live in Kansas City. One in every 33 people in Johnson County are members of this church. Here’s my question: What will be our legacy? What impact might we have on our city as we invite people to become passionate followers of Jesus Christ, and as we seek to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? How would our marriages be different? How would our businesses be different? Where is there inequality or injustice, and how might Kansas City be different if we lived the Golden Rule?
What others have said about the Golden Rule
– The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatever unless you realize it is your move. – Frank Crane
– And in this community, as in all others, the golden rule still applies – we must be act toward other nations as we would have them act towards America. – Adam Schiff
– I believe in the golden rule. I believe in practicing it. – Loretta Young
– We have committed the golden rule to memory; let us now commit it to life. – Edwin Markham
– The golden rule for every business man is this: ‘Put yourself in your customer’s place.’ – Orison Swett Marden
– The Golden Rule of Parenting is; do unto your children as you wish your parents had done unto you! – Louise Hart
– I would like to have engraved inside every wedding band ‘Be kind to one another.’ This is the golden rule of Marriage and the secret of making love last through the years. – Randolph Ray
– The Golden Rule finds no limit of application in business. – James Cash Penney
– Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others. – Socrates
– “If you contemplate the Golden Rule, it turns out to be an injunction to live by grace rather than by what you think other people deserve.” – Deepak Chopra
– Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought.” – Augustine of Hippo
– If we don’t manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation – Karen Armstrong
– Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it is an investment. – unknown
This week, wear something gold to remind you to live every hour of every day and treat every person in your life by the Golden Rule. This will present blessings, but also challenges and quandaries. Next week, share with the group some of the rewarding and frustrating experiences as you strive to live a life in Christ.