Tarnishing the Golden Rule
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently spoke at Liberty University, a professed evangelical Christian school. The New York Times’ Nick Corasaniti chronicled the event in his article titled, “Bernie Sanders Makes Rare Appeal to Evangelicals at Liberty University.”
What was Mr. Sanders’ rare appeal?
Mr. Sanders, who has described himself as “unabashedly irreligious,” surmised, “I am far, far from a perfect human being, but I am motivated by a vision which exists in all of the great religions – in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam, Buddhism and other religions.”
This vision he explains is the expression of the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, which states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” It is this vision, states Sanders, that is the rallying point for himself, the common thread of all religions, and the connection point for those he desires to lead.
I am also far, far from a perfect human being. But I do know it is unwise to use the words of the only perfect being in order to push the notion that you can divorce the vision of Christianity from Christ Himself.
Corasaniti explains that Sanders made a true effort to find “common ground” with Christian students, beginning with “the foundations of Christianity itself: the Bible.”
While I know we could wade into the weeds of semantics, with all due respect to Mr. Sanders and Mr. Corasiniti, the foundation of Christianity itself is not just the Scripture, it is Jesus Christ Himself.
The Gospel is not that we have been given a set of moral codes to abide by and a vision we can pick from the tree while leaving the rest of the garden. Gospel reconciliation doesn’t come by good motives, and the Kingdom is not ushered in when we all put our religious differences aside.
The unity of the Spirit is not a “vision which exists in all of the great religions.” The point of the Law and the Prophets is in fact not a vision at all, but a person. Indeed, this person and His claim to be God in the flesh is the vision that divides religions.
Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 10).
By invoking Matt. 7:12, Sanders (and many others like him) is not calling us towards the true summary of the Law and Prophets because the true point of the Law and Prophets is Jesus. This is dangerous terrain.
Jesus did say the “Golden Rule” sums up the sacred writings, but we must see them in context of what Jesus was actually talking about.
What Jesus tells us before and after Matthew 7:12 in the Sermon on the Mount is that any path – even broad and well trodden – that does not lead to the greatest good is in fact evil. There is only one path that leads to true good and because God is a good Father, he will give it to us.
It is the narrow path with the narrow gate. In fact, it is so exclusive we never would have found it unless God himself created the way for us. Jesus himself says He is the Way, the Truth, the Life and no one comes to this good Father except through Him (John 14:6).
He also says in John 10 that He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by any other way is a thief and a robber. It is only God who knows the door and way through which we must enter and as Jesus explains, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7-9).
While I admire Mr. Sanders’ call to social justice and to do the work of the church as agents of reconciliation in the world, we must remember our first call of reconciliation is to be reconciled to God. I would call upon Mr. Sanders and many others like him to seek not to first be reconciled to people of different faiths for political gain, but to be reconciled to God through Jesus for eternal life.
That is what we need and by God’s grace have received. If we had not, what greater evil could be done to us than for that truth about Jesus to be withheld? So we should do to others what we would want them to do to us. We should show them the way to the Father. But as Jesus notes, there is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ.
I believe Bernie Sanders has good intentions, but we know where that paved road leads. My intent in this blog is not to belittle him, but to call out against the notion that we can have a vision or use of Christianity without Christ himself.
I believe the greatest hope for the poor and rich alike is Jesus Christ first and foremost. As long as Mr. Sanders or others are leading people away from faith alone in Jesus Christ, they will be inflicting the utmost danger on every social outcast they claim to want to help. That is no vision at all.
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