People who know nothing else about Jesus are aware of his Golden Rule, which is usually stated simply in the words from Luke:
Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
Matthew’s version is a little fuller
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Luke 6:31)
Using Matthew’s wording, we can see that Jesus was actually building on a popular saying of the great Rabbi Hillel, who lived two generations earlier than Jesus:
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn. (Shabbath 31a).
Hillel’s way of expressing this is to use the negative: “Do not hate others, just as you would not want them to hate you.” We see a similar view expressed in the Eastern concept of karma, the spiritual principle of cause and effect. The idea is that the thoughts and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). This results in the phrases “good karma” and “bad karma”. Three simple sayings come to my mind:
What goes around, comes around.
The live bird eats worms; the dead bird is eaten by worms.
Don’t pick on your brother; some day he may be bigger than you.
Jesus emphasized the positive side of the same truth with his Golden Rule, treating others well, as you would like to be treated well.
Scholars who have studied Judaism and Christianity agree that Jesus was probably aware of borrowing Hillel’s great insight, but Christians claim that Jesus was going beyond Hillel in stating it in a positive, rather than a negative form. Hillel may have taught the Silver Rule, but Jesus’ version of the same truth became the Golden Rule (following the Olympic medal pattern of Gold for first place and Silver for second).
Thinking about the relative value of precious metals, I stumbled across an on-line article entitled, “Nine Substances More Valuable than Gold.” The author researched and compared the current value of a gram of each substance. Some of these are not particularly good for the world, including three addictive drugs (cocaine, heroin and LSD) and an element used to make nuclear bombs (plutonium). However, at the very top of the list, priced at 250 times the value of gold, were gem grade diamonds.
This gave me an idea. If Hillel’s negative way of expressing how we should get along with one another is the Silver Rule, and Jesus’ more positive way of teaching us to build relationships is the Golden Rule, then maybe what began at Christmas and culminated in the events of Holy Week and Easter can be called the Diamond Rule. In Jesus time on earth God was showing us something more than not hating each other (Hillel’s teaching), and more than treating each other well. He was showing us the even greater value of loving each other; demonstrating this by his own entrance into our human struggle and his self-sacrifice for us.
The Silver Rule is about not hating others.
The Golden Rule is about doing good to others.
The Diamond Rule is about truly loving others.
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was one of the great poets of her day. Her life was marked by special giftedness, physical and emotional struggles and a profound experience of Christian faith. She has given us some wonderful devotional poems, and one of these is sung as a Christmas carol:
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
The “special star” was the sign the Wise Men followed to Bethlehem; Rossetti wonders what sign we follow today. Her answer is LOVE; love for God, and love for others. When we live out the Christmas Diamond Rule, that love is our “plea and gift and sign.”
— Pastor George Van Alstine