The Platinum Rule


Our pluralist culture likes to affirm that all faiths are more or less the same, and often points to the Golden Rule as a universal ethic taught by all religions. Such messages are partly correct. The Golden Rule taught by Jesus is a call to actively seek what is good for others. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). The parallel teachings in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are passive by comparison saying we should do no harm to others but do not call for anything more. For example, Udanavarga 5:18 (cited by both Hindus and Buddhists) says, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” This Silver Rule of “do not” falls a step short of Jesus’ Golden Rule to “do.”

But even the Golden Rule is not where Christians are to set their goal. On a number of occasions Jesus called his disciples to an even higher command—what we might call the Platinum Rule. For example, Jesus told them to love one another “as I have loved you.” Here the standard is not human kindness but divine love. Likewise, Jesus commanded them to “love your enemies” because God also loves his enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). If left to the Golden Rule alone I might conclude that ignoring or avoiding my enemies is sufficient, but the Platinum Rule requires me to actively love them.

This three-tiered understanding (Silver = Do No Harm, Gold = Love Like Self, Platinum = Love Like God) helps us see what is so shocking about Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant. When the servant refused to forgive his fellow servant’s debt, one might say he was following the Silver Rule. He was not harming the man, but simply allowing him to face the natural consequences of his failure to pay. Obeying the Golden Rule would have meant showing leniency and giving the man more time to repay his debt. This, after all, is what the first servant had asked for himself when he could not repay his debt to the king. The point of Jesus’ parable, however, was that the servant had failed to follow the Platinum Rule; he did not forgive his fellow servant’s debt in the same manner the king had forgiven his.

This is what separates the message of Christ from all others. He calls us to more than not inflicting harm, and more than loving our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love others with the same love that our heavenly Father has lavished upon us—a love that is infinite in depth and unyielding in mercy.

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Matthew 18:23-35

1 John 4:7-12

Luke 6:27-36

‐ from Charles Vaughan (1816 - 1897)

O Lord God, our Father most loving, we would not, even if we could, conceal anything from you, but rejoice rather that you know us as we are and see every desire and every motive of our hearts. Help us, Lord, to strip off every mask and veil when we come into your presence, and to spread before you every thought and every secret of our being, that they may be forgiven, purified, amended, and blessed by you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.