Not Everything that Sounds Good, Loving, and Biblical Is



The article referenced below on “The Platinum Rule” is interesting, but I don’t find it particularly helpful in light of the current situation within many contexts-  churches, workplaces, and communities.   For merely superficial, casual associations or when traveling among diverse cultures, it seems fine.  For a church, it seems, saccharine sweet and unhealthy.

It does not ring with the strength of truth.  It is not biblical, but it is typical of our culture’s distortions of God’s Word.

This is an interesting perspective on rules for human relationships.  This platitude states that when the basic assumptions and expectations between members of different groups or even between individuals  …..any individuals……are different from one another as they are in diverse populations, the greater need is to respect that group’s or person’s desires for how they wish to be treated. OK. So, if they wish to isolate themselves or others, avoid cooperative interaction, disregard generally accepted rules for civil and peaceful co-existence, violate majority-agreed-upon rules, and do not embrace a common goal of mutual respect, respect that and let them.  The Platinum Rule may be well and good across cultures that are geographically separated where there is only intermittent interaction.  As the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  But when they are all interspersed… as in a church ….or in a neighborhood…or in a community….and especially if they are claiming common life in Christ…..this shouldn’t be that difficult a task.  Now, if they are not claiming common life in Christ… can happen in the workplace or in many communities today (and apparently even in some churches) achieving such sustained, continual mutual respect for the sake of diversity can be a challenge.   The larger a group becomes, the more welcoming it is to diversity, the greater the risk of developing pockets or sub-groups that refuse to share common beliefs and practices and begin to break apart the life in common.   

The biblical Golden Rule does appear to select somewhat for those who have some established core priorities in common….”As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”  Respect one another.  Seek understanding.  As much as it is in your power to do so, live at peace with one another.   But God also says that those who will not live within the bounds of established rules are to be put out of the group in order that they do not corrupt the whole group.      

When members of a group have the autonomy to choose core priorities that differ significantly from that of the larger group, it seems they are no longer a part of the group but are a separate group.  Viva ‘la difference.  Respect their right to disassociate. 

“The freedom of association simply means that a person has the right to associate, not with whomever he chooses, but with whoever is willing to associate with him. Inherent in the right to associate is the right not to associate. Any person has the right not to associate with whomever he chooses.

In a free society, any person or group of persons has the right to associate with any other person or group of persons willing to associate with him or it on the basis of any standard and for any reason. And likewise, any person or group of persons has the right not to associate with any other person or group of persons on the basis of any standard and for any reason.

It doesn’t matter whether a government bureaucrat or a person who was refused association believes that the actions of the refusing person or group are illogical, unreasonable, irrational, hateful, discriminatory, bigoted, or racist. What matters is freedom.

The freedom of association is just as important as any of the “First Amendment freedoms.” Neither government nor society has the authority to force a person or group to associate with another person or group that they don’t want to associate with. In a free society, it can’t be any other way.”

The Bible says if a foreigner chooses to live in your midst and is obedient to the law, he is to be accepted as one of your own.  We see that in scripture with Rahab’s family, Ruth, and others.  There is no discrimination.  There are, however, still conditions that apply to all for the good of all. 

The quote above on freedom of association is from:

Christ’s instruction to his disciples was this:  “Give them the truth of the Gospel.  If they reject it, brush the dust from your feet and move on.”     Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5, Luke 10:11

Even though Christ’s message and role as the Messiah was first and foremost brought to the Jews, they rejected it.  The Gentiles were given the same opportunity and embraced it.  In fact, it was in part Christ’s clear statement of the non-discriminatory, non-exclusive message of the love of God that so offended the Jews and resulted in their rejection of him. It was their prejudice, bigotry, and superiority in considering themselves the only people of God that blinded them to the magnitude of God’s grace and love for all people.  And as those Jews who did believe in Jesus discovered, too, they could not impose their own view of who was “acceptable” and demand that their own view of conditions for acceptance by God be imposed, like circumcision or honoring dietary laws or worshipping in only one approved place.  Those conditions had to be dropped. God’s love would be poured out on all.  In return God’s call to obedience was to be honored by all.  God’s promises and blessings do entail an element of certain conditions in order to be fully realized.  When one does not accept the conditions, one does not experience the fullness of the promises.

With regard to treating people as they want to be treated, I have considered this concept in the context of love and our study of Love Languages and the concept of loving people as they desire to be loved.  For years in my own life, “love” was defined as making me feel cherished, valued, and affirmed.  As a result, I often felt disappointed in not feeling well loved.   It wasn’t until I nearly lost someone whom I loved dearly but who I believed had failed to love me as I wanted to be loved, leaving me feeling resentful, unvalued, and abandoned, that my view of love was challenged.  In that moment God clearly spoke to my heart and revealed to me this truth:   “Love is not affirmation. Love is sacrifice.”  That revelation rocked my world.  I suddenly realized the love this person had had for me.  He loved in the way he had been loved and in the way he best knew how to love.  And it was love in its best expression…..through sacrifice.   While he did not make me feel like the cherished, special princess I would have wanted to be, he taught me the things that were important to him……and they became important to me.  He set an example of sacrificial love that served his family well.  It changed my entire view of love and helped me recognize it, appreciate it, and extend it more generously to others.  It also helped me see how perverted the view of love is for many people who want it simply to be about how others’ actions or words make them feel accepted, embraced, secure, and affirmed.   That is not love.  It is a desire to be worshiped.  It is pride.  It is ego.  

Treating others as they want to be treated can be enabling.  It can be divisive.  It can be harmful.  It can even be unloving.   If one is a superficial, entitled, demanding person who wants her needs met and desires fulfilled,  who insists that others treat her as she wants to be treated, then she may choose to be superficial and treat others who have the same demand for self-fulfilled desires that way, as well.  It is self-centered, self-interest based ethic with which I am confronted daily as I work with people who have lived on the “street” in a “you protect me and I’ll protect you” kind of mutual, people-using survival ethic.  Respect is not the foundation.  Selfishness is.  It can erode quickly as loyalties change when someone (or some philosophy or some value system) that can do more for you comes along.  It fosters a  consumerist, entitlement, me-me-me kind of culture.  That’s just the way human nature is…..until it is transformed into a truly God-and-other centered nature through the work of the Holy Spirit.   Even the Golden Rule, strictly speaking, is of no value for someone who is set on using others to get what they want by treating others well in order to get their own way.  The Golden Rule of human interaction, like the human conscience itself, is only a worthy standard if it is guided by Holy Spirit-directed thoughts and actions.  

Teaching one another how to love as God loves, how God desires us to love and treat one another, and embracing God’s way of loving and treating us is a far better standard, it seems to me. That, it seems to me, is the message of Jesus  Christ’s example to us.  



For Multicultural Churches — A Variation on the Golden Rule   By Douglas J. Brouwer on November 8, 2017

Leading Ideas from the Lewis Center for Leadership Studies 

Douglas Brouwer, author of How to Become a Multicultural Church, says in diverse settings it’s not enough to treat people the way you would like to be treated. It’s important to learn how they want to be treated.

Doesn’t it make sense to treat others as you would like to be treated? It sounds right, and of course, it’s biblical. But does it tell us enough about how to respond to cultural diversity within congregations? I believe the answer is no.

What does respect look like?

Let me ask you something I had not thought to ask myself before serving a multicultural congregation. What does respect look like? I want to be treated with respect, of course, and I imagine that everyone else does as well, but I now see that respect has different meanings, sometimes vastly different meanings, in different cultures. Having respect for someone might mean saying hello in the morning, or it might mean leaving that someone alone, depending on the culture. Having respect might mean making eye contact, or it might mean refraining from eye contact, once again depending on the culture. Having respect might mean being direct and blunt whenever a question is asked, or it might mean an overabundance of politeness. Again, it depends on the culture.

One variation on the Golden Rule is sometimes referred to as the Platinum Rule: “Treat others as they want to be treated.” In a multicultural situation, I think this is the rule we need to embrace.

The Platinum Rule

One variation on the Golden Rule is sometimes referred to as the Platinum Rule: “Treat others as they want to be treated.” In a multicultural situation, I think this is the rule we need to embrace.

It is difficult and sometimes painstaking work, however, to figure out how others want to be treated. And knowing exactly how another human being would like to be treated in every situation might well be impossible (as any married person will acknowledge). But making the effort to understand how another wants to be treated will at least change the frame of reference from “how I want to be treated is probably how all other people want to be treated” or “how a person from one culture wants to be treated is more than likely how a person from another culture wants to be treated.”

Key Questions for Leaders in Diverse Settings

I had no idea until recently that major corporations and larger businesses have begun to devote a great deal of time to this issue — often under the not very pastoral sounding term “diversity management.” The idea, greatly oversimplified, is that a leader needs to understand the people she is leading in order to have the most effective relationships.

Here are some questions that business leaders in multicultural settings are having to ask themselves, and these questions are useful for pastors and church leaders in multicultural churches as well:

Do you test your assumptions before acting on them? Believe there is only one right way of doing things, or that there might be a number of valid ways to accomplish the same goal?

Do you have honest relationships with each staff member you supervise? Are you comfortable with each of them? Do you know what motivates them, what their goals are, how they like to be recognized?

Are you able to give negative feedback to someone who is culturally different from you?

Do you rigorously examine your team’s (or church’s) existing polices, practices, and procedures to ensure that they do not differently impact different groups? When they do, do you change them?

Do you take immediate action with people you supervise when they behave in ways that show disrespect for others in the workplace, such as inappropriate jokes and offensive terms?

It occurred to me when I came across this list that expectations in the church should be at least as rigorous as they are in the workplace. One of my colleagues called to be pastor of a multi-cultural church found himself attending a class about cultural assumptions and stereotyping before he had unpacked a single box of books. I think back to the churches I have served over the years and wonder how much easier my transitions would have been if I had had a similar class or seminar.