A March Note from Pastor Rich

The Golden Rule 

John Mordecai Gottman (born April 26, 1942) is a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Washington and is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations, many of which were published in peer-reviewed literature. The lessons derived from this work represent a partial basis for the relationship counseling movement that aims to improve relationship functioning and the avoidance of those behaviors shown by Gottman and other researchers to harm human relationships. With his wife Julie Schwartz, Gottman heads a non-profit research institute (The Relationship Research Institute) and a for-profit therapist training entity (The Gottman Institute).

Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. Gottman's research showed that “it wasn't only how couples fought that mattered, but how they made up. Marriages became stable over time if couples learned to reconcile successfully after a fight." He studied thousands of couples over decades and concluded that couples that consistently practice the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) are more likely to stay together than couples who don’t. You remember the Golden Rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Gottman’s research shows that compatibility doesn’t necessarily determine whether a couple will stay together. More importantly, a couple must avoid what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. He goes a step further and states that “it all comes down to a simple mathematical formula. No matter what style your marriage follows, you must have at least five times as many positive as negative moments if your marriage is going to be stable.” Gottman asserts, “When marriage loses that 5 to 1 ratio, negativity builds with increasingly damaging results.”

It is interesting to me that a mostly secular marriage counselor would land on the Golden Rule as a basis for having a good marriage. The verse is given this title (Golden Rule) because of its great value and allow me to remind you that Jesus gave this instruction to His disciples, not in the context of marriage, although it is applicable. All that you expect or desire of others as it relates to you, do to them. In other words, we should not act out of selfishness or injustice, but put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and ask, “how would I want him to treat me at this time and how would I feel if he said that to me.” This attitude makes a person impartial and just, and removes the whole concept of rights and expectations. If we all acted in accordance with Matthew 7:12, it would remove all envy, treachery, unkindness, insult, theft, infidelity and adultery, filthy language, and even murder. The application of this principle would prevent all irregularity of movement in the moral world, where there seems to be few moral standards.

Jesus adds, “...for this is the Law and the Prophets.” He means that this “Golden Rule” is the sum and substance of all Old Testament teaching. It is nowhere found in so many words in the Old Testament, although it may be a reference to Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” However, it is a summary expression of all that the law required. The statement was in use among the Jews. For example, Hillel, (Born around 110 B.C. and died in Jerusalem in 10 A.D.) an ancient Rabbi, said to a man who wished to become a proselyte, and who asked him to teach him the whole law, “Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to another.” He went on to say, “That is the whole Tora, the rest is explanation. Go and learn.” Also, something very similar to the Golden Rule and its sentiment was found among the ancient Greeks and Romans.

So, why do I say all of this to you? It is in hopes that we, as a church and a community, can come under the same Golden Rule. So that when a new Pastor comes, and God already knows who and where he is, he will find people who are humble and willing to sacrifice for every other person in the body. He would find people who would become the servant of others. He would find us, each of us, willing to get on our knees and wash the feet of others as Jesus did with His disciples. We will never go wrong when we are practicing this unique Biblical principle. Of course, it goes against all that the world stands for, but it is God’s will for you and me.

John Flavel (1627–1691), an English Presbyterian, puritan, and author, said, "They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud." Perhaps that says it all and may we all be faithful to the Words of Jesus, the Golden Rule.

Serving Christ Together,
Pastor Rich