Bishop Huovinen’s sermon. Lutheran – Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, Morning Eucharist, Breklum, Germany, 20th July, 2009
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
In the beginning of June Barack Obama visited Cairo. In the end of his historical speech he quoted the words which we just heard in the Gospel of Luke.
Obama said: “It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”
And the President continued: “This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new: that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.”
After mentioning some short and common writings from Koran, Talmud and the Holy Bible Obama concluded his speech: “The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.”
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Obama speaks about the peace in our world, he speaks about our work on earth, about the human efforts and necessary achievements. In the midst of the political, financial and cultural tensions we all can agree with Obama. The peace on the earth is really the vision of God. The work which is in the hearts of billions around the world, is also the vision of God.
The peace, which is based on the ethical pathos of the Golden Rule, is both God’s vision and our Must. Our only possibility to survive in the world of today is to follow the rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you..” That is what we as human beings have to do.
But is that the only vision of God?
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In his sermon on First Sunday in Advent 1521 Martin Luther says that the Golden Rule tells what we have to do to people. The content of the Rule is to do good to human beings. “Do you not hear? To men you should do everything that you would they should do to you.” The work we do, should be done “to human beings, to human beings, to human beings” – Luther emphasize three times.
It is God’s vision that we should do good for the others, for all people. Luther explains: “A man is to live, speak, act, hear, suffer and die for the good of his wife and child, the wife for the husband, the children for the parents, the government for its subjects, the subjects for the government, each one for his fellow man, even for his enemies, so that one is the other’s hand, mouth, eye, foot, even heart and mind. This is truly Christian and good work, which can and shall be done at all times, in all places, toward all people.”
So far Luther and Obama agree – and that’s enough for solving the political, financial and cultural problems of our world, even today.
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For Luther the Golden Rule is not only an ethical challenge. For the human beings we have to do good, but for the God we cannot do anything good.
Luther says: “”Keep in mind, that you need not to do any works for God nor for the departed saints, but you ask and receive good from him in faith. Christ has done and accomplished everything for your, atoned for your sins, secured grace and life and salvation. Be content with this, only think how he can become more and more your own and strengthen your faith.”
The reason why we do not need to do any works for God is that Christ himself has followed the Golden Rule in his own person. For Luther the Golden Rule was not only an ethical rule and law, it was and is the Rule, which tells how Christ is behaving toward us human beings.
Luther says in his sermon: “See then how Christ keeps the law: ‘Whatsoever you would that men should do unto you, even so do you unto them.’ Is it not true, everyone heartily wishes that another might step between man and his sin, take upon himself and blot it out, so that it would no more sting his conscience, and deliver him from death and hell? What does everyone desire more deeply than to be free from death and hell? Who would not be free from sin and have a good, joyful conscience before?”
Christ has heard the desires and wishes of people and acted according to the Golden Rule. Luther says: “And if Christ himself, like we, were surrounded by death, sin and hell, he would wish that some one could help him out of it, take his sin away and give him a good conscience. Since he would have others do this for him, he proceeds and does it for others, as the law says, he takes upon himself our sins, goes into death and overcomes for us sin, death and hell so that henceforth all who believe in him, and call upon his name, shall be iustified and saved, be above sin and death, have a good, joyful, secure and intrepid conscience forever.”
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The Golden Rule is not only an ethical rule, but also a rule of salvation, a divine rule, God’s vision for all humankind, his vision for our earth, for our life today and forever.