The idea of the Golden Rule is mostly well understood as it relates to ethical behavior or conduct. Even a search of the world wide web of misinformation yields fairly a consistent view of the definition.
For example, Dictionary.com lists “golden rule” as a noun meaning “a rule of ethical conduct, usually phrased ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’” Many believe that while the basic concept was proverbial in several cultures, it was most memorably articulated by Jesus toward the close of what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).
I remember during a period in my misspent youth the rule was twisted into “do unto others before they do it unto you.” But that misses the point and obviously falls short of encouraging harmony in human relationships.
I would like to pose the question: Does the Golden Rule apply to marital relationships? Should husbands and wives rely on the simple standard of “you be nice to me and I will be nice to you”? One may be tempted to immediately respond “Of course,” but I would suggest at least from a biblical perspective the answer is “No,” the rule of conduct between husband and wife is much more specific and a bit more complicated.
You will note I alluded to a biblical perspective, which means in spite of culturally-driven confusion as it relates to gender identity, the Bible is specific as it related to His creation. “He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man’” (Genesis 5:2 NIV).
Men and women were created to be different. We have historically simplified the concept by using the labels pink and blue. While those labels are well accepted, the differences go far beyond a simple color coding. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs authored perhaps one of the best books on marital relationship titled “Love and Respect,” and while I don’t have space for a review of the book, I have often recommended it.
He discusses, among other things, that men and women hear and process some information differently. Unfortunately, without an understanding of those processes, couples often find themselves creating relational chaos. What I find interesting is that long before science discovered those differences, the solution to marital discord was already being taught.
Paul, the great church planter and disciple out of season, was giving instruction to the new believers in the city of Ephesus. He understood the importance of family in culture-building long before it became a marketing concept or a political strategy. “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33 NIV).
Earlier in the same letter, Paul advises husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church,” in other words, sacrificially and unselfishly. The most frequent objection is “how can I respect him if he is acting like a jerk” and the response is, if he is actually loving as Paul prescribed, he won’t be a jerk.
Upton is chaplain of Rocky Mountain Hospice and the Tooele City Police Department.