A lot of people think the “golden rule” should be the way we live, whether we are secular, religious, spiritual, or something else. Everyone knows what the golden rule is. You’re supposed to only do to other people what you would want them to do to you. But what happens when there’s a conflict of interests?
There are the extreme examples of people who we would categorize as sociopaths, where they desire pain and misery on themselves (for one reason or another) and therefore will desire to inflict these things on others. If you take the golden rule to be axiomatic, and all by itself, then you really can’t refute the reasoning of these people.
Thankfully, the golden rule as Jesus presents it (who was the first to put it in a positive, instead of negative way), it’s not thrown out by itself, and is rather connected to His other teachings. In Matthew 7:12, we read “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This isn’t the only time that Jesus mentions something that sums up the Law and the Prophets (a common way to refer to the Old Testament), and similarly to His usage of the phrase in Matthew 22:40, His using it here is not an accident.
However you interpret doing unto others what you want them to do to you, it must be in sync with everything in the Old Testament. This is helpful when the examples aren’t as extreme as the ones listed above too. For example, I want people to try my ideas by fire. I want iron to sharpen iron, and I enjoy debate and discussing things in heated ways. However, most people don’t usually want something that intense (something I keep forgetting). So what I have to keep in mind is that while those things aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, there are deeper truths those point to, and ultimately this is usually not how people in either the Old or New testaments deal with things.
I’ve been reading a book about communication, and one of the things the author talks about is how certain Biblical authors, Paul in particular, would frequently write to churches and take a great deal of time talking about his joy in what the believers there had been doing correctly, and then moved on to some correction. I think this has huge apologetic ramifications. In most situations I just jump right into correction, without realizing that most of the time, people won’t respond well to that. As apologists, dealing with Christians in particular, what would be the better path is to point them to the truths that you both hold in common, or things they understand well, and then move on from there. I’m still learning a lot in this regard, and this is a bird’s eye view of my thoughts recently, but I would just ask that you keep this in mind in your interactions with people. Also, pray for me that I make progress in this area too. I would seriously recommend the book mentioned above. It’s been super convicting to me, and I’ve only started.
My prayer is that I/we live thoroughly Biblical lives, and that includes everything in the Bible, not just bits and pieces in isolation.