The U.S. military at West Point faced a problem in the 1980s. Although unforeseen events occur in most wars, in the world of the 1980s, it was even more so. The West Point people have a saying: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” So they devised an interesting concept called “The Commander’s Intent.” Every officer in a battle would have his specific instructions for his limited part. But at the top of his page of plans, The Commander’s Intent was set forth.
So now, even if everything developed differently than expected in a certain action, the officer knew the overall objective. With that in mind, he could take alternative actions to help the effort succeed. When soldiers knew the desired destination, they were free to improvise ways to reach that destination.
Chip and Don Heath, the authors of the book, Made to Stick, add: “No sales program survives contact with all customers; no plan survives contact with all teenagers.” A ready-made Biblical solution for every conceivable problem is out of the question. But we don’t need multiple north stars. Only one is needed to guide us—the Golden Rule. Applying it is up to us because now we know it is our Commander’s Intent.
The Golden Rule is not spiritual pablum or just a nice “thought for the day.” Jesus vested us with a Spirit-led conscience. He commands us “use it!” Nor is it just an incidental principle. Rather, it is at the very center of Christianity.
Certainly, your experiences in life might cause you to apply the Golden Rule in a different manner than I would. Jesus knew that. God is the one who made each human unique. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The Commander’s Intent—simple, but not easy. No leader ever commanded more. We can do it with God’s help—every day—guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ. He gave us many examples and illustrations to show us how to live the Golden Rule.
Let us now turn to Jesus’s other teachings to learn more about how the Golden Rule works. Of course, He used first-century examples, but the principles remain the same. We should have no problem applying them to our lives today. The following discussion is not intended to be a commentary on the verses. I simply want to select a few passages that show how the Golden Rule undergirds the teachings of Jesus.