Someday historians will go back through history and attempt to track the Golden Rule and all its effect on history. Impossible. It will be impossible to show how those best-known words of Jesus changed the way people thought and acted. Some were even unaware of that influence. But that idea was forever in their subconscious minds.
Some snippets of recorded history remind us of that power. Historian A. Rendle Short reminds us that the first asylum for the blind was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk. The first free dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant. The first hospital was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady. Christianity radically transformed life for the aged. The story of the Golden Rule never ends, although most times it is never given credit.
Chris Hodges, head of the Church of the Highlands, announced that his research showed more people becoming Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 200 years! The yeast is working in the globe!
The great historian, Paul Johnson, thought in terms of human freedoms, so when I think about freedom, I first think of slavery. Some people think slavery is 200 years old, involving white and black people. Truth is, slavery was a part of the most ancient civilizations. There wouldn’t have been any great civilizations without slavery. When they had wars, they didn’t kill the losers, they made slaves of them, and those slaves built their great empires. So it went on for thousands and thousands of years. Slavery was absolutely woven into the essential fabric of human life. It was thought to be an unchangeable fact and that nothing was more essential to civilization (and no practice more horrible).
I started doing some research on it in encyclopedias and historical philosophers’ writings. I went back looking for the word “conscience.” Almost nothing was to be found. The word was not there. Nobody talked about it, and for sure, nobody talked about freedom for slaves. It would then have been like saying today, “We have got to stop eating eggs.” Today, we would say, “What? People have been eating eggs since the beginning of the world.” That is the way people responded when they first heard of freedom for slaves and the Golden Rule. Accepting slavery was just the way people lived. No one thought anyone could ever change slavery, and the truth is, it didn’t get changed for many, many years.
This may be a good place to draw an important distinction between the “lips-of-Jesus” Christianity and what I call “historical Christendom,” with a record that deviates from the pure and sweet teachings from the lips of Jesus Christ. The great William James put this in a nutshell when he said:
I myself believe that the evidence for God lies primarily in inner personal experiences.