When Jesus said this it was clear He wanted us to be primarily compassionate and a bit generous in how we deal with people - especially people who lack fundamental social skills or are just plain mean.
I have been mean to good people and found that their grace towards me really did a better job of searing my conscience than anything else.
I have had people be very mean to me - and most of the time I can say "Aw, that's not the way they normally are. 'This too shall pass.'"
Its when someone is constantly abusive or rankly selfish, say 9 out of 10 times, that you want to stop listening to Jesus. I think that's natural. I think even Christ understands that. He DID warn His disciples time and time again they would be attacked, ridiculed, tried and such. He did tell them when the Gospel is rejected and you the messenger are blown off, to move on.
And I think that is to be an act of love. You see, I heard the Good News about Jesus and how He would take care of my sins - but never that He would take care of me. I had to read that for myself in the Bible. I also remember thinking when I sat in my liberal, lukewarm Presbyterian church as a teen: "Well, if this is TRUE, why aren't we more excited?!"
The deadness of the faith around me astounded me. So, considering myself better than the 'deaders' in my church, moved on - to honest Unitarianism. I had no idea what I believed except that I wasn't so bad as all that.
Guess what? Jesus moved on. He let me do EXACTLY what I wanted.
Long story short: it did not work. Then I sought Him. Well, long story short on that, He Spoke to Me and scared the BOOGERS out of me (Yes, I mean LITERALLY SPOKE. Yes, Virginia, you too can go from being a liberal-minded Presbyterian to being a 'Jesus Is Lord' Pentecostal in 0.35 seconds).
I didn't want to be hassled with religion or someone giving me their cookie-cutter morality of sexuality.
After I had imbibed all the disobedience to God I could take, I went looking for Him.
He was waiting.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
I think Jesus was never forced to obey. I think Jesus had PLENTY of opportunities to do His own thing. He just never did, that's all.
But He obeyed out of love and God would not have wanted Him to do otherwise.
I think Jesus leaves us alone to HELP US find out He was right.
A terrible analogy is coming to be sure, but do you remember how the Russian mobster says in The Dark Knight. "[The Joker] was right. We haf to take care of REEL pro'vlem: Bat-man."
Jesus is right, folks. We have to take care of the real problem: selfishness.
Sins against God are just the symptoms. They are NOT the root problem.
Jesus makes holiness and obedience simple in this one verse: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Yes, I think you will need the power of Christ's resurrection to do that very thing.
Yes, I think you will have to bow before Him to become a new creature with eternal life and a transformed heart, but in any case, Jesus knew we were fairly compassionate to our own selves and fairly non-compassionate to those who hurt or wound us.
By the way, this is a pro-active command. It is usually not seen in that light.
It is not "Don't do to others what you would not want them to do to you!" I think Buddha and Socrates said something similar to THAT in 5th century B.C.
No, that's the Old Testament-thinking folks. Jesus said "DO what you want them to DO unto you." A few other thinkers caught on to this, namely Plato. This could be misconstrued as a form of manipulation and has been used that way by many. "I gave you a piece of my pie; give me some of yours!"
But that's not what Jesus is saying. He's saying "Be generous in all areas. Be cool and giving like you are Bruce Wayne or something. It will DEFINITELY come back around to you. Givers have LOTS of people who want to help them when THEY need it."
I'll tell you, unlearning selfish protectiveness after being slapped and beaten by the world can be hard - but I have learned Jesus is right.
Small anecdote: I was working at Ruby Tuesdays right after becoming a Christian. I was trying very hard to do EXACTLY what Jesus said, and let me tell you, there were times I went into the walk-in freezer to rant and cool off and pray "JESUS, HELP ME!"
One girl made it her GOAL to push my buttons; she stole my tables and customers costing me some very needed income. I got grim, but I trusted the Lord to deal with her. After I left, one year later, she became a Christian. She came up to me to tell me and I praised God with her. I cannot tell you how happy I was.
I did what Jesus said about turning the other cheek and it worked. In fact, by letting her do what she did, I believe she finally saw her need for a Savior. She was wrong by any measure and she knew it.
Another story: one girl, petite and auburn haired, quiet with that Prairie-homesteader gaze, was her friend, though I did not realize it. Once she too did something that got me hot - forgot to do her sidework, something small like that, but it impacts the entire crew - and I wanted to give her a curt command or two. But remembering what Jesus said, and that every decision I made when angry was wrong, I held my peace.
Later, I discovered that I had been mis-scheduled to work a Friday I was to have off. Only ONE person was available to swap with me to fix it.
Yeah. You saw it coming, didn't you? It was her. I asked her to swap and she was kind enough to do it.
I guess what I have learned - and am still learning - is let Jesus process the hearts He wants to grab at the speed He can.
My job - and yours if you call yourself a believer - is to do as much kindness to them as you can. Be generous to the jerks.
And if they are a blatant jerk or really wrong, tell them in the way YOU would like to hear it.
"You might want to re-think that."
"What if I don't, huh?"
You really cannot take offense at that. And later, even if you DO the stupid thing, and suffer consequences, you know that person cared for you. They spoke out of love.
You know those awful commands in the Bible? All those 'Do nots'?
Did you ever think it was a kind God trying to give US the 'heads up'?
Thanks for caring, all my kinder brothers.
And thank You for them, Dad.