In my Lutheran world Sunday is All Saints Day. It is also the day in which we hear Jesus proclaim, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This, of course, is commonly known as the Golden Rule. One of my writing colleagues wrote a book about it. Mike Ellerkamp’s The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered, is the result of his thorough study of major religions and schools of philosophy that promote this principle as being the best way to live together in this global village.
In his studies he discovered that all cultures and religions have some variation of this principle. The book describes his spiritual, philosophical, and historical quest to learn how the Golden rule became the centerpiece of philosophical teaching throughout the world. From his studies he concludes that there is a consistent historical pattern in the human family. When people actually live according to the Golden Rule, humanity moves forward in harmony and peacefulness during a period of light. When people set the principle aside to pursue other ones, humanity enters a period of darkness, chaos and strife.
Ellerkamp writes that his goal for the book is for readers to experience happiness, fulfillment, and prosperity; while creating a healthier environment for themselves and a better future for their children. Noble goals indeed.
Remembering the Saints Before Us
All Saints Day has long been one of my favorite Sundays. We pause together to light candles, ring bells, and in other ways intentionally and collectively remember and honor the men and women who have gone before us. This has been going on for centuries. I always get a sense of deep connectedness with my ancestors as I remember them in this way on this particular Sunday.
Thanks to my now deceased reference-librarian mother, I have names and birth, marriage, and death dates for ancestors dating back to the late 1500s. I’ve stood on the grounds of the church in England where two of my ancestors were married in 1593. I’ve stood in the courtyard of the church in Stuttgart where my grandfather was christened. That church was the first in that region of Germany to turn Protestant when the Reformation swept through Germany in the 1500s.
All this data only takes me back about a quarter of the way to when Jesus originally spoke these words to his followers. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus didn’t intend them for the whole world for generations to come. He was talking to his closest followers – his groupies if you will – who were living in a patronage system under Roman occupation. In Rome society people helped those who could help them in some way. It was very much a quid pro quo sort of society.
The Basic Building Block of A Peaceful Community
Jesus comes along and tells his people, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” As a starting place. Play the game, give as you hope to receive. That’s the basic foundation of a civilized society.
But don’t stop there. What about how we treat those who can’t do anything for us in return? How do we treat those who have nothing left to give? Will we render aid to those who have been victimized by a society that ranks people according to such tangibles as the prestige of the degrees on their office wall or number of zeros in their net worth?
Ellerkamp addresses the lopsided system in which he was raised where one race was considered superior to another. He writes, “I couldn’t comprehend why one set of people would or could believe they were somehow inherently better than another set of people. This philosophy of superiority has never made sense to me. I had just left the military, where death came to every person, no matter his or her race or religion, just as horribly, just as swiftly, and just the same, no matter what his or her differences were.”
Do to others as you would have them do to you. One short sentence that requires a life-time of practice to fully implement. This is the minimum required of us. This is the starting place.
What makes a saint a saint?
What makes a saint a saint? In some traditions there are specific criteria and a long process for someone to earn the right to have the “St.” inserted in front of their name; long after they’ve left this life. I tend to think of saints as those rare people that show up in every generation and every community and take the “Do to others as you would have them do to you” philosophy to extremes. They give up home, safety, and comfort to improve life for others – usually others who cannot possible do likewise for them. Some become household names – Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Ghandi come to mind.
However, I also recognize many of the people in my family DNA chain as saints, though they are unknown beyond the shade of our family tree. My grandmother always found ways to befriend new immigrants and help launch young adults possessing new degrees and precious few dollars.
My mother’s second cousin, known to us as Uncle Bob, enriched people’s lives by taking professional photos of them. When he retired, he filled his studio with beautiful paintings, such as the one in this blog post. I consider Aunt Anna, my grandmother’s sister, a saint for the hours she sat with me as a little girl, coloring with me.
From Generation to Generation
Think of all the saints who’ve carried the ancient wisdom contained in the “Do to others as you would have them do to you” philosophy forward for thousands of years until it has arrived to us. It is the way of life that could resolve many of the problems that plague us today. It could result in a revolution of peace and well-being, if we took it seriously and applied it consistently. We’ve inherited a great treasure from these saints. Now what will we do with it? How will we apply it? How are we teaching it to the next generation so they can pass it on to future generations we won’t live to meet?
Sainthood isn’t reserved for the few who are worthy. It is an invitation extended to all of us to apply this universal truth – things go better when we decide to help one another.
Thank you, Mike Ellerkamp for explaining this so eloquently in your The Simple Little Rule. You can learn more about the story behind the story and order your own copy of the book at https://mikeellerkamp.com.
Thank you for stopping by to read my thoughts. I hope you found them interesting and inspiring. If so, please take another minute to forward this to a friend. If you got this from a friend, you can have your very own free subscription by signing up at up at HowWiseThen. I have a couple of new thank you gifts for you. I’ve put together a calendar of the many special events planned to honor the saints from the seventeenth century who helped launch this nation. I’ve also put together a book-shopping list with a variety of genres for the book lovers in your life.
If you liked this blog you may also enjoy an earlier one I wrote at