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Beyond the Golden Rule

An assembly for Valentine’s Day

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to consider what it means to love in the real world.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.

  • You will also need Jesus’ exposition of the greatest commandment, which is in Mark 12.30-31, available at:


Leader: Its not easy living in a complicated world.

Reader 1: There are so many choices placed in front of me. Which should I take?

Reader 2: When I choose one person, it can feel like Im rejecting others.

Reader 1: Sometimes, I cant help being horrid even when I know its hurting someone.

Reader 2: Doing good is all very well, but it often costs a lot for me.

Reader 1: Sometimes, every choice seems to have a bad result.

Reader 2: Life can feel like a series of dilemmas that I cant escape.

Leader: It would be so much easier for us to go through our daily lives if there was a simple rule for us to obey. Not so that we became robots, unable to come to our own decisions, but some principle that we could apply to each situation that we encounter.

In fact, such a principle does exist. Its known as the Golden Rule and goes like this.

Readers 1 and 2 in unison: Do unto others as youd have them do to you.

Leader: Problem solved! Wed all like everyone to act kindly and supportively towards us, so thats the way we should act towards them. Simples (as they say on the advert)!

Pause to allow time for thought.

However, lifes not as straightforward as that. Its fine when were in a good mood, on top, when the suns shining and its a wonderful day. But when were down, brooding on rumours that might be circulating about us, hurting because of the rejection that we feel, the temptation is to act towards others exactly as they are acting towards us, and not in a good way. ‘An eye for an eye,’; ‘Do unto others as they are doing to you.’

Living by the Golden Rule is often very difficult and can feel like it costs far too much.

Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest rule for living might be. He replied by saying, ‘First of all, you shall love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Second, you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself.’

There are two important differences between Jesus words and the Golden Rule. On the one hand, he says that there is no choice other than to love. Today is Valentines Day (adapt if the assembly is used on a different day) and we have one kind of love on our minds: romantic love. Its to do with who fancies who. Yet there are many other kinds of love. The ancient Greeks identified six types of love ranging from family love and self-love to love of country. Jesus says that we are to show love in all its variety in our words and in our actions. Theres no place for hatred, anger, spitefulness or revenge. Love is above all.

‘Thats all very well, you might be tempted to reply. The problem is that its not easy to love someone whos just deliberately hurt you. Its not easy to love someone who rejects all our peaceful intentions. In fact, some people we know may seem completely unlovable. Thats why Jesus preceded his command to love others by saying that first, we should love God with our entire being: heart, soul and mind. Thats what makes this different to the Golden Rule. Jesus suggests that we start by looking to someone beyond ourselves for a love that can permeate the whole of our person. Thats what he means by heart, soul and mind. Then, when we have been inspired by the love of God, we are ready to respond to those who surround us and to live in an authentic, loving manner.

Jesus is talking from a Christian perspective. We may follow a different set of beliefs, but the basic principle still remains: look beyond ourselves for the inspiration to love. We may look to the founders of our faith, to present-day leaders and to saints and teachers who set the example. Maybe we can be inspired by those who have loved us, despite our faults and failings. When we feel loved ourselves, we can spread a little of that love around.

Time for reflection

Leader: Valentines Day. I wonder how many of us are feeling loved. Maybe we’ve received cards, texts or even flowers or chocolates. On the other hand, many of us may be feeling sad because this is not true for us. However, all of us have the chance to spread love today. What would happen if we tried to spread that love all around, not just to those who are easy to love?

Pause to allow time for thought.

What if we sought to spread love to those who annoy us, those who hurt us yesterday and even to those who appear to hate us?

Pause to allow time for thought.

How can we spread a little love to those who are feeling disappointed, rejected or depressed?

Pause to allow time for thought.

When people feel the impact of love, hopefully, they will then spread it to others. Today, lets be a Valentines community, spreading love in all its rich variety to everyone we meet.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the love that inspires us.
Remind us of those who have shared their love with us.
Help us to pass it on and to help change the lives of those around us.

Publication date: February 2019   (Vol.21 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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