Recently, a political candidate explained his spirituality with, “Every great religion in the world – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism – essentially comes down to: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” His point was that “we are all in this together.”

I appreciate the effort to unify people. Americans could use some common ground these days.  He chose Jesus’ statement (the “Golden Rule”) as a unifying principle, but unity was not Jesus’ purpose (Luke 12:51).  Over-simplification obscures truth.

One’s worldview addresses the ultimate questions of our existence. Ravi Zacharias summarizes these as origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.  Chuck Colson’s questions are, where did we come from, what is wrong with the world, what can be done to fix it, and how now shall we live?  In Christianity, the answers are explained by Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Ethics.

The politician addressed only Ethics which sufficed for political purposes, but it is quite incomplete to say that Christianity “comes down to” an ethical statement. It is a common error to presume that Jesus was just an ethical teacher, although that was certainly part of His earthly mission.

Jesus’ most expansive ethical teaching is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7), which contains the Golden Rule, the Beatitudes, and the Lord’s Prayer. He says to turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and give to the poor.  He teaches that you cannot serve God and money, and should not worry.  As difficult as some of these are, he summarizes with this: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48).  He raised the ethical bar to an impossible standard.

Why did he do that? Jesus did not want us to mistake ethical living as a path to God.  Jesus’ ethic is certainly to strive for, but our imperfections are what is wrong with the world.  His fix was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (5:17) on our behalf through his atoning sacrifice on the cross, and to offer us righteousness by faith.  The gift of his Spirit empowers us to live His ethics.

So, what does Christianity “come down to”? In a name, “Jesus.”  He is the only path to the Father (Jn. 15:6).  He said, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Mat. 10:38).  He once posed the question that still calls for an answer, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mat. 16:15).