The Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have done to you, is practically universal among all religions. This is also true of the New Church, but with the difference that there are many doctrines concerning love and charity on how to apply it. The main mistake people make is when they try to apply it, they apply it equally to everybody, and they quickly find out it cannot be applied in this way. For the doctrine of the New Church states that love must be guided by truth and discernment. In fact, all doctrines of the New Church concern the marriage or conjunction between love and truth. Love with truth becomes adulterated, and truth without love quickly dies out.
The New Church is different from the older Christian churches, in that the older Christian churches tend to be focused on belief or faith alone. This leads to narrow minded and dogmatic tendencies, and religions that emphasize belief or faith alone will tend to condemn anyone who does not believe as they do or follow their organization. In the New Church, love is primary in end or purpose. However in order to reach a state of love, one must first follow the truth. The truths of faith that one learns is first in time, but they are not first in one's goal. Many get stuck in faith as the primary goal, and do not proceed to living a life of love, of service to others, of usefulness. For when love and truth become conjoined, one becomes useful to oneself, to others, and to the society.
In the end God cares about love, how we live our life, for God is Love itself. Moreover, faith without love is not faith:
"They who have separated faith from love do not even know what faith is; some in their notion of faith know it as a mere thought; some as thought concerning the Lord, a few as the doctrine of faith. But faith is not merely the knowledge and acknowledgment of all things that the doctrine of faith embraces; but is chiefly obedience to all that it teaches. The first thing that it teaches, to which men ought to yield obedience, is love to the Lord and love to the neighbor. Whoever is not in this love is not in faith, as the Lord so clearly teaches in Mark that it cannot be doubted: The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord. Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment, and the second, like unto it, is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (xii. 29-31). In Matthew. He calls it The first and great commandment, and says that On these commandments hang the Law and the Prophets (xxii. 35-40). The Law and the Prophets are the whole doctrine of faith, and all the Word." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 36)
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
In the New Church, emphasis is placed on the gospels of Jesus, which emphasize love and service, over the writings of the apostle Paul, which emphasizes faith. So let's take a look at the greatest commandment, and see how the New Church doctrines bring further light to it:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:36-40)
Notice, Jesus states that on just these two commandments hang "all the law and the prophets." In the literal sense, the law is the Torah, or the first 5 books of Moses, and the prophets are all the books after that. Anyone who reads the Bible knows it contains some very odd stories, genealogies, and other seemingly irrelevant data. But in the revelations received in the New Church in the 18th century, it is shown how each and every word of scripture is Divinely inspired, which is especially spelled out in a massive work known as "Heavenly Arcana" or "Arcana Coelestia" or "Heavenly Secrets" depending on the publication. Through symbolic correspondence, every word becomes abstracted from space and time, and concern the universal principles of love and truth. No one has ever been able to demonstrate how truthful Jesus words were when He explained the Golden Rule, or the greatest commandments.
Contained in the spiritual sense of Jesus' discourse on the greatest commandment, there are three levels of spiritual development, which are actually also revealed in the three main Jewish festivals (see The Three Steps of Spiritual Development);
1. Knowledge of good (the "Law" containing commandments) and knowledge of truth (the "Prophets")Note here, that the spiritual steps of development are in reverse order in time from the order of priority.
2. Living by the truth, in loving others
3. Acting out of love, seeing God in the love in other people.
In the spiritual sense the Law and the Prophets refers to knowledge of good and truth, which in the material world we receive from the Bible. But in the most universal sense, it simply refers to knowledge of good and truth. Good itself, is the more internal form of the Truth which represents it. Thus instead of "law and prophets" scripture sometimes phrases this as "Moses and the prophets." Moses represents the most internal revelation, that concerning love, which is hidden at first to many who are at a lower level of understanding. Thus Moses could not speak well, and Aaron represents Moses. Moses alone could ascend the mountain, representing love, which is hidden in obscurity to those at a lower level of understanding, represented by the clouds that surrounded the mountain. When Moses descended from the mountain, the people could not look directly at his shining face, so he covered it with a veil. This represents how internal spiritual truths are hidden in the literal sense of the Bible.
So, when one enters the first state, of learning knowledge of good and truth, this is a state of servitude and obedience. One is in the truth, but one's life may be one of sin and evil. In this state, a conflict arises within oneself: if one has a desire to follow the truth, it will come into conflict with one's desire for sin or evil. Then one can enter into a period of temptation, internal conflict, sadness and depression. This internal conflict, in reality, is a conflict that plays out between good and evil spirits associated with one's spiritual soul, who influence everything that you do or think. But it is the Truth which cleanses, if one follows Truth, from the Truth one can achieve salvation. In the literal sense, Truth is symbolized by blood. This is the spiritual meaning of the blood of Jesus, but few Christians know this. Thus Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." And "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." And, "Sanctify [cleanse] them through Your Truth, Your Word is Truth." Temptation is overcome in repentance, but one must be in conjunction with Divine Truth and ask for Divine aid when one does this, for one must acknowledge that sin and evil originate from one's selfish ego.
The second stage is one who loves and desires the truth, and enjoys doing it. This becomes a life of service and use to others, to one's neighbor. But it is not indiscriminate love. Love guided by truth, loves each person according to need and use. You can't give a hug to someone who is about to hit you. You can't talk nicely to someone who is stealing or gossiping about others. You can't agree with someone engaged in jealousy. Love must be according to use, according to what is good and true. This is known as the principle of DISCRIMINATE CHARITY:
"It is a common opinion at this day that every one is a neighbor in the same degree, and that good must be done to every one in need. But it is the part of Christian prudence to explore well the quality of a man's life, and to exercise charity accordingly. The man of the internal church does this with discrimination, thus with intelligence; but the man of the external church, since he cannot exercise such discernment, does it without discrimination." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6704)This is the principle that most people miss. I have seen some highly intelligent people reject Christianity just because of this, loving everybody indiscriminately they know is not going to work. In the ancient world, the doctrine of charity was the primary doctrine, but since everyone knew it they didn't write it down:
"The ancients reduced the neighbor to classes, and gave each class the names of those who appear in the world to be especially in need; they taught also how charity was to be exercised to those in one class, and how to those in another; and thus they reduced the doctrine and the life according to it into order. Thus the doctrine of their church contained the laws of life, and from it they saw the quality of every man of the church, whom they called a brother, but with distinction in the internal sense according to his exercise of charity from the genuine doctrine of the church, or from doctrine changed by himself; for every one, because he wishes to appear blameless, defends his own life, and therefore either explains or changes the laws of doctrine in his own favor." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6705)In other words, one has to discriminate among people according to their state, do they need help because they are lacking something, or should they be restrained because they are committing evil? These different states that a person is in, is signified by those who are blind, by the lame, those who are sick, or those who in prison, etc. The blind are those who are in ignorance, and need the light of truth. The lame are those who are lacking in ability to do good. The sick are those suffering from evil they have committed. Those in prison are those who have imprisoned their mind due to a false persuasion. The doctrines of the New Church on these matters, are endless.
At some point, few reach the third stage, which is acting out of love. Instead of loving others, one loves the love within them. In other words, one loves God who is love itself. In this kind of state, one does care about debating or learning the truth any more, but acting out of love. When one acts out love, one gains a secondary perception of truth automatically. It becomes a matter of intuition, or inner knowing. This is what Jesus meant when he said not to take an oath (following the truth), but rather let your yes be yes and your no be no. For in love, the perception of truth is immediate, and comes within. This third and final stage is explained in the following passage:
And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt. 25:33-40)One last point, living the Golden Rule comes from effort, and it is not immediate: one must follow the three steps. Inasmuch as we approach God, God will approach us. Thus it is said, you shall love the Lord your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, and with all your MIND. The heart represents one's will, one's intent, one's desire. The soul here is one's spiritual understanding of the truth. The mind is our lower level mind, which seeks ways on how to apply love and truth in one's life. One's will is not passive, as some religious philosophies teach.
The other secret, as revealed in the New Church, is that love in its external from is represented by the woman, and truth in its external form is represented by the man. The spiritual conjunction of love and truth is the origin of marriage love between a man and woman. In fact, forms of love and truth can be seen and experienced in all levels of reality, and in all walks of life. It is always within you, and becomes your kingdom in heaven in the afterlife.
For those interested, here is a French version of La Vie en Rose, followed by an English version: