““Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” – Matthew 7:12 MSG
Late in the year in 1995 the Smashing Pumpkins released arguably one of the best rock albums of all time, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It was a double album on two compact discs and it was one of those albums that, no matter how many other CDs came and went around it, occupied a permanent spot in my five-disc CD changer for a very long time (RIP compact disc). The first single on that album was “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, and in it the lead singer and lyricist Billy Corgan sings about pain, rage and betrayal. Critics of the album have stated that Corgan tries to compare himself to Jesus Christ throughout the work, but I don’t buy it, any more than I think that John Lennon is comparing himself to an actual walrus. More likely the lyrics on “Bullet” and throughout the album are the attempts of a late-20-something artist to better understand himself and the world around him through his music. It’s a nod at expression that I would give my right arm to have the courage to endeavor.
But I digress. In the first verse of the song Corgan asks, “What do I get for my pain?” His answer, delivered seemingly in the form of another question, is, “betrayed desires and a piece of the game.” It’s a question that hints at the transactional nature of the way we think as human beings, the quid pro quo of our daily lives. “What’s in it for me?” The more sincere among us aren’t so direct about it, but in some way shape or form it’s what we’re often thinking when we’re in the thick of a relationship.
The passage in Matthew 7 takes the transactional nature of our relationships and turns it upside down. It’s not a karmic call from Jesus, to treat others as they have treated you. Nor is it a response to grace, ie: God has treated you well, so you should treat others similarly. Instead, it is a proactive call to do the one thing that as humans we are really good at (thinking about ourselves) and turn that into inspiration for service to others. Yes, it’s the “Golden Rule”, but it’s also the “Jesus call”, and while we can’t live up to his sacrifice, we can do our best to let it inspire us.
As a Smashing Pumpk