This verse seems to be a summary statement of the teaching that Jesus has given in the Sermon on the Mount. Often it is said that preachers should be able to summarise the message of their sermon in a sentence. Whether that is the case or not I cannot say, although it is of interest that Jesus, the master preacher, did so here.
The obvious deduction that can be made from this verse is the importance of relationships. It is important to note the positive element in Jesus’ teaching. He does not say, ‘Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.’ The words of Jesus demand far more. He says, ‘Do unto others what you would like them to do unto you, whether they do so or not.’ We know the best behaviour that other persons should have and we are not to wait until they show it. Instead we are to show them how to do it. Jesus wants his followers to live out the Sermon on the Mount wherever they are and whoever they are with.
The context would indicate that Jesus is speaking to those whom he has addressed on the subject of prayer. He has instructed his disciples to ask, seek and knock in prayer, with the promise that their prayers would be successful. At first glance, it seems as if the Saviour has given an unlimited assurance that our prayers will always be heard. Yet we know that sometimes our prayers are not answered. There must be a connection between answered prayer and the development and maintaining of this attitude towards others.
A little reflection is sufficient for us to realise the impossibly of keeping this commandment without divine help. Since the work of the Spirit in sanctification is essential for obeying this commandment, it is clear that Jesus is speaking to his disciples in particular and not to the world in general. Here is the crucial difference between the church and the world: for the world, this principle is only an inspiring wish which can never be attained; for the church, the outworking of this principle is the evidence of true spirituality, the proof that we are indwelt and instructed by the Holy Spirit.