Thursday, July 15, 2010

Followers of Christ are called to live righteous lives

Remember my previous married/unmarried imagery? I'm going to go back to that for a moment:

What do you suppose my wife would say if, after the wedding, I insisted on living my life as if I were still single?

I heat up tater tots for dinner, eat them alone in front of the TV, belch wildly, then throw the dishes in the sink. (And then, probably, scratch myself – maybe. I don’t know for sure.)

I leave for a few days without saying anything.

I date lots of women. . . .

Such behavior might lead her to seek a divorce, but our married-ness does not depend on those actions alone. So why do I not do it? Because I’m not an idiot!

Now that I’m married, I have the obligation and privilege of acting like I’m married. My ways of eating, sleeping, thinking, travelling, cleaning up, planning, etc all change because my state of reality has changed.

It’s the same thing with the Christian life, but even more so.

* * * * * * *

Okay, let’s begin at the beginning. I say that Christians are called to live righteous lives, but what do I mean by “righteous lives”?

A righteous life is a life characterized by righteousness, honesty, integrity, kindness, selflessness, generosity – we have all kinds of words for it. And righteousness is simply doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. It's really not all that mystical or otherworldly a concept. It’s as practical & this-worldly as it ould be. (Although when you try to do it you will discover very quickly that without the help of God’s Spirit, this kind of life is impossible to live.)

Okay, then, what exactly is the “right” thing?
This is where followers of Christ and the secular majority part ways.

The unbeliever or nominal believer usually says it depends on laws, cultural norms, and (most often in our society) whatever you want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. In a word, it’s relative.

The Christian, though, says civil laws are irrelevant, culture is increasingly warped, and merely avoiding harm to others is a pathetic substitute for doing things God’s way. In short, the Christian would tell you that none of those things matter – it’s God who decides, period. That is, it’s absolute.

So what does God say? A lot! But, thankfully, it can all be summed up in one word: Love

Back in the first century, one way to test a rabbi (a teacher of the law of God) was to ask him his opinion on which of the hundreds of divine commandments was the greatest. You could then base your opinion of the rabbi on what you thought of his answer. This happened to Jesus once. He was in a crowd, teaching, and someone came up and asked Him that very question:

And Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22)

Not only did Jesus answer that love of God and other people is the greatest command, but He also made it clear that all other commands are fulfilled by it. You can try to memorize and act out hundreds of laws – or you can just act with love at all times.* As the Apostle Paul put it:

The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13)

A Christian not acting in love is not much different than a foolish husband who forgets he's not a bachelor any more. He needs to stop, think, readjust, and begin again - this time, in the right direction.


* - Definition reminder: Love in the Bible = not a feeling but the attitude that you will do whatever is best for the one you love no matter what