In this blog, I share that I believe Jesus came to relieve us of the burdens of life—not to increase them. To be a follower of Jesus, one need not agree to a list of doctrines or even a list of rules, and if there are no rules then there is no ‘sin’ as some people understand it.
Does this mean that we are unrestrained in how we act? Does behavior not matter at all? Of course behavior matters. But if behavior matters and there are no rules, then how do we know how to behave? What is the standard?
Jesus himself tells us.
Jesus Talks about Commandments
In the culture that Jesus lived, there were many religious rules. At the very top were the Ten Commandments. In Matthew chapter 22 we read the story of a person who asked Jesus about the commandments.
The Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Jesus did not make up these two principles; he was referring to familiar passages from the Old Testament, but he seems to elevate these principles to a level that supersedes all specific rules of behavior.
The Problems with Living by Rules
The problem with living by a list of rules is that, while rules are easy to apply, keeping a list does not go to the heart of behavior. One can say, ‘I didn’t kill anyone’, even if they destroy someone’s reputation. One can say, ‘I didn’t lie’, even if their misleading comments have damaging results.
Another problem with lists of rules is that they are limited. If you have a list of 50 rules, you can congratulate yourself each day that you have observed all your rules, but what if gossip is not on the list? Perhaps you can add it and have 51 items, but your list will never be long enough to cover all eventualities.
Lists are also stark and inflexible; they do not account for circumstances. There was a time when my list included: Do not lie. It was not a bad rule, but I was so tied to the list that were I in Hitler’s Germany and soldiers came into the house asking ‘Are there any Jews hiding here?’, I would have responded ‘They are behind that false wall’ because I could not bring myself to lie.
The Principles of Jesus are all We Need
The two principles put forth by Jesus, to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself, go beyond rules to address motivation. What is your motivation for behavior? If these principles are your motivation, then you can decide a course of action at any time and circumstance based upon them. They are easy to remember and they apply to everything.
But how do we even begin to apply these principles? We will discuss this next time.
In this series:
Making the Good News of Jesus Your Own
Choosing to Identify with Jesus
Does Behavior Matter?
Loving God and Others Makes Rules Obsolete
A Delightful Insight into Behavior
Growing as a Follower of Jesus
What is the Good News of Jesus Anyway?