Last time, we discovered Jesus’ two principles of behavior, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. These principles make all rules obsolete. They are easy to remember and difficult to manipulate. However, they are not always easy to apply.
Let us examine the principles more closely.
Loving God with all Your Heart
What does it mean to love God with all your heart? I understand it to mean choosing to be for God and not against him. It means identifying with God and being in harmony with him. This is difficult when one is afraid of God and cannot trust him. Many of us cannot love God fully because we feel alienated; we think of God as angry and exacting—and quick to punish.
This is where Jesus helps tremendously by showing that God is like a Father. The Father loves us, and we see that love in Jesus. Our love for the Father is responsive; we love the Father with all our heart as we come to understand that the Father loves us with all his heart.
Loving Others as Ourselves
The second principle is to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we discover that this means everyone—including our enemies. This does not mean that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to every person who is out to harm us and exploit us, but I believe we should love those people as the Father does. Jesus says as much in the sermon on the mountain found in Matthew chapter 5.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Like Father; like son)
This statement combines both principles we are discussing. We love our enemies, and we do so because we choose to act in harmony with the Father’s opinion about them.
I once worked in a Christian organization where my supervisor was extremely and systematically hurtful to me. This was obvious to others and some told me, ‘God will make her pay some day!’
‘No. God will forgive her,’ I said. So I forgave her. There is no place for vengeance for those who see people as the Father sees them. The Father is not about vengeance; the Father is about love and healing.
I could no longer endure persecution from my supervisor, so I left the organization, but I did not wish her harm or misfortune. In fact, I wished her success, healing, and improvement in relating to others.
God Does not Punish Us
The Father is not interested in punishment. The Father will not punish us no matter WHAT we do! The Father loves us and wants to heal us of our pains and sufferings. He will not punish us—no matter what.
Does this mean that there are no consequences to our careless behavior or even our malicious behavior? It does not. There ARE consequences to our behavior. If we murder someone, there are many negative consequences: a person loses their life, their loved ones suffer, the community lives in fear, and the murderer is apprehended by the society and dealt with.
These are all horrible consequences, but they are not punishment from the Father; they are natural consequences of bad behavior.
Murder does not reflect our loving the Father and identifying with his perspective of other people. Neither does it reflect a motivation of loving others as we love ourselves—or does it? Yes, perhaps it does.
Next time we will discuss an exciting additional insight into the second principle of behavior.
How do you respond to Jesus’ two principles?
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?