Instead of living by rules, we should live and behave according to Jesus’ greatest principles. Last time, we talked about loving God with all our heart. This gives us the ability to love others. Hurting someone 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? Perhaps it does!
A Third Principle
Here we may discover a third principle of behavior implied by the other two. If we to love others as ourselves, it is assumed that we love ourselves. I don’t mean that we simply protect our own selfish interests but that we genuinely love ourselves and care about our welfare. Often we do not.
I contend that, if we do not love ourselves, we cannot truly love others, and many of us do not love ourselves very well. If this is the case, how can we change it? How can we begin to truly love ourselves? Perhaps the best way to begin to love ourselves is in response to love. If we see that others love us, we begin to have the capacity to love ourselves.
An even stronger catalyst is to understand that the Father loves us. This is the heart of Jesus’ message to us. This is the good news! The Father loves us and wishes to destroy the alienation we feel toward him. We become confident that the Father loves us and desires the best for us.
Natural Consequences of Our Behavior
When we begin to comprehend the love that the Father has for us, we can then begin to love ourselves in a different way. Then we are able to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and desire the best for them because we do in fact love ourselves and desire the best for ourselves, as the Father loves us and desires the best for us.
This affects our behavior. Why do we avoid irresponsible sexual relationships? It is not because of rules but because of the consequences to ourselves and other people. Why do we not exploit others? It is because of the consequences to us and to others.
What about personal behavior such as smoking, drinking, and other personal pursuits? The answer is the same. I cannot catalog for you a list of behaviors for you to observe. Neither can anyone else!
If you grasp the Father’s love for you and his desire for your well-being and you respond to that love by beginning to love yourself and desire your own well-being, and then you begin to love others as yourself, then you, and only you, are in the position to evaluate the propriety of your own behavior.
God Does not Punish Us
We are not perfect. We often get things wrong, and when we do there are consequences. Sometimes the consequences entail punishment from society, but the consequences do not include punishment from the Father. The Father loves you no matter how much you fail in your behavior. He does not become angry with you and he will not punish you.
If this is true, then what is hell all about? This is a very important question! The concept of hell is one of the most destructive elements of superstitious baggage often associated with the message of Jesus. It is so important that we will devote the next few posts exploring this subject.
In the meantime, begin to love yourself as the Father loves you, so that you can love others as yourself!
You may also like: Which is Easier: Loving People or Following Rules?
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?