Is there a standard that we can live by? Is there like a code of conduct that if we applied to our lives, it would make the world a better place? I didn’t say a code to force onto others, I said a code to live by, one that I apply to myself and my children.
Romans 13 has a code of conduct.
“Romans 13:7-10 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
It could work.
But it isn’t something to muster up, to force on over our lives like a wet suit that’s 2 sizes too small. It is only possible from a heart change that takes place when we have received God’s forgiveness through Jesus death on the cross.
Step 1. Admit our need. Which means we will need do all of the list below:
I). Stop justifying ourselves by either saying what we’re doing isn’t wrong or by comparing ourselves with someone else and seeing ourselves better than the other person. (Unless we are comparing ourselves to Jesus which should be done).
II). Stop trying to pay off our mistakes with good works. You can’t pay off mistakes with used sanitary products, which is what Isaiah called them “Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (used feminine sanitary products); we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. “
Then, confess, say out loud, that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
From that beginning our hearts are changed and we will have Jesus living in our hearts. He can empower us to live out “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s not just the code of the west, it’s the code of all who believe in and follow Jesus.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I have a practical application of this that happened recently. We moved into a new house. The house comes with a lot of nice features but one thing it it lacks is a fence. We have 2 small dogs who have always had a doggy door to access our back yard. We don’t have that here, yet. For the time being we have to harness them and take them on leashes to answer the call of nature. The need for the fence became even more prevalent when while bringing in groceries from the car, one of the dogs escaped. He was captured and brought back home but it exposed a glaring need. We need a fence.
Mary and I chose a particular brand of big box store to purchase the materials to build the fence. It was in the next town over, a half hours drive away. she would stay home and unpack and I would go and procure the fencing, bring it home and then she would go and finish cleaning the old house for it’s new owners and I would start building the fence.
We were told by an employee of the store that we should go straight to the pro desk and ask for a team member by name to help us get all the parts and pieces.
About 5 years previous to this project I had a friend who had a friend who was raising funds for an adoption. In support of that project I purchased a tee shirt. The tee shirt states; “I love Jesus and orphans Isaiah 1:7”. To keep myself in a proper frame of mind, I chose to wear that shirt to the hardware store.
When I arrived at the pro desk there was only one person working it, and she was cashiering along with answering phones and questions. Because they were busy and because of social distancing The line to her register stretched back into the lumber aisle and had about 7 customers waiting to buy their stuff and get on with their day.
Between customers I explained to her what I needed. Behind her on the wall, I saw the picture of the man we were told to ask for. When I asked for him, I was told it was his day off, he didn’t work weekends. There were others salesman pictures on the wall but one by one I was told why they were not available. Eventually her line was empty and a I was able to start ordering my fence parts.
We worked together to assemble the parts order right up to and through the end of her shift. She was able to locate another team member who was more knowledgeable about the products and the system and he took over for her. We finished the order and he started to assemble it but had other responsibilities too. By this time I had been in the store close to 2 hours. I attempted to pay but my debit card was declined. I checked with the bank and my balance was 8 times the purchase price. I called my wife and she sent her card information but it was also declined. By now the sales person had switched and I could tell the new salesperson was suspicious of me. To her credit, it was her idea to split the purchase between out two cards and that worked. I was into Hour 3. The staff told me it would take a while to assemble the order and suggested they I go do whatever else I had to do. All I had scheduled for the day was to purchase and install a fence. But it was past lunch time so I grabbed a fast food lunch and returned to the store parking lot and quickly wolfed it down. I went back into the store and waited at the pro desk. I got updated that they were struggling to find someone to pull and assemble the parts. Time, like this story, drug on. At every step of the order and purchase process there was error and waiting and miscommunication. My frustration was gurgling up. At every step of the way though, I would recall what my shirt said and remember who I was representing that day and I would have to choose how I would respond. 7 hours after walking in the store, I pulled away with 1/2 the load. Another hour later I would be at my house unloading the last bit. (Thank you my friends and family that volunteered to unload).
The entire day seemed to be a test of how I as a follower of Jesus would treat people who were doing their very best but still causing me delays and costing me time and straining an already tight timeline. I chose a garment that had his name on it, the name of my savior Jesus. I was identifying myself with Jesus. He treats me with patience and love. Could I also treat other people with love, respect and patience? Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 13 says that love is patient, love is kind. In earlier translations instead of the word patient it says, love suffers long and is kind.
Many days it would be better to change my heart and attitude or change my shirt. Jesus doesn’t need me representing him if I can’t be suffering long and remain kind.
I would kind of like to ask the folks there at the store how I did. But the one it matters to the most is Jesus. Jesus, how did I do? I realize that there are followers of Jesus in other parts of the world who get mistreated, beaten, have their property taken, are imprisoned, sometimes even killed for daring to be identified with and follow Jesus. They may be sadly shaking their heads at my simple test.
But here is my point. As a follower of Jesus I may or may not be wearing his name on my chest but I will always be representing him to the people I encounter. Following Jesus doesn’t just mean an hour or two in church. It is everyday, everywhere I go and to everyone I meet. No matter what.
So fellow followers of Jesus I challenge myself and all of you to live life as if we are representing Jesus everywhere we go, because we are.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”