The Way Ahead

by Mwandikaji Mwanafunzi

“If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.”

–John 14:15 (New American Standard Bible)

Life works best when we follow God’s instructions. Often, however, His commandments are counter-intuitive to typical human thinking. Our “common sense” tells us we should handle certain situations in certain ways, even if God’s Biblically recorded law instructs us to handle them differently.

I think the relationship between God and adult humans resembles the relationship between parents and toddlers. Parents, knowing that the stove can burn their little boy, warn him not to touch it. But the boy—feeling unfairly restricted by his parents’ rules—may touch the stove anyway and get burned. We adults, to avoid getting burned figuratively, should obey God’s instructions. “

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 7:12 (NASB) This quote is “The Golden Rule” as stated by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. I think our most natural inclination is to treat people in ways that we think would enable us to get what we want from them. But we should purposely direct our minds toward following God’s “golden rule,” even if it doesn’t come naturally. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” −Matthew 6:12 (New International Version)

“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven . . .’” −Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB)

Wow. Forgiveness is hard, especially when those who perpetrate against us keep perpetrating, adding new insults to our oozing injuries. But, again, we should do it God’s way on purpose, not because it comes naturally, but because God instructs it.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way that you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure that you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye…” −Matthew 7:1-5 (New International Version)

If these rules apply to overall human interaction, they must apply to marriages as well. I actually suspect that, because we have closer relationships with our spouses than with people in general, there is a greater requirement to treat them as we want to be treated, to forgive them, and to not judge them. “‘For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, “’and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the LORD of Hosts.” —Malachi 2:16 (NASB) I recognize that the preceding quote from the Book of Malachi is dealing with divorce somewhat figuratively. Nonetheless, I strongly suspect that if we purposely treat our spouses as God instructs, divorce is less likely than if we govern ourselves solely by feelings of the moment.

Just like the kids should listen and obey when their parents tell them not to touch the hot stove, we should read and obey the instructions that God gives us, as recorded in the Bible. And just as our instructions to our kids are for their own good, God’s instructions are good for us. Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Whoever annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. −Matthew 5:17 (NASB)