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QUESTION: How Does God Want Us to Behave in Any Situation?


I received the following question via “The Question Box” on our congregational website (www.plymouth-church.com) where I have answered hundreds questions now for almost four years. I like to share the more interesting queries with you on this site.

How does God want us to behave in any given situation? What Bible verse(s) support this?

When I was in undergraduate school more than 50 years ago, the preacher at the church I attended made an observation I have never forgotten. He said something to this effect: “Most of us have little difficulty knowing what God wants us to do. Our difficulty is in doing what we know He wants us to do.”

You ask, though, about how God wants us to behave in any situation.

In principle, this is not a difficult thing to know. Jesus did not bring us a new law that has detailed information about how to act in every situation in life. The Koran is such a law (devised by man, but it is such a law). The Old Testament contained such a law as well (and it was given by God at Mt. Sinai). The problem with such laws, though, is that they are never really complete. Men keep adding to them – and the longer the law has been in force, the more detail is added to the law so that behavior in every conceivable part of life is prescribed. “If this happens, then do this.”

This was the way the scribes and teachers of the law taught, and this teaching left man with a burden that Peter said was too hard to bear (Acts 15:10). Jesus, however, was different. He did not teach as the rabbis taught. He taught with authority – and cut through their traditions (which were nothing more than their “enhancements” to what God had said) to principles that are eternal.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them [Jesus, the Pharisees & the Sadducees] debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” – Mark 12:28-34

In Matthew’s parallel account of this incident, Jesus added, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).

Jesus stated this essential principle on which all else depends in a number of ways. Consider these excerpts from the Sermon on the Mount, all from Matthew 5 – 7:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder,” and “Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – 5:21-22

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 sons of your Father in heaven…. – 5:43-45

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?…. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – 6:25-26, 33

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. – 7:1-2

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – 7:12

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. – 7:21

This last one, though, opens the door to those who, like the teachers of the law, want to enhance what God has said. They reason, “We must do the will of the Father” – so they live in fear that they have overlooked some commandment or not done something precisely as He has commanded. In a similar way, when Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15), they look for commandments to obey – while overlooking the commandments Jesus said are the most important and on which all else depends!
Paul testified to the important commands as well: 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10

One ancient Christian, who lived c. AD 350, said, “Love God and do as you please.” The first time I heard this, I thought it was too simplistic – until I realized that if I loved God, it would please me to please Him. It pleases Him for me to live as Jesus lived (see 1 John 2:6).

If we would all live by this principle, nearly all of the religious squabbles and fusses would end immediately. Instead, of trying to put each other down, we would seek ways to build each other up. Instead of envying one another, we would rejoice in each other’s gifts. Instead of coveting what others have (whether of possessions or spiritual gifts), we would thank God for brothers or sisters who have so much with which they can be a blessing to others.

This is what God desires of us.

Is it easy? No, it is not. It is easy to know what God wants us to be and to do; it is difficult to become that and to do that.

That is why God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). The Spirit is One sent from God by Jesus Himself to be with us as our Comforter, Guide, and Intercessor. Yes, we make mistakes – but if we are seeking to know and do the will of God, the Spirit will help us know how to apply the principles of loving God and neighbor in the circumstances of our lives.

Again, thank you for your question. I trust that these few thoughts will be of help to you as you strive to please God.

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