Here’s one of Paul’s more famous lists of imperatives to Christians:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other . . .
But . . . why?
Why should we dispense with bitterness, rage, and anger? Why should we be kind to the unkind and compassionate to the undeserving? Why forgive? Isn’t forgiveness a gift to the guilty? Paul, who are you to set such lofty behavioral standards for the rest of us? We know your story. You have no moral authority!
Anticipating our question, he completes his statement by citing his source:
. . . just as . . .
Just as the law commands? Just as Moses taught? Just as Scripture teaches? Just as the Bible says?
. . . just as in Christ God forgave you.
That should sound familiar. According to Paul, we are to do for others what God through Christ has done for us. Everything in Paul’s short list is simply an application of “do unto others as Christ has already done unto you.”
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love . . .
“The way of love.” Sounds romantic. But there’s another “just as” around the bend.
. . . and walk in the way of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
According to Paul, Christian behavior is to be patterned after Christ’s sacrificial love for humankind. It’s a way of life Paul brands the way of love.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
When in doubt ask, “What would a forgiven child of the light do?” So simple. So beautiful. So clear. No instructions necessary. Live as children of the light. Embrace the way of love.
So, what is the basis of Christian behavior?
The basis for Christian behavior is the sacrificial love of Jesus. We don’t love because the Bible tells us to love. We love because God the Father through Christ the Son has loved us.
Reflection: Do you sometimes think you should act a certain way “because the Bible says so” as opposed to simply loving as Jesus loved?
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