I want to live like that and give You all I have so that everything I say and do points to You / If love is who I am then this is where I’ll stand / Recklessly abandoned / Never holding back / I want to live like that / I want to live like that – Sidewalk Prophets, Live Like That, from the 2012 album of the same name.
In His Sermon on the Mount, the Christ gives six specific ways to be more like God. (No doubt there are more than just the six but maybe He doesn’t want to overwhelm us all at once.) He’s addressing a primarily Jewish audience and referencing the Old Testament many of them are so familiar with, but His lesson can still apply to us in the 21st century as well. Jesus takes the letter of the law, so to speak, and explains the spirit of the law. For me, they are reminders of how to live.
I call these the “It’s Not Enough To…” and the “I Must Also” list, and it goes something like this:
It’s not enough to avoid killing someone, but I must also avoid anger and hatred towards others. Both of those have an emotional impact as serious as murder’s physical impact. Both are detrimental to the soul. Jesus says that you cannot claim to love God if you hate your fellow human being.
It’s not enough to offer regular gifts in worship to the Father, but I must also have the right relationship with God and others. The internal does matter. It does me no good to show up to church on Sunday if I harbor ill-will toward someone on the outside.
It’s not enough to simply avoid the act of adultery, but I must also keep my heart from lusting and remain faithful to my spouse. Jesus said the mere act of THINKING about sexually being with someone who is not my spouse is the same as actually having sex with someone who is not my spouse.
It is not enough to be legally married; I must also live out my marriage commitments. Those vows? God takes them seriously and so should I.
It is not enough to keep a vow; I must also avoid casual and irresponsible commitments to God. Am I known as a person of my word? Do I treasure that enough to not frivolously make promises to God that He knows I will not keep? If I do make a promise, is it kept at all costs?
It is not enough to seek justice for myself; I must also show mercy and love to others. We all tend to be selfish and look out for our own best interests, but that is not what God wants from us. He wants us to embrace justice for those who are different from us as if they were us. That’s why Black Lives Matter. It’s not that non-Black Lives matter less, not at all. Black Lives Matter forces our American culture to see and acknowledge that some races are valued less in society, and that should not be. We are all created equal in God’s sight. We are all valuable. We all bear the Image of God and should be treated as such. That’s why Nazis and White Supremacists are so wrong and need to be shut-down wherever they raise their ugly banner. I don’t care who says it, they are NOT fine people, and never will be.
For me, these six things are perhaps the most searing in Scripture; more than Paul’s Letters to the churches; more than the Old Testament Torah. These six things are key to living a godly life. Are they the only thing to pay attention to in Scripture? No. But they deserve to be highlighted and underlined. The page they appear on in my Bible should be dog-eared and bookmarked. The challenge for me is: how well do I do these things on a regular basis? Am I consistent in living them out to the very spirit of the law?