It occurred to me the other day something has shifted in my subconscious about life and being a better person. I no longer try to be better in order to measure up to a preset standard. I am trying to pursue being a better person because I desire to be one. The difference is subtle, but definitely there. Let me explain.
I know I have touched on this before, but coming out of a legalistic church environment, much focus was placed on the commandments and laws the church taught were Biblical. You follow these rules to the letter in order to make sure God is pleased with you and you measure up in order to be holy. When the ways of legalism are challenged to leadership in this environment, one of the arguments supporting their ideology is this: “What about the ten commandments? Do you just throw those out because they are Old Testament law? Of course not, so if they apply to you, everything else applies as well.” This is exhausting. But you live by this concept day after day. Trudging along trying to prove you are worthy enough for God to love you. Always checking things off a checklist and measuring yourself against others around you who are considered perfection and falling short every single time. The fear of hell and disappointing others holds you captive and demands you to continue keeping on in order to be a better person.
This is how I used to think self improvement was done. Thank God I was wrong!
The paradigm has shifted in my mind. And it wasn’t immediate, it has taken a while, but it is definitely there.
I read a verse this morning that brought this very topic to mind. Romans 13:9-10. It reads like this:
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
There it is. The subtle but massive heart change. When our hearts are full of genuine love for others, everything else lines up! Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. When we strive to sincerely love God and love all the humans he created, that in itself makes us better! How did I miss this for so long??
Instead of praying and striving to keep all the laws, I have been praying that God gives me a love for him and his creation. And the difference is life changing!
Of course loving your neighbor is challenging! Clearly no one sees exactly eye to eye on every topic, so sometimes putting aside our differences and biases can be hard. But the Bible doesn’t give us any room for excuses or prejudice. Love. That’s all it says.
Seeking after a genuine love for others has opened my eyes to areas in my life I need to work on. And instead of it being a chore that needs to be done in order to be perfect, it is something that I am finding is a challenge, but a doable one that brings me joy! I find I am happier, lighter and have a fresh view of the people around me. This perspective challenges me to change and to be the change around me. Of course I fall short of this every day, but instead of it being a burden I have to bear, it feels more like a life goal that I enjoy pursing.
We don’t have to worry about living the law to the letter when we have love in our hearts! When we love, everything else automatically falls into place. Ahhhhhh! What an amazing revelation!