Over the years I have been greatly helped by focusing on the importance of biblical love. Love always takes priority. While we are free in Christ, our freedom is always constrained by love. It is to be a guiding principle in our lives.
While scripture gives us many ‘dos and don’ts’, love should not be primarily viewed that way. A helpful illustration comes from raising children. Donna and I had the good
fortune to receive wonderful teaching on raising children right after our marriage. One of the most essential things we learned was to focus on the principle of obedience and disobedience.
Our sons were taught to obey what we told them to do – that disobedience brought discipline. For instance, if one boy hit the other, he was not disciplined for ‘hitting’ his brother. He was disciplined for disobedience. We would take him aside, and say to him, “You have been told not to hit your brother. Did you obey us?” He would say no and acknowledge he had disobeyed. The discipline was never focused on the specific action the child had done. It was always focused upon the principle of disobedience.
If they broke a window by throwing a ball in the house, they weren’t disciplined for breaking a window. They were disciplined for disobedience because they knew they had been told not to throw balls in the house. Lying is disobedience. Cheating is disobedience. This idea is huge. Children learn the principle rather than a big list of dos and don’ts.
Likewise, we must learn the principle of love as defined by scripture (not by our culture). The more we understand what constitutes love, the greater is our ability to apply it in every circumstance we find ourselves in. God’s word is so essential to this process. The more we grow in love, behaving in an ‘unloving’ manner becomes as recognizable and inappropriate for us as disobedience is for children.