As a Christian, I grew up learning the 10 commandments. We sing about it in songs since young and try to live our lives according to it.
The 10 commandments and other do's and don’ts in the Bible though do not outline in black and white everything in life. There are lots of issues in life especially in our ever developing world that needs our discretion when it comes to deciding if we should do it or not.
How then do we decide what we can do or what we can't? What exactly are the do's and don’ts of Christianity?
Allowed or not?
After the school holidays, we once again started the term by reminding students of our classroom do's and don’ts. Although students are already aware of them, the reminder helps reinforce the classroom culture we would like in order for everyone to enjoy coming to school.
Occasionally, there have been a few clowns in the class who attempt to be silly just for the fun of it. Oftentimes, these behaviours are not one of the don’ts specifically mentioned (after all how many don’ts can we list out in the classroom since we are more focused on the do's), so technically they are not breaking any rules. Yet at the same time, such a behaviour does not exactly align with our do's either.
When such a situation arises, instead of considering whether we are allowed to do it or not, probably the better question to ask is does anyone benefit from it or more exact - does everyone benefit from it?
Beneficial to everyone or not?
With people being silly in the class, did everyone get a good laugh out of it or were some people being laughed at and offended by the silly act? If it was the former, then the act would then be allowed; however, if it was the latter, then even if it was something that wasn't specifically disallowed, we shouldn't have done it.
1 Corinthians chapter 10, verses 23 to 24 provides us with a guideline to decision making in this world - '“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.'
Our decisions as to whether something is allowed is based primarily on what is beneficial and constructive not just for ourselves but for everyone. Everyone in this sense does not only mean others but includes ourselves as well.
Collectively or not?
While some people take it to the other extreme that our decisions need to be solely for others and we should not benefit from it, we do need to remember that the Bible clearly includes us as well.
'See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.' (I Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 15). Nothing evil should be done to anyone, ourselves included but good should be the aim for others and ourselves.
As Jesus replied in Mark chapter 12, verses 29 to 31, when asked about the greatest commandment, '“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 neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”'
While we as Christians have no question about loving God wholeheartedly, we sometimes can be caught up in loving others without first also loving ourselves.
Do's instead of don’ts
As a teacher, the culture of speech in education has always been to use the positives rather than the negatives. Instead of focusing on what we should not do, we focus our instructions on what we should do.
Likewise, when we consider the do's and don’ts of Christianity, instead of being wrapped up in what we should not do, let us turn our focus to what we should be doing instead. There will still be an endless list of don’ts, but the do's for us have been summed up beautifully by Jesus as above. Love God, love people (ourselves included)!
May the lyrics of 'Love God, Love People' by Danny Gokey remind us how to keep in simple in Christianity -
"Gotta keep it real simple, keep it real simple
Bring everything right back to ground zero
'Cause it all comes down to this
Love God and love people".
Esther Koh is a primary school teacher living in Christchurch with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html