You can find a lot of free advice out here in the blogosphere. Everybody wants to get something — anything, apparently — that will make their life the way they want it to be. The way they need it to be. The way they long for it to be.
Christians have a name for that kind of life. We call it being “blessed.” Every good thing comes from God. We call those good things blessings. And “blessed” really means “happy.”
St. Augustine (c. 354-430) talked a lot about “the blessed life.” (He’s the most influential thinker in the whole history of Christianity; always worth a listen.)
When Augustine talked about the blessed life he meant life as it was first intended by God — the kind of life you and I were made for. He thought that this life boiled down to two key principles. Nail those two and you will be happy because you will be in the groove.
You could think of this by an analogy from your toolbox. You have a hammer and a screwdriver. You can make a screw go into wood with a hammer. But the result is a lot happier if you use a screwdriver.
Use the right thing in the right way and the whole process is just better.
You and I need to have lives oriented the right way, doing the right kind of things. Then we’ll be in the groove. Augustine thought that if we could get the two key priorities in place, all the rest will fall into its proper place:
1. Love God with everything — above everything in all the world.
2. Love other people the way you want to be loved.
This was not original material for Augustine. He was quoting Jesus. Jesus was quoting Moses.
The Heidelberg Catechism, the 450 year old Reformed theological summary quotes the same stuff:
4 Q. What does God’s law require of us?
A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37–40:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’
This is the greatest and first commandment.
“And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
When you think of those two biblical instructions as “laws” you go either of two ways.
- You could say these are prescriptions, and if you break them there will be bad consequences — like the laws that forbid stealing and murder.
- You could say they are descriptions, and that this is just how the world works — like the law of gravity.
You would be right on both counts, I’d say. The Catechism will make both points about God’s laws.
Western Christianity has spent more energy on the “crime and punishment” side of the issue. But, just for a minute, try thinking of these as descriptions of the God intends your life to look.
What kinds of issues would fall into place if you loved God with your whole being, and your neighbor as yourself?
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