Beyond Behavior Modification

Sorry for my absence. I don’t really have a good reason, other than life happens . . . you know.

Yesterday, I was listening to a Christian podcast on marriage (currently one of my favorite topics), and it was talking a bit about the book “The Case for Marriage” (Linda J Waite and Maggie Gallagher) . . . in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t read the book but have heard excerpts . . . in listening to some of the evidence from the book supporting the grounds biblical marriage (which I do wholeheartedly endorse and believe in), I really began to think. Not only about marriage, but about biblical, life, “rules” in general.

I should probably point out before moving on with this that I am a full, cover to cover, biblical literalist. So when the bible defines something as sin . . . as dangerous, destructive, and/or forbidden . . . I buy into that. I believe that calling sin what it is, defined by the bible, is not passing judgment but acknowledging God’s truth. But here’s the thing, I don’t believe that it ever, under any circumstances gives Christians license to act in any manner but love. As cliché and sometimes, controversial as it may be, you absolutely can love the sinner and hate the sin. You can hate evil, and its destructive power, while still loving those doing the things that aren’t Godly and in their best interest. These things are not mutually exclusive. And we need to seek God and His word on (1) if it is our place to address those things with specific people because you know what? It’s not always our place or our job, and (2) How we are to address sin, if it is something God is calling us to do.

As Christians (as parents, leaders, teachers . . . ???) we often want to make it about behavior and behavior modification. If we see people doing the right thing, we’re happy. Regardless, of what’s happening in their hearts. And if we look good on the outside who really cares about our hearts? Right?

Wrong . . .

God cares. Hugely.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28

Y’all, Jesus wasn’t talking to the “sinners”. He was talking to the “church” people (if you will). And here’s the thing. Jesus isn’t opposed to good behavior. Quite the contrary. He wants us to do what’s right. He hates sin. Go on and read the rest of the new testament. Paul (and the other writers in the New Testament) doesn’t play around. He’s blunt, and honest, and very clear about the line between right and wrong. But . . . it needs to come from a place of a heart transformation, and not behavior modification.

We don’t behave to get God to love us. We are transformed and changed because of His love for us. And He doesn’t just give us a list of arbitrary rules, right and wrong, to keep us under His proverbial thumb and control us. He gives us His word, the bible and His guidelines, because He created us, and He knows that outside of those guidelines we will forever chase fulfillment, joy, peace, and wholeness . . . but without Him and the help of the Holy Spirit, we will never find it.

So yes, I believe in and am a huge cheerleader for dating relationships and marriage (this is just one example of many issues out there in our world today) designed and done God’s way (and that’s a whole other, multifaceted issue that I can’t even begin to unpack here). He created it that way because He created us, and He loves us and knows how we are to truly thrive. And I’ll never apologize for my beliefs, but also know this, my love for those around me isn’t lessened any by the choices they make. I’m here for you, and I want God’s best for you. I’m not here to beat you over the head and make you behave, but I do pray for God to transform your heart (and mine) wherever and however that needs to happen.

“I will give you new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:26-29

The starting point and the ending point is always, without fail, Jesus . . . our Savior . . . His sacrifice . . . our forgiveness . . . Without His salvation and the subsequent transformation that comes from entering into an intimate relationship with Him, then we are doing nothing more than striving in our power. Not only is it not sustainable, but we’ll never have true peace. That’s not to say, the Holy Spirit isn’t going to work in you, with you, and ultimately through you, but you cannot do it alone.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12: 1-2

Copyright 2020, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

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