The Bible reminds us that our heart tricks us. It causes us to miss things about ourselves that others clearly see. It causes us to put ourselves first without realizing it. The simple truth of the matter is that every human being has a natural preference towards themselves. We must work at attempting to be balanced. The Bible reminds us again and again of the necessity of living by principle.
Principle is not a word that many of us use in our daily lives. The word has several definitions but the one I am focusing on is in reference to personal ethics where it refers “to a standard of moral or ethical decision making.” If we ignore Biblical ethics in our daily lives our tendency will be to live an unprincipled life. We will tend to view life and make decisions that benefit ourselves. One of the best illustrations happens driving in our vehicle between my wife and myself. My tendency is to reach over and turn up the air in the summer because I am hot. Her tendency would be to reach over and turn the air down because she is cold. It is not that we do not care for each other it is just that we are not thinking about that at the moment. The danger of this self-love is that it destroys relationships.
Jesus summarized his call upon his followers by giving a new command. The new command summarizes and trumps all the others. We said it this way, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”( John 13:34–35) Jesus was the example of one who put others first. He did this from the beginning to the end of his earthly life. He now calls his followers to follow his example. Let me offer a few helps for living a principled life.
First, I feel like I need to state the obvious. Be a student of God’s Word. There is no way to act in a Biblical way if you do not know the Bible. But you need to be careful because many are tricked into knowing the teaching of the Bible but not living it. When we know God’s word is will also guide us in treating others in a Jesus honoring way when there are no direct Biblical guidelines. Being principled begins by knowing the principles to life by!
Second, consciously think about others. It is natural to think about you, but it takes training to stop and consider how your words or action will affect others. A principled person will seek the input of others before acting. “Would you mind if I turn up the air?” And when there is a disagreement a principled person will be able to stimulate a dialog leading toward a resolution. The end goal should be a win- win solution for everyone if possible.
Third, we need be consistent in our application of Biblical truth. Our heart can trick us, as Jesus put it, stop trying to take a speck out of another person’s eye when there is a log in our own. A principled person does not bend the rules for their own benefit. They live to the same standard they expect from others or that God expects from us.
Jesus’ new command for his follower is life changing. It influences the choices that we make each and every day. It calls us to demonstrate to others genuine Biblical love through our example of putting others before ourselves. It reminds us of the necessity to be Jesus followers who are living by principle!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson