How are we supposed to live?
It is important to know that Jesus didn’t come to give us rules or make us boring. He came so that we might have 'life and have it to the full' (John 10:10). This is a life full of love and fulfilment. In his lifetime, Jesus did however offer his wisdom on so many areas of life. We can find his teachings on everything from taxes to divorce, and from poverty to the afterlife. It’s worth saying that none of these issues have gone away and that Jesus' words remain extremely relevant. In his three years of his ministry and simply by how he lived among his friends, Jesus taught us how to live.
‘In Jesus of Nazareth we encounter the face of God, who came down from his heaven to immerse himself in the human world, in our world, and to teach “the art of living”, the road to happiness; to set us free from sin and make us children of God.’Pope Benedict XVI
So what does this art of living look like? One day, somebody asked Jesus which of the ten commandments was the most important. ‘Jesus replied:
‘Yes, we are brought into the higher dignity of the children of God,
the children of God who are the hope of all creation.’
St. Pope John Paul Ii
Becoming a Christian however, doesn’t mean that all of our problems disappear but they are transformed. Jesus said that we need to also ‘renounce himself, take up his cross and follow’ (Matthew 17:24). It’s a high bar, but it’s the best kind of challenge.
‘The struggle is the sign of holiness. A saint is a sinner who keeps trying.' Josemaria Escriva
‘This is the first: Listen Israel,
the Lord our God is the one Lord
and you must love the Lord your God
with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this:
You must love your neighbour
There is no commandment greater than these.’
So love of God, neighbour and self. No small feat. However, St. Paul really pushes the point home when he says ‘… if I have a faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all’ (1 Corinthians 13:2). In fact, Jesus goes on to say that this love is how Christians will be known. ‘By this love you have for one another everyone will know that you are my disciples’ (John 13:34).
But what does this love look like? How does it manifest itself? Jesus did not live an abstract love, he didn’t just talk the talk. In Scripture, we see him reach out to social outcasts like lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and eat with people that are culturally shunned, like the Jewish tax collectors who took from their own people (Luke 19:1-10). He was unafraid to challenge the hypocrisy and the immorality of his time, whilst holding sinners close. As he said in defence of the adulterous woman sentenced to be stoned, ‘if there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’ (John 8:7).
This love of the person, as they are, with all of their flaws, is the example that Jesus challenges us to follow. That no matter what a person has done in their lives, they have an inherent dignity because they are loved creations of God the Father and we need to respond to that.