Does Jesus ever help us make progress in “non-spiritual” pursuits?

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 7:12)

In brief, I think the answer is yes.

If, on the basis of this command, you decide that every day at work you will make people excited to work with you because of your efficiency, kindness, humor, and knowledge, then in general your work experience will improve.

If, on the basis of this command, you decide that every day you’ll attempt to give your children/spouse your time, attempt to bless them, assist them in their pursuits, and pray for them, then it is likely that your relationships will improve.

If you treat your home/neighborhood with care, then you’ll help your neighbors feel pride about their neighborhood and homes as well.

Sometimes, imo, the idea that Christians will suffer is taken to mean that they must always suffer.

Evagrios of Pontus on Imagination in Christian Devotion

Evagrios of Pontus wrote these instructions for Christian meditation. I think it’s important to utilize the imagination and the feelings in meditation just as much as thoughts and concepts. As humans we are deeply susceptible to hypnotism and rhetoric. This is important because we often can find ourselves convinced of truths upon which we do not act because they do not affect our feelings enough to goad our will into action. And other times we might act without reference to the truth because we’ve been emotionally persuaded into a habit or action. When we meditation upon truths received in the way Evagrios instructs us, those truths can make it further into our lives.

Here it is:

“In addition to all that I have said so far, you should consider now other lessons which the way of stillness teaches, and do what I tell you. Sit in your cell, and concentrate your intellect; remember the day of death, visualize the dying of your body, reflect on this calamity, experience the pain, reject the vanity of this world, its compromises and crazes, so that you may continue in the way of stillness and not weaken. Call to mind, also, what is even now going on in hell. Think of the suffering, the bitter silence, the terrible moaning, the great fear and agony, the dread of what is to come, the unceasing pain, the endless weeping. Remember, too, the day of your resurrection and how you will stand before God. Imagine that fearful and awesome judgment-seat. Picture all that awaits those who sin: their shame before God the Father and His Anointed, before angels, archangels, principalities and all mankind; think of all the forms of punishment: the eternal fire, the worm that does not die, the abyss of darkness, the gnashing of teeth, the terrors and the torments. Then picture all the blessings that await the righteous: intimate communion with God the Father and His Anointed, with angels, archangels, principalities and all the saints, the kingdom and its gifts, the gladness and the joy.”

“Picture both these states: lament and weep for the sentence passed on sinners; mourn while you are doing this, frightened that you, too, may be among them. But rejoice and be glad at the blessings that await the righteous, and aspire to enjoy them and to be delivered from the torments of hell. See to it that you never forget these things, whether inside your cell or outside it. This will help you to escape thoughts that are defiling and harmful.”[1]

 

 

[1] Nikodimos, St.. The Philokalia (Kindle Locations 903-914) Kindle Edition.

 

Don’t resist by means of evil

Text

38 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· ὀφθαλμὸν ἀντὶ ὀφθαλμοῦ °καὶ ὀδόντα ἀντὶ ὀδόντος. 39 * ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ· ἀλλʼ ὅστις σε ῥαπίζει εἰς τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα [σου], στρέψον αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ἄλλην· 40 καὶ τῷ θέλοντί σοι κριθῆναι καὶ τὸν χιτῶνά σου λαβεῖν,* ἄφες αὐτῷ καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον· 41 * καὶ ὅστις σε ἀγγαρεύσει μίλιον ἕν,* ὕπαγε μετʼ αὐτοῦ δύο. 42 τῷ αἰτοῦντί σε δός, καὶ τὸν θέλοντα ἀπὸ σοῦ δανίσασθαι μὴ ἀποστραφῇς. [1]

Translation

38 You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I am telling you to not resist by means of evil, but whoever strikes you upon the right cheek, turn to him also the left; 40 and to whomever desires to sue you and to take your tunic, give to him him also the cloak. 41 And whoever obligates you to go a mile, go with him two. 42 To whomever asks of you, give, and to him who desires to borrow from you, do not turn away.

Reflections

  1. Eye for an eye was an Old Testament legal precedent applicable to situations in which an unborn baby or neighbor is injured by violence. The law was also a precedent for cases concerning false witnesses.
  2. Jesus does not seem to be claiming that courtroom judgments should be abrogated. He uses court circumstances and assumes their enduring relevance in two previous triads. Instead, he seems to be correcting the use of these passages as justifications for using evils suffered as justification for evils done.
  3. The way out of the cycle of returning evil for evil is illustrated in four ways, but I think it’s important not to limit the process to these specifics and indeed, Jesus himself does not treat these commands as absolute rules for all times but as wise ways to avoid resisting evil with evil. So turn the cheek, go the mile, give the garment, and so-on are illustrations.
  4. For instance, Jesus tells people, “No” when they ask him for a sign (Matthew 16). He also criticizes a man for striking him (John 18:23).
  5. So, if there are exceptions, it is perhaps best to think of this teaching as recommending that one do the shocking or disarming thing to create peace in the face of institutional oppression and personal honor challenges.
  6. Jerome Neyrey sees this particular passage as a way out of the tit for tat honor/shame game played in the ancient world. I think that is part of the idea, though probably not the whole idea as Jesus and the apostles in Acts participate in that game verbally.

References

[1] Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Mt 5:38–42.

Who is your teacher?

Luk 6:39-49  He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? (40)  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. (41)  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (42)  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (43)  “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, (44)  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. (45)  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (46)  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (47)  Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: (48)  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. (49)  But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

In Luke 6:39-49, Jesus explains what it means for him to be our teacher as well as what it means for us to be his disciple. He does this by first contrasting himself with blind guides who lead other blind men into pits. In so doing, Jesus provides us with a good, widely applicable definition of a teacher, “One who gives direction to the lives of others.” He then says this of disciples, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. (6:40)” From this passage we can discern Jesus’ definition of a disciple or a student, “somebody who is with another and becoming like them.” A distinction that Jesus makes elsewhere when talking about “the world,” “the leaven of the Pharisees,” and the example of the “leaders of the Gentiles” is this: explicit vs implicit teachers. An explicit teacher is somebody to whom we intentionally look for guidance in order to become like them. An implicit teacher is somebody from whom we unconsciously receive direction and to whom we unconsciously conform.

With this distinction in mind, it is important for us to ask three questions:
Who/what are our implicit teachers (think friends, entertainment, etc)?

Who/what are my explicit teachers (think authors, actual teachers, mentors, great people you’ve chosen to emulate)?

What direction will they lead me and what kind of person will I become with teachers like these?
Now, with these questions in mind, how does Jesus present himself to us? In Luke 6:39-49, Jesus presents himself as a teacher who can fill your heart with good things that come out of your actions. Not only so, he presents himself a Lord (which most certainly means “Master” quite probably is a circumlocution for God). Finally, he presents himself as providing teachings which are the foundation for an invincible quality of life which can withstand all the storms one might experience in the world. This leads us to one final question.
Is Jesus your teacher?

Let your yes be yes

Translation Matthew 5:33-37

33 Again, you heard that it was said to the ancients, “Do not break your oath, but fulfill your oaths to the Lord. 34 But, I am telling you not swear at all; neither by heaven, because it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, because it is the footstool for his feet, nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great king, 36 nor should you swear by your head, because you are unable to make one hair white or black. 37 Instead, let your word be “Yes, yes, no, no.” Indeed, more than this is from the evil one.[1]

Reflections:

  1. One of our main tendencies when seeing the words of Christ in places like this is to try to find ways out or exceptions to the rule.
  2. This instinct can be dangerous as it can be simply a way of getting out of what Jesus said.
  3. This instinct can be very wise because it is important to fully understand a command before obeying it or to understand an ideal prior to pursuing it. “Jump.” “How high, on what, when?”
  4. In this case, there are good reasons to ask, “Are there times Christians can take vows?” For instance, Paul takes a vow in Acts (it’s why he cuts his hair in Acts 18:18). The ancient Christians had baptismal/confirmation vows. Similarly, Jesus speaks highly of marriage and never proscribes it, but marriage is a covenant with vows/oaths.
  5. So, what vows is Jesus prohibiting? I think that Jesus is prohibiting vows which endear the speaker to the hearers as a sign of honor. “I swear by the temple that I’ll do thus and such…” Jesus is essentially telling his disciples that while the ancients rightly said, “don’t break oaths, I’m telling you just don’t take them. Instead let your word (yes/no) be enough because it’s based on goodness.”
  6. The reason I feel comfortable interpreting things that way is that I think that Glen Stassen’s triadic structure of the Sermon on the Mount makes the most sense. Each teaching is a three-part block with the emphasis on the third part which is a transforming initiative:
    1. Traditional piety
    2. Cycle of judgment
    3. Transforming initiative
  7. The instruction about the futility of oaths and the reasons for avoiding them is not the actual imperative in the passage, but rather a description of the way things are. The command is “let your word be yes and no.”
  8. The point here is very similar to the point made in chapter six. We’re supposed to do things because we see them as God’s will/the right thing to do, not as a way of advertising our piety to others. Our relationship with God is public insofar as it leads us to do good works. But it is to be hidden insofar as public displays of piety tend to be a part of the world of attention seeking rather than the world of virtue and interior transformation.
  9. So ultimately, the point is simple: let what you say reflect what you’re going to do and then do it or not. Don’t embellish what you say to gain religious honor (which is a silly kind of honor, anyhow).

References

[1] Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Mt 5:33–37, “33 Πάλιν ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις· οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις,* ἀποδώσεις δὲ τῷ κυρίῳ τοὺς ὅρκους σου. 34 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως· μήτε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὅτι θρόνος ἐστὶν τοῦ θεοῦ, 35 μήτε ἐν τῇ γῇ, ὅτι ὑποπόδιόν ἐστιν τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ, μήτε εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, ὅτι πόλις ἐστὶν τοῦ μεγάλου βασιλέως,* 36 μήτε ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ σου ὀμόσῃς, ὅτι οὐ δύνασαι ⸂μίαν τρίχα λευκὴν ποιῆσαι ἢ μέλαιναν⸃.* 37 ⸀ἔστω δὲ ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν ⸂ναὶ ναί,⸃ οὒ οὔ· τὸ δὲ περισσὸν τούτων ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἐστιν.*”

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Mark’s Jesus

A common claim in New Testament studies is that Mark’s gospel must be first because it apparently contains the least developed understanding of Jesus, but John’s gospel was last because it clearly refers to Jesus’ divinity.

The problem with this is that Mark’s gospel alludes to and presupposes Jesus’ divinity by what it makes plain throughout its pages. The problem is that these assumptions only surface by means of certain allusions. In other words, Mark believes in Jesus’ divinity, but he only expresses this by “telling it slant.”[1]

Mark 6 and Psalm 23

In Mark 6, the story of the feeding of the five thousand has some wonderful allusions to the twenty-third Psalm. I recommend that you read the Psalm and the section of Mark in the ESV below:

Psalms 23:1-6 ESV A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2)   He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (3) He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.   (4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   (5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 6:34-52 ESV When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (35) And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. (36) Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (37)   But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”   (38) And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” (39)   Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. (40) So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. (41) And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. (42) And they all ate and were satisfied. (43)   And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. (44) And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. (45) Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. (46) And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.   (47) And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. (48)   And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,   (49) but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, (50)   for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (51) And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, (52) for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

If you compared the above texts you may have noted that Jesus:

  1. Has compassion for people who were as a sheep without a shepherd
  2. That he teaches them (presumably about repentance/righteousness and God’s kingdom as in the rest of Mark)
  3. Has people sit in green grass beside the water
  4. Feeds them
  5. Calms (stills) the waters of the sea
  6. Tells them not to fear sinking (the sea symbolizes chaos and death, see Jonah)

Mark adds the “green grass” bit where it is missing in the other gospels. Also, his is the only gospel that connects the description of the people as sheep without a shepherd to the story of feeding of the five thousand. This is significant for two reasons:

  1. It shows us Mark’s rhetorical point: Jesus is a shepherd like the Lord.
  2. It shows us that, despite claims to the contrary, the gospel writers were not literarily unsophisticated.

The point I wish to focus on is the first. Mark’s gospel, in my estimation, is an expanded statement of the Christian gospel and a manual for repentance (Mark 1:1 and Mark 1:14-17).

In Mark 6, Jesus is presented as having characteristics that make him utterly trustworthy. He is portrayed as utterly competent to guide humanity into life in the house of God. Therefore, part of the Christian gospel is the competence of Jesus. Jesus, according to Mark, is at minimally a human being who is supremely capable of being a broker bringing humanity to God. Maximally, Jesus is presented as the divine Shepherd incarnate.

Concluding Devotional Postscript

For the Christian who accepts the truth of the gospel, this section in Mark is especially valuable. For one, Mark 6 depicts Jesus beyond just a man to know about. He is presented as the most trustworthy figure on the scene of human history. This means that all of his teachings can be relied upon as a foundation for a life of eternal safety.

Second, Mark 6 helps us look back to Psalm 23 as a wonderful summary of the type of life Jesus offers to those who place their confidence in him and faithfully base their lives upon his teachings (see Matthew 7:24-27 and John 8:31-32).

While Psalm 23 not thematically central to the New Testament, over time it has emerged as one of the most significant portions of the Old Testament for Christian living. Learning to read it as a picture of our life with Christ can be a powerful motivating myth for our daily lives. A challenging spiritual exercise might be spending a week looking for ways that God provides each element of the Psalm for you as you attempt to follow Christ.

Footnotes

[1] This is a reference to a poem by Emily Dickinson:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

 

 

Rhetorical Assumptions in the Sermons on the Mount and Plain

In Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6 are the sermons on the Mount/Plain. There is a lot of debate about the relationship between these two sermons, but what interested me the other day when I was sitting in a waiting room (thankfully I took a legal pad) was what Matthew and Luke assumed would be interesting and would be known to the readers/listeners.*

Now I cannot have certainty about those things. But if we assume that like any piece of written rhetoric, the author had an audience who knew certain things in mind, then we can make some inferences. In all of this it’s important to remember that when we construct a speech, we appeal to what we think will interest people in order to help them find interest in what we think will benefit them (or get them to buy our product). But in an extended speech there might be several subaudiences to which we appeal.

Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount Assumptions

  1. The readers/hearers were interested in being happy in the sense of flourishing human life. The beatitudes start with the word “blessed” which probably means something more like “in an honored state” or “possessing the best/most desirable life.” In the Greek Old Testament that word seems to function like Aristotle’s word for happiness.
  2. They cared about putting the law of God into practice. Jesus tells the audience not to be afraid of the possibility of him doing away with Moses’ law.
  3. They at least know an oral version of the Old Testament, “You have heard…,” never “it is written.”
  4. They are in contact with the Pharisees (see chapter 6:1-13 especially) or have pharisaical tendencies.
  5. They want honor and rewards.
  6. They find it valuable to “see God.”
  7. They  want to be wise.
  8. They want to be part of God’s kingdom.
  9. Some of them felt spiritually destitute (poor in spirit).

Luke’s Sermon on the Mount Assumptions

  1. Luke’s audience similarly desired “blessedness” or “happiness.”
  2. They may have been more financially successful and willing to infer that they were living the blessed life with God as a consequence of their good fortune.
  3. They knew Jesus was a teacher, but were not themselves as familiar with the law of Moses.
  4. They really wanted to be good people whose lives bore good fruit.
  5. Strangely, in Luke, being like a ‘wise man’ is not a motivation. But the same simile of the builder who uses a firm foundation is used. In this case, the idea is simply of having a life that is not susceptible to the trials of the world. These people wanted unwavering or everlasting life.

I would be willing to say more about Luke’s audience over all, but I wanted to go simply by what we could find in the respective versions of the Sermon on the Mount.

What did I miss?

*I’m of the opinion that by and large these sermons, regardless of the process that lead to it happening, preserve a common public sermon Jesus preached about the kingdom of God before he shifted to primarily using parables before the public. So of course there will naturally be overlap between Matthew, Luke, and Jesus’ audiences desires, interests, and knowledge.

Tools for Christian Leaders by Dallas Willard

I rarely weep.

When I heard that Dallas Willard died, I did.

Few authors have so helped me see Christ, his goodness, and the greatness of his kingdom.

Since his death various essays, talks, and interviews keep appearing in compilation volumes. In Renewing the Christian Mind is transcript of a talk Willard gave off the cuff in which he gave some principles for how to lead in a Christian organization. Here are some of the principles he outlined in my own words (not in the order of the book):

  1. Write regularly. Willard thought it was imporant for pastors to write because it “is one of the surest ways to hone your sense of what you’re saying. (430)” I’d agree with that. Writing has made me a clearer thinking and speaker. Under this heading he also recommends copying things out of books. This is, in fact, one of the greatest tools for learning available.
  2. “Know your Bible. (431)” This should be obvious. But I’ve been teased by pastors and other seminary students for learning the Biblical languages. So, it seems that some people aren’t very excited about this aspect of ministry. And I admit, that sometimes reading Scripture for extended periods can be difficult. But Willard says some challenging things here, “Set aside time so that you can read the New Testament five times in one week.” Whoa.
  3. “Grow in making distinctions for people. (432)” The idea is that simple distinctions can help people understand what you mean, what Scripture means, and offer ‘aha’ moments for people. For instance, the basic difference between affection (positive feelings toward) and love (intending to benefit) can help many people who don’t know what love is.
  4. Grow character rather than acquiring methods. Willard says that “Many people have tried to substitute results for what they lacked: joy, relationship, and character. (432)” His idea is that switching ministry techniques over and over again without being rooted and grounded in the love of God won’t help you or anybody else come to know the gospel.

Anyway, it’s a really cool book. I highly recommend it.

What is Love?


Edward Feser wrote an excellent article about what love is. In it he quoted Thomas Aquinas:

As the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 4), “to love is to wish good to someone.”  Hence the movement of love has a twofold tendency: towards the good which a man wishes to someone (to himself or to another) and towards that to which he wishes some good.  Accordingly, man has love of concupiscence towards the good that he wishes to another, and love of friendship towards him to whom he wishes good.

Love, in the sense which Christian doctrine typically means, is exactly what Aquinas quoted from Aristotle, “to wish good to someone.” For Aquinas and Aristotle, “wish” is better understood as “intend.” Love is a movement of the will, not a passion nor a feeling. In the case of loving other people as a Christian this makes sense. To love your neighbor is to intend to give him the goods he needs to flourish (to have success and happiness now and in eternity): companionship, knowledge, assistance, mercy, protection, prayer, etc.

But what does it mean to love God in this sense? Some people, like John Piper, would say that to love God means to have certain feelings about God. But on the analogy of love for human beings, we can love our enemies even if our feelings toward them are quite hateful. Acts of love would be much harder, as positive emotions are a great aid to positive action, but they would nevertheless be possible. And the Bible has several psalms, clearly written as actions of love toward God, but which express intensely negative emotions toward God.

So how do we “wish good to someone” with regard to God? Here is my most basic answer: to love God is to act to further God’s purposes in creation. While God is goodness itself and therefore cannot increase/decrease in goodness, God’s purposes in creation are meant to have progressive fulfillment. For instance, God commanded humanity to tend the garden. God made the garden, but there was further work to be done.

There is Biblical evidence in favor of what I’ve inferred from Aristotle’s definition of love: Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.(Joh 14:21)” For Jesus the categories of “those who love me” and “those who have and keep my commandments” are convertable. And elsewhere in John’s gospel Jesus says that he glorified God by doing the deeds he was sent to do (17:4) and that he sends his disciples as the Father sent him (20:21). So, to love God is to act in line with his purposes or to obey his commands. This, of course, will include positive feelings. A significant consideration is this: Is it superior to obey a command of Jesus in the face of severe temptation and emotional resistance or in a state of deep and motivating affection for Jesus?*

Here is where things become interesting. Can our love for God be unrequited? We all know that our love for other people can. But in the case of God, the answer is no. Why? Because Jesus tells his disciples that “You are my friends if you do what I tell you. (John 15:14)” While our love for peers, children, parents, enemies, and so-on can be unrequited. There is no such thing as unrequited love for friends, for if the love is unreturned there is no friendship. In our relationship with God, our acts to further his purposes, include simultaneous action by the Holy Spirit on our behalf.

Finally, it is important to note that for the Christian, God’s purposes are primarily contained in the teaching of Jesus. To love God is to put the teachings of Jesus, rightly understood, into practice.

A corollary is that one might say that the highest form of self-love is to obey Jesus, as this would obtain the highest benefit for ourselfs if the gospel message is true.

To simplify the explanation above:

  1. To love is to wish to benefit another.
  2. To benefit God is to wish to further his purposes.
  3. To further God’s purposes is to obey Jesus’ teachings.
  4. To obey Jesus’ teachings is to live in friendship with God.

A final thought

I think that correctly understanding love as a matter of the will can help people who struggle with depression to realize that they do, in fact, love God. Also, as Feser mentions in his post, “…if love is thought to be essentially about having certain pleasant feelings, then the quest for love naturally comes to be understood as essentially a matter of finding someone who will generate in oneself pleasant feelings of the sort in question, and showing love to others comes to be understood as essentially a matter of generating in them pleasant feelings of the sort in question. [author’s italics]” Thus, in the case of loving God two errors can occur: to love God is to give myself good feelings about God or upon realizing how impossible this is to do consistently, to give up on the idea of positive emotions in relation to doing God’s will. Also, understanding love as intending the good of others assumes that there is such a thing a objective good that reliably benefits other people. The modern obsession with feelings (which are obviously good, important, and natural) leads of a sort of nihilism with regard to love. If it’s always loving to generate positive feelings in ourselves and in others, then because our quite plastic grey matter can learn to find positive emotions from all sorts of disordered events, can lead us to consider the most dastardly things loving.

*I think that it’s a trick question. If one has love as a virtue (good habit), then it will ‘come easy’ but individual deeds do not lose their value for being done in a state of temptation, depression, melancholy, or even momentary resentment.

Being happy about good work and good works.

In Christian circles we can often come across as weird because we obsess over questions that make little to no sense to outsiders.

Here’s one: “Is it okay to be happy about accomplishments?”

To the average non-Christian the answer is: “Duh, of course it is.”

But for Christians the answer can get super complicated in a hurry.

But let Paul’s words uncomplicate it:

Gal 6:3-4 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (4) But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

Don’t admire your greatness with reference to comparison. Admire it with reference to yourself.

But here’s the thing. Many Christians might feel/think that having a sense of joy from personal accomplishment is a form of arrogance or pride or sign of too little admiration of God. But, the same Paul who said what is above said this a few short sentences later:

Gal 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

A lot can be said about what 6:14 means (it has to do with how Paul takes pride/joy in the Christians in Galatia…whether in their acceptance of the Jewish law or their acceptance of the way of Christ…read 6:12-15 to see this), but on the surface it is plain to see that there is no contradiction between finding joy in God and what God does/has done and finding joy in what you do/have done.

So, be happy about what good you’ve done. And be happier that God has done something that goes beyond even your best deeds and does away with those you’ve done that are evil.