Are you dealing with symptoms or causes when it comes to changing your behavior?
I’m not a psychologist nor a doctor of any type, but when I look to the Bible to see how to “get better” I find something very interesting. Jesus doesn’t deal directly with behaviors, but He goes deeper to what is causing the behavior. Read His encounters with people in the Gospels. You’ll see it again and again.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8) – What’s Jesus’ approach to behavior change? He first releases her from condemnation – and all the shame that comes with it. THEN He says, in essence, “Okay, your free. Now go and sin no more.” The order here is critical. The cause of her sin was she didn’t know who she could really be with Christ in her life. When He steps into the middle of her mess, He deals with her identity. She sees herself as one condemned. Yet, the One person who could condemn her, Jesus, does not. This provides the foundation for behavior change.
Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19 & Luke 18) – His identity is wrapped up in his possessions. When Jesus hits this “cause” in his life, he isn’t willing to give it up. He chooses to keep finding his identity in what he owns – the resulting behavior is he walked away sad.
The Lawyer (one who studied and lived by the Law of Moses) wanting to know who was his neighbor (Luke 10) – Jesus tells a shocking story. A man is beaten and left for dead. In the Lawyer’s eyes this would bring up two difficult issues – one is touching blood; the second is this man is now unclean. So, Jesus is going directly to the Lawyer’s identity being wrapped up in keeping the Law. Jesus then further digs in by making the one who helps this beaten and unclean man be a Samaritan – one who was seen as a hated half-breed by the Jewish people. Yet, the Lawyer has to admit that the one who “did right” was the one who was an unclean half-breed and the one who touched the blood and the unclean beaten man. Jesus then says, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus is untangling the Lawyer’s law-abiding identity, and revealing what love really looks like. When love becomes our identity, we’ll see the Law’s intent is NOT to keep us from loving, it’s to reveal that none of us are “clean”, and we need to be rescued. Then we are free to care for (love) our fellow man.
There are plenty more. Read them for yourself.
Today’s Good News, is Jesus never asks us to figure out how to behave better. Instead, He calls us to look at where we are finding our identity. He then invites us to discover that our true identity can be found in the One who is love; the One who took our condemnation upon Himself; the One who is able to supply all we need; the One who has fulfilled all of the Law’s demands; and the One who has provided a way for us to be reconciled back to the Father.
When our identity is found in Christ alone, our behavior will begin to reflect this truth – and that’s really Good News!
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