Zechariah 8:16-17New Living Translation (NLT)
16 But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. 17 Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the Lord.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.
Sometimes we want to make living a Godly life as one that is complicated. I am not sure if it is a matter of pride so that we can say, 'look how pious I am'. Or if we have been led to believe living as a Christian is a complicated project.
Jesus said that all the rules and regulations of Scripture can be summarized in two laws found in several of the Gospels. Luke 10:27 is one of them. They state that you must love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as you love yourself. Some of us have difficulty loving ourselves so perhaps identifying practical behavior that helps us understand what loving our neighbor looks like would be helpful. Behavior that ignores these tenets God hates
Digressing a bit, I love the fact that sometimes the Old Testament sheds wonderful light on the writings of the New Testament and likewise the New sometimes explains the Old in better terms. This is one of those times when the Old Testament gives us a picture of what Jesus was saying.
Zechariah 8:16,17 is this passage. It identifies what loving your neighbor looks like in five easy statements. They are listed below but I would like to talk a bit about each one.
Tell the truth
Be Fair [just] A solid justice system.
Live in peace with everyone.
Don't plot harm to others.
Don't swear that something is true when it is not.
Telling the truth is really a lost virtue. From individuals to the media, to the government, we all are untruthful at times. In fact we have so abandoned this habit that we have created terms that cover up the lack of it by calling things 'little white lies', 'coloring the facts' , expressing our point of view, and so on. We have gone so far as to create political correctness to allow us to avoid the real issue. But if we are we to embrace God's point of view it is either truth or a lie.
I am not suggesting that you cannot express yourself but before you comment on a subject be sure you state the facts first. After that you are free to address any issue as long as you identify your statements as opinion or point of view.
Be Fair [just] A solid justice system
Practicing a solid justice system sounds really complicated but I don't think it is not so hard to see. It grows out of the first rule. Don't pass judgement until you know all the facts. Of course if truth is not delivered it is hard to formulate good judgment.
We tend to put this rule on our justice system or court system. But it includes us in our daily dealings with others. In the New King James Version it uses the terms truth, justice, and peace. We have already talked about truth in knowing all the facts not opinions before we judge another.
Justice speaks of equality. We need to treat everyone equally regardless of color, race or political leaning. Okay that was a little toe stepping. However, much of our practicing justice is destroyed by political bias. Too often we address justice this way, "If you don't agree with me politically your views are not important'. Giving you a fair shake is renounced because you are not on the same page as me. We see it every day on the news and in our government. Instead of seeking the truth and looking for solutions that include everyone, we take a side and refuse to compromise. How is that showing equity?
That directs us to the last part of the second behavior. Compromise does not mean abandoning our convictions but it means looking for common ground. Places where we can find solutions that address the concerns of all involved. Justice definitely means we all must be held accountable for our actions, but it also means that when we have differing opinions we look for the best solution.
I suppose I could use an example like finding a parking place in a crowded lot only to have someone else cut in front of you and take it. Now I am not forgetting that there are those that lack any thought of good manners or the rights of others. I am talking about the fact that perhaps this person didn't see you waiting for that spot.
You can get angry, jump out of your car and accost the other driver. Or you could be upset but choose to let it go and look for a new parking spot. We actually see this last part of justice in seeking peace on the highway every day. Road rage has become so intense people die because we do not treat others with justice. Our rights outweigh theirs so we blow on our horn, cut them off as soon as we can and some even go so far as to shoot, maim or even kill the offender.
Then there is the third tenet of loving our neighbor, it says don't scheme against others. One of the best examples regarding the negative action of this behavior is found in the workplace. Too many times we see people climbing over the lives of others to reach the top in business.
People steal others ideas, start rumors that destroy reputations, or just use others to gain the advantage. Have you noticed that each of these behaviors is built on the proper practice of the ones preceding it. God usually takes us one step at a time to build us into becoming our best self and this Scripture is no different.
The Living Bible says it this way, 'Don't plot to harm others'. Perhaps that is easier to digest than King James which says, 'don't 'think evil in yourheart against your neighbor.' We definitely don't like being called evil or that we even have evil thoughts against another. We choose to rationalize those feelings as being warranted. They deserve our loathing. But attitudes usually result in actions.
The last example of behavior that addresses loving our neighbor may seem like a repeat of the first one. However, I think it goes to the heart of the matter of loving others. Like most things in Scripture behavior patterns seem to come full circle and speak to the real issue that keeps us from being what we know we should be. We have a love of being our own boss and enjoy taking the easy road.
We don't want admit that sin has corrupted our thinking and acting. We have become comfortable with it. We have learned to make excuses for our bad behavior. To change our thinking and acting to follow God's rules means we go against the world. We may stick out or incur the rejection, ridicule or even attacks of others. These are the facts we don't want to face. Yet if we would follow the requirements God has made to live a godly life we must embrace them.
Sometimes defending our own ideas about things or people may not be what actually is the truth. It does not invalid our perspective but if we swear it as truth we are violating this last scriptural statement. If we do that in court it can be labeled as perjury. That is stating something as truth when it is not truth. This is one we really need to be conscience of. We can mislead others by this behavior. We create a false impression that alters reality and therefore can have lasting effects.
Pride is usually involved in the violation of this last statement. We have stated something as truth only to find out it was not exactly or definitely not the case. Instead of stepping forward and making things correct we stick to our story. Why? What is the motive behind defending what is not true? Are we embarrassed, or seeking revenge or just too prideful to admit we made a mistake? Whatever the reason we need to not swear something is truth that is not.
In closing, I would submit that behaving as God calls us to do and Jesus told us contains all the rules we need to follow to be godly is not easy. It looks good on paper, seems logical when we are in a rational state, but when we try to implement them we find we cannot and seem to always fall short. God made the rules simple but executing them is impossible without His help. Like Salvation, living the Christian life requires a personal, active relationship with Him through the workings of the Holy Spirit. Now that you know what loving your neighbor looks like , the choice is yours as to whether you will love your neighbor or not.