God’s eternal purpose for Christians is that we be conformed to the image of His son (Rom.8:29). Accomplishing this goal will require correcting those things that are amiss, changing our character, and adjusting our direction. Along the way we are going to confront problems. Just when we think we have conquered one set of problems, we encounter a whole new set of problems. Problem solving through the life of the Christian is a constant. Therefore, how do we go about solving problems?
As Christians we look to God’s words for answers to our problems. That’s good, we need to know what the Bible says. But before we ever go to the Bible, some other things must take place first. Most of the time, we do not fail to solve our problems because we can’t understand what the Bible says. If we have some basic attitudes in place first, almost every problem will be easily resolved. Our success is virtually guaranteed before we ever begin to investigate what the Bible has to say. Conversely, if we do not have these attitudes in place, it is equally certain, no matter how much investigating we do, the problem will not be successfully solved.
Our Lord was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matt. 22:37). That is, which one can I zero in on and ignore all the others. The question was exclusive, but Jesus gave an inclusive answer: “Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God…” The idea of “love the Lord your God” means to treasure or to value God. Before we open our Bible to help us deal with any problem, we must first settle the matter of our attitude toward God. The word that reoccurs in scripture that addresses this attitude is godliness. Godliness is not “God-like” but a reverence for God. Respect for God is fundamental. When we esteem God we will esteem God’s book and what God says will make a difference.
Continuing His answer to the lawyer, our Lord said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor….” Once respect for God is functioning then we can move to a treasuring of our neighbor. Not all problems are settled by asking, “What does God think?” We must also ask, “What will the consequence of my actions be upon my neighbor?” What influence will my attitude have upon my brethren? Christians should value the well-being of their brethren. (2 Cor. 11:29). Saying, “I love you” is important but not the real test of love. Our real test comes when we are challenged to restrain our own rights. Paul demonstrated this love when he refused to eat meat for the sake of his brother’s soul (1 Cor. 8:13). He would not exercise his own rights at the cost of another’s soul. His love for a brother would not permit him to do so. Paul’s attitude demonstrates the value we must place on our brethren and their souls. Furthermore, this love for another resolves many other matters before they arise because we will put other’s needs before our own.
Further, our Lord answers, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” We ought to highly treasure ourselves, just not inordinately (Rom. 12:3). Humility does not mean we think ourselves of little value but that we put the other fellow first. Can’t we see we are worth more than all that is in the world? Understanding the difference between right and wrong is not the problem of most people. In fact, one of the major problems with drug addicts, alcoholics, and people who committed fornication is not whether they understood that those things are bad and wrong. Their real problem is they have no estimation of self that is worthwhile. Until a person sees self as worth the effort it takes to get out of the pig pen of sin that one will not make the effort to save himself. Love yourself is an important consideration in solving many problems.
Love of God, love of neighbor and love of self are fundamental. When these attitudes are functioning, then we can go to the Bible and do our investigation. The successful resolution of most problems is insured. But if these are not functioning or if we reverse them, we can analyze all the details of Greek grammar we want and when we get through we still will not have resolved the problems. The solution, most of the time, is in our attitude, not in specifics. Consequently, when our Lord answered the lawyer by telling him to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind… and …thy neighbor as thyself,” He was giving us a basis for sound spiritual judgment.