Skip to content

Loving what God Loves

From the Sola Panel:

The UK government has launched a review into occupational Health & Safety laws (OH&S). It seems to be a very popular move. Health is good. Safety is good. But the multiplication of rules purportedly designed to enforce it often leads to madness.

Most of us are aware of safety rules that seem to be either over the top or incomprehensible. We received a note from our school a few months ago, informing us that the last day of the term would be a non-uniform day, but instructing us that the children were not to wear any hats—“for health and safety reasons“. A short while later, the school sent home another note, asking us to send our children to school in hats to protect them from the sun. It’s a great school, and the teachers are wonderful people who provide the kids with an excellent education. But this shows that even with the best intentions and among the best of people, rules can easily take over from common sense.

I used to work for a company that made solar panels. We dealt with quite a number of extremely toxic gases and chemicals. Very early on in the company’s life, we had to introduce OH&S policies. I can still remember my exceedingly wise manager, who had a consistent strategy whenever we had a seminar or meeting about health and safety. If anybody ever began a meeting or seminar talking about rules, legislation or fines, then he would stop them in their tracks. He would insist that we had to begin with health and safety itself. We had to be firm on the idea that a healthy and safe workplace was good for everybody and the idea that there were real risks that we had to work together to avoid. Our aim was not to keep rules or avoid fines; our aim was to be healthy and safe, and whatever rules we put into place were only there to serve that ultimate goal. Needless to say, it was a great place to work.

There’s a parallel here with Jesus’ attitude to the Old Testament law. Jesus came into a situation where there was a lot of rule-keeping going on. People were trying to keep God’s rules. Extra rules had even been added to ensure that God’s own original rules were kept. But in many places, the point of the rule-keeping had been lost: there were rules that were over the top (Mark 2:23-24), rules that were tragically inconsistent and heartless (Luke 13:14-16) and rules that ultimately contradicted God’s own law (Mark 7:9-13). Jesus brought clarity to this situation by insisting that the rules only work when we realize that there is something more fundamental than keeping the rules: we need to know the God who gave these rules, and we need to love what God loves. That’s why the Sermon on the Mount, which talks a lot about God’s law, begins with those sayings about blessedness (Matt 5:3-10). Blessed, for example, are the peacemakers, “for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9).

As we read more of the Sermon on the Mount, we learn that if we merely live our lives doing what God wants without knowing him as Father or loving what he loves, then, in the end, we will not even enter the kingdom of heaven. But if we know God as Father and love what he loves, then the things he commands (and even more than what he explicitly commands) will be our desires too.

Our relationship with God is not defined ultimately by doing his commandments; it is defined by knowing God as Father, and it is lived through loving what God loves. If we know him as Father, we will do what he commands. If we don’t know him as Father, then no amount of rule-keeping will save us.

Comments on the Sola Panel
Published inEthicsThe Briefing

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • The Shambles, York, UKMy SBL 2019 Paper on Ephesians 2:19–22
    I’ll be presenting a paper on Ephesians 2:19–22 at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting on 23 November 2019: Lionel Windsor, “Plural Constructions and Post-supersessionist
  • Photo by Matteo Vistocco on UnsplashSubmitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
    In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says to “submit to one another through respect for Christ”. What does he mean? What does he not mean? And how can we do it?
  • Hands on pianoChristian singing: Why and how? (Ephesians 5:19–20)
    Why do Christians sing together? How should we do it? Christian singing should involve several dimensions: horizontal, personal, and vertical.
  • Photo by Piotr Makowski on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with drunkenness? (Ephesians 5:18)
    Believers in Christ have a profound reason to avoid drunkenness. That’s because believers in Christ have a reason to live, hope, and act wisely.
  • Stepping StonesWatch how you walk (Ephesians 5:15–17)
    It’s good to have ambitious goals for our Christian lives. But we mustn’t be naïve or unprepared. We need to be deliberate and careful about how we walk.
  • Photo by Ruben Bagues on UnsplashLiving light (Ephesians 5:11–14)
    How should Christians relate to the world around us? Should we withdraw, or should we engage? How do we know which action to do when?
  • Photo by Ben Mullins on UnsplashThe test that matters (Ephesians 5:10)
    We live in a world full of tests and measurements. Believers in Christ should also test our lives. But when we do, we need to use the right standard.
  • Photo by Eric Patnoudes on UnsplashChildren of light (Ephesians 5:8–9)
    Believers in Christ have had their very identity changed: once darkness like the world, but now light. The challenge is to believe it, and to live it.
  • Dark tunnel coming out of the Amphitheatre, PompeiiWhat do you want to become? (Ephesians 5:5–7)
    Our dreams drive our daily actions. In 5, 10, 20 years, what will you have become? Living in grace as an imitator of God, or a partner with the world?
  • Photo by Jordan Beltran on UnsplashHoly talk (Ephesians 5:3–4)
    Often we try to fit in with others by the way we speak. But God calls believers to be holy, not filthy, in our speech, even if it sounds strange to others.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor