Some (many!) years ago we took a class entitled Religion 101 or such.
Wayne, the class’ teacher, posed the question that is the title of this post:
“What is your key life principle?”
Some of us thought it would be “Love” (After all, this is a church group,
right?) But Wayne rejected that term, reasoning that the very word,
“love” has been so overused as to become virtually meaningless. In
other words, it’s just too difficult to clearly define what the term means,
even when used in a context. The very word has become too encumbered with our
varied usages: of romantic love, with a mother’s love, or the love we have for
a friend, perhaps even the love of chocolate, or perhaps the biological
attraction we have for another … sex appeal, in other words.
Wayne instead proposed truth, or perhaps honesty as THE key life principle. As we
thought about, then discussed the notion of truth as the primary guiding
principle, there was, of course, a lot of agreement, disagreement, and quite
different viewpoints that were aired. Eventually we began discovering the very
real difficulties of living a life of complete honesty. We live in a society
that doesn’t seem to value honesty very highly at all … just read any daily
paper or watch TV news. In the small acts of living as well as in the more
public acts, we humans vioate a truth principle all the time! Sometimes it’s
because lying can give us an advantage, or perhaps save us an uncomfortable
consequence. We even have those dilemmas where being less than honest .. ok,
lying .. in order to save another the pain of an honest response That’s quite
complicated, isn’t it. Even assuming our motives are pure when we make such a
choice, doesn’t that really mean that we’ve acted out of love, and are
therefore using it as our guiding principle at least in this case?
Steven Covey had his Seven Habits, the Bible has The Ten Commandments
(reduced to two by Jesus), and there are a plethora of rules, regulations,
laws, various holy books, commands, etc that many of us use, or at least try to
use, as our guiding principle. From my observations of myself and others,
though, most of us are pretty vague about a key life principle.
I suspect, however, that we’re actually living from our principle, acknowledged or not, in
everything we do and say. After all, there’s a reason for the old truism, “actions speak louder than words.” Who was it that said, “what you do speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say”?
I guess I’m saying that we all live by our own key life principles, whether
acknowledged or not. Actually, that should read, whether acknowledged by us …
the world around us certainly knows our principles by our actions!
In my reading of the New Testament’s Gospels, Jesus was pretty consistent. And his views
don’t match up very well with those we profess … our our actions profess … in our lives and in our world today.
As one example, Jesus warns again and again of the dangers of the corrupting
influence of wealth. Yet today there are many, many preachers and teachers pushing prosperity principles. We may say that our emphasis is primarily prosperity in all aspects of life. Agreed, thinking positively rather than living in a depressed state is certainly preferable for a “good life.” But, the first of Jesus’ two commandments was “Love God.”
Or, shift your focus from the “here and now” of daily lving to the”here and now” of living in God’s kingdom right here, right now, on earth.
And then there was his second commandment: “Love your neighbor.” Over and over
again Jesus criticizes those whose personal life principles did not extend to those around them, and particularly to the poor among us.
Perhaps we could consider those two commands to be the Key Life Principles: first, love God, and second, love your neighbor. Jesus went on to say that those two principles were the summation of all of the prior attempts to regulate behavior. I’d suggest they are also the key principles of living “the good life” in the 21st Century, also!