And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. — Romans 12: 2
The will of God is to be the standard for our conduct in life.
God is changeless. He is perfect and does not need to adapt or respond to the pressure of any outward necessity (Catechism 3.1.8 / Catechism-QA 60). By contrast, human beings change constantly. Their relationship with God and their neighbour can be influenced by various events as well as their environment.
As Apostle Paul explains, the Holy Spirit admonishes us not to have ourselves swept along by the spirit of the time but to bring ourselves into line with the will of God.
The Holy Spirit, who leads us into this new life in Christ, helps us to recognize God’s will and to bring ourselves into line with it. He teaches us what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
What is good?
The commandments, as an expression of the divine will, are holy and good (Romans 7:12). They are thus the standard for our conduct and for our interactions with other Christians. The Mosaic Law calls upon us to love God (Deuteronomy 6: 5) and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Leviticus 19: 18). Love for God and love for our neighbour are inseparably linked together. We cannot choose our neighbour! The neighbour is the person next to us, even if he is a stranger to us.
What is acceptable to God?
Many times the disciples believed it would make Jesus happy if they showed themselves to be unyielding. And yet Jesus
- reproached Peter when he injured a man in order to defend Jesus (John 18: 10). The Lord disapproves of those who injure their neighbour in order to defend their faith.
- did not agree with the disciples when they tried to prevent a man from doing good things in the name of Jesus. Their reasoning was that he did not follow Jesus together with them (Luke 9: 49). We do not oppose those who do good things in the name of their faith, nor do we disdain or despise them. Even if they do not share our belief, they can serve as tools in the hand of God. Acknowledging this does not call our belief in Jesus Christ or His imminent return into question.
What is pleasing to God?
In order to please God, we must also take into account the comments which Jesus made with regard to love for God and our neighbour.
- Reconciliation with our neighbour is just as important as our offering (Matthew 5: 24). Our love for God and our love for our neighbour are inseparably linked to one another.
- We cannot choose our neighbour. It is God who makes this decision for us. Our neighbour is the person next to us, even if he is guilty or a stranger (Matthew 25: 35–36).
- The example of Mary who anointed the feet of the Lord (John 12: 3–7) reminds us that our service to our neighbour does not absolve us of serving God as well.
God is perfect! This cannot be said of us, however. We must constantly call ourselves into question in order to align our lives by the will of God and strive for perfection.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 24 July 2016 at Midrand Congregation.