How should we live?

Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 11:1-12:26, 1 Corinthians 10:14-33, Psalm 34:11-22, Proverbs 21:14-16

Yesterday, I commented briefly on the wonderful consolation found in several verses in Psalm 34 – a life of peace and joy, with God providing for all of our needs. By comparison to today’s world of emotional stress and strain, political uncertainty, and general unrest, that sounds like a life greater than I can imagine. Today, I will continue to look at the same Psalm, with the question in mind, “How can we experience such wonderful peace?”

The next four verses from the same Psalm provide a path.

11 Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
12 Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

The path to peace described in Psalm 34 begins with my speech. I must refrain from speaking evil and telling lies. “Speaking evil” could mean a lot of things, but let’s start with one – speaking as if we view our lives (or individuals in our lives) with fear and doubt rather than faith and gratitude. If I think the worst of someone in a given situation, it is very hard for me to hear what they are telling me or to love them in my words and actions.

What about telling lies? Clearly the Biblical standard is to be truthful. The ninth commandment states, “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” If I know the truth, I must speak the truth, even if it is inconvenient, embarrassing or painful to me.

What does it mean to turn from evil and do good? Doing the right thing to do in any situation will lead to a life that is long and prosperous. If I don’t know the right thing, then I need to search the scriptures for the truth and consult with those around me who are wiser than I am. Paul wrestled with this in his letter to the Corinthians, as he was instructing them about how they should act around each other and in public, regarding the food they ate and other behaviors.

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

These instructions require careful consideration, study and prayer. The bottom line for Paul in this situation was to do what is best for those around him to build up their faith. I must confess that I don’t have the time today to fully explore this passage from Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth.

We live in a world where there is much unrest on a large scale (wars, protests, broad political disagreements), but also on the individual scale, where many of us struggle with anxiety. The Psalmist encourages us not only to seek peace, but to do our best to maintain it when we find it. What does that look like? I’m not sure, but I know that I have not been seeking peace in my conversations inside or outside of work lately. I have been focused on proving that I am right on issues that concern me. According to these verses in Psalm 34 and I Corinthians 10, that is not the right approach to a long and prosperous life. I need to focus on God’s standards for right and wrong. I need to seek peace, and when I find it, help to carry it forward.

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