I serve as a pastor. I lead our youth group. I parent 3 children. I think a lot about how to communicate principles for decision making that are not just "when A happens, you pick B." At least, I should think a lot about it! I was up late last night as a result of these kinds of thoughts. We all are exposed to different environments, saddled with different challenges, and face different choices. What rules or guidelines will help all of us make the right choice all the time? Even if I won't choose the right thing all the time, could I at least get some help in knowing what the right thing is?
It's tempting here to say something like, "Well just do what the Bible says all the time" or, "Just ask WWJD?" Here's the problem, I have read the Bible all the way through a couple of times and I haven't found a verse that gives me the script to correct a sensitive child's behavior in a way that let's him know the gravity of the error but still leaves him encouraged that he can and will do better in the future. None of the people who have asked me how you know God is speaking to you have had a burning bush or blinding light so I struggle to find an exact description. I know I've felt God move in me and direct my choices but, if you've ever tried to explain this knowing, you know where I'm coming from.
Don't get me wrong. I believe the Bible is sufficient for our life. I just helped teach the first few verses of Colossians 2 and I firmly believe that all wisdom and knowledge are contained in Christ. Many of the people I lead seem to find the same frustration: the specific choice they are facing is not specifically outlined in the pages of scripture. It seems that God did not intend to detail each and every situation we might face (think of the size of that book!). Instead, He chose to give us guidelines to apply to every decision. I think Colossians 2:1 has a hint. Paul says he is struggling "for you."
Hmm, struggling for others. Focusing on others (hard) instead of me (as easy as falling off a log). What if I made my choices always thinking of how it is going to impact somebody besides me. Maybe I'm beginning to figure out why Jesus gave two great commandments when He was only asked for one. As a follower of Christ, I want to always make the decision that makes God happiest. (Even people who don't believe Jesus was God in the flesh frequently agree that His ethics and morality were pretty great.) When I can't figure that out directly, I can choose what would benefit people around me the most. Jesus says that these two things, what God wants and what benefits others, are always like each other.
Before you think I have just sunk into doing whatever people won't complain about, note that the condition is what benefits others, not necessarily what makes them happy. Don't take my word for it, though. Give it a whirl. Feel free to leave a comment if you learn something!