Laws and commandments are an Old Testament thing, right? Not at all. The New Testament is full of them. Did you know that there’s even a “law of Christ?” (Gal 6:2) Well, I’m speaking mostly to myself here, but many of the New Testament’s commands are difficult to follow.
The New Testament consists of many situational works and correspondences, so appropriating its commands can become difficult. But here are 10 that I find particularly challenging not because they’re hard to contextualize, but because my flesh prefers to avoid these altogether! While these may be applied in different ways, I believe are very much applicable to modern Christians.
1) Abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thess. 5:22)
We all like to poke fun at the “holy huddle” Christians who go to great lengths not to taint themselves—I mean, they resemble the Pharisees better than they do Jesus, right? Well, this verse is a great reminder that holiness is something that God’s people should hold dear. It doesn’t mean we become sectarian, as if we can’t look upon evil or breathe the same air as “sinners.” Rather, if something looks evil, or we’re unsure, we simply don’t do it.
2) Be patient toward others (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 2:24)
In the age of self-care (which is important), many of us simply withdraw from relationships that stretch us. Maybe we count strikes on one hand. Or maybe all it takes is one let-down for our guard to rise up high. Burn out and harmful relationships are real possibilities, but many times we set the bar higher for others than we do ourselves. Being attentive to a person’s story, pain, or insecurities, may help us become more patient toward them.
3) Avoid troublemakers (Rom. 16:17)
This is a wisdom genre—it will require discernment to know how to apply. But certainly there are situations where we must say a firm “no” to the company of people whose negative attitudes, lifestyles, or doctrine are toxic. This is the problem with some alleged “middle way” solutions—they prioritize attempts at visible unity over firm love. This mistake also robs troublemakers the opportunity for godly sorrow leading to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10).
4) Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Here’s another difficult one, especially for a theological tradition which has become characterized by its “niceness” and sensitivity to others. But there are times when persistent, unrepentant sin should result in clear lines drawn in the sand. While the church should be a hospital for the sick, it must not forget to be a school for saints.
5) Do all things without murmuring or disputing (Phil. 2:14)
If you live south of the Mason Dixon line—really, if you live anywhere in the world—gossip often veils itself in prayerful concerns, or “catching up.” Christians shouldn’t condone or participate in this behavior. Furthermore, I also believe that if we feel the personal conviction to live a certain way or take on some project, we shouldn’t constantly complain over its strenuousness.
6) Honor rulers (1 Pet. 2:17)
Every 4 years or so this becomes especially painful to obey. You know, when the candidate of your opposing political party takes aim at office. Christians shouldn’t villainize leaders, but instead “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) There are times when sharp rebuke and calls to accountability are appropriate, but it has become all too common for Christians to dehumanize—even demonize—leaders with opposing political views.
7) Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3)
In the age of social media, how is it possible for us to do good deeds and not share it with the whole world, let alone keep our hands from knowing what the other is doing? Our generation needs to be particularly attune to this issue. God honors the good deeds and the good lunches eaten in secret!
8) Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19)
The lines between Global Christianity and the West are quickly becoming blurred—and that’s a good thing. When we meet Christians outside of the West, they often carry with them a vibrancy and power—often marked by charismatic gifts—that may at first be intimidating. We’ve all seen abuses of the charismatic gifts, but God’s instructions are clear: we must not put a cap or limit on what God can do in his church, even when it involves us and stretches us individually.
9) Study to show yourself approved to God (2 Tim. 2:15)
New studies reveal that some traditional ways of learning aren’t quite as effective at formation as we thought they were. So we avoid things like memorization, lectures, etc. We often wonder, do the details really matter that much? Well, it may just be that God is still in the details (and the devil, too)! So let’s make honest attempts at learning both the known and obscure parts of the Bible. Both the things we like and don’t like. Because somehow, this relates to God’s approval.
10) Watch your doctrine closely (1 Tim. 4:16)
Doctrine is a conversation stopper for many. But for the first church, the gospel and mission hinged on healthy doctrine. If we get God wrong, we’ll get everything else wrong. When it comes to doctrine, I’d suggest starting with historic orthodoxy, reading your Bible attentively, and perhaps exploring the Wesleyan tradition for landing in a good church.