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Don’t Get Stuck in the Don’ts

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:15

Sometimes we can get stuck in the “don’ts.” As parents, we can sound like a broken record with our children: “Don’t break that. Don’t touch that. Don’t go in the street. Don’t talk to me that way.” Sometimes the church has fallen into the “don’t rut” as well, emphasizing all the things people should avoid, without moving on to what we should embrace.

I’m not suggesting that don’ts are wrong or unnecessary. I’m not saying “Don’t ever use don’ts.” God has given us the Ten Commandments, after all, which contain several clear “Thou shalt nots.” Our Lord understands that we need boundaries in our lives, lines over which we should not cross. So the don’ts are necessary and helpful. But we don’t want to get stuck there.

We see a fine example of moral unstuckness in Ephesians 5:15-18. This passage includes three clear don’ts: Don’t be unwise (5:15); Don’t be foolish (5:17); Don’t get drunk (5:18). Yet, each one of the don’ts is matched by an appropriate do: Don’t be unwise, but do be wise (5:15); don’t be foolish, but do understand the Lord’s will (5:17); don’t get drunk, but do be filled with the Spirit (5:18). Yes, there are boundaries we mustn’t cross, behaviors we shouldn’t do. But there are also positive actions for us to do, inspiring goals for which to reach. Be wise. Understand. Be filled with the Spirit.

In tomorrow’s reflection, we’ll examine more closely the last of these exhortations. But, for now, I’d like to encourage you to reflect upon your own life. Do you get stuck in the don’ts? Are you forever trying not to do things you ought to avoid, without seeking to do that which is right and honoring to the Lord? In my experience, focusing too much on the don’ts doesn’t work. If, for example, I put all of my attention into not doing things that hurt my wife, I’m much less successful than if I focus instead on how to love her.

I’m also concerned that, far too often, the church of Jesus Christ majors in the don’ts as we communicate with the world around us. Our neighbors can associate us so much with the negatives, what we denounce, that they understandably fail to hear the positives, what we offer. Perhaps if we were to commend and embody a positive vision of life rather than getting stuck in the don’ts, more of our neighbors would be drawn to the Lord through us.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever get stuck in the don’ts? When? Why? When are don’ts helpful, even necessary? When do the don’ts keep us from living the full Christian life?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the don’ts you have revealed to us. We need limits. We need to know what behaviors and attitudes we should avoid if we want to live the fruitful life you intend for us.

Yet, dear Lord, you know how easy it is for us to get stuck in the don’ts. We can focus so much on what to avoid that we fail to reach for that which is good, right, and beautiful. Without ignoring the don’ts, help us, Lord to embrace the dos. May our lives be guided by a vision of flourishing that comes from the gospel. And may we share this vision with our neighbors, so that they might be drawn to you. Amen.

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Featured image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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