My Problem with Shoulds   Leave a comment

The law is good, as Paul says, and it has several beneficial uses.  One use is to teach us what God is like, and provide insight on how we might be like him.  Of course, all of Scripture (not just the commands) is designed to help us in this way whether history, teaching, prophecy, or the like.  For those who want to be intimate with God and be shaped into his beautiful likeness, it doesn’t really matter whether a biblical teaching is grammatically in the command form.  The only question is whether it will help me grow personally and relationally.

The word “should” has close links with law, and it carries several connotations.  First, it suggests an evaluative role.  It is telling us what would be a good or better course of action.   This may have no moral connotations, such as: “You should  try Ben and Jerry’s New York Fudge Chunk.”  Second, and closely connected to the first, is an implication of pressure to act in a certain way.  We could place it on a continuum to demonstrate this: Can—–Should—-Must.  Again, this need not be concerned with morality: “You must try this app!”  The third connotation of should, like the word law, is one of potential personal judgment.  Even if this regards simply a choice of wrenches, the person who fails to do what he should is faulted.  Something is wrong with him.  He is defective or weak or stupid or belligerant.  Finally, because it is poised to judge, should appeals to a particular motivation.  It is not a positive motivation (as the first two connotations might be); it does not attract by the beauty or benefit or health of the choice.  It rather motivates by the fear and shame of being bad, unacceptable, dis-graced.

I do not want to live my life being motivated by fear and shame.  I want to be motivated by God’s love for me and my echo of love for him and others, in other words, grace.  Sometimes the should of law is necessary to shape external behavior to curb the harm a person may do to herself or others, but as long as the individual is acting from fear or shame, it is only her behavior which is affected.  Her heart is not growing in grace.  It may even be shrinking.  I think the primary judgment role of law and should is to help us recognize our real inadequacies and faults, not in order to shape our behavior but to awaken us to the gospel.  Some folks think grace has no power to motivate, but I have found it incredibly powerful… that must wait for another post.


Posted April 5, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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