The DOs and DON’Ts of Jesus
(Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1Pet.3:15-18; Jn.14:15-21)
Do you love Jesus? Yes or no?
If you say that you love Jesus, then how deep is that love? Do you simply have warm feelings for him, or is it something much deeper than that?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking to his disciples. The Last Supper is over, and he has just washed their feet. Jesus knows he will soon be crucified, so he gives them some final, parting advice.
‘If you love me,’ he says, ‘you will keep my commandments.’
But which commandments are these? He can’t mean the Ten Commandments, because he refers to ‘my commandments.’ So, what are they?
What Jesus is talking about here is all the wisdom he has given us through his many teachings. Perhaps his two best-known commandments are these from Matthew’s Gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. And, You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mt.22:37-39).
As Jesus tells us, these are the two greatest commandments and the foundation of all the others. But what are his other commandments?
The Irish writer Flor McCarthy has put together a collection of Jesus’ commandments in the form of ‘Dos and Don’ts.’ These are not only helpful, he says, but they are necessary – especially if we are serious about living a good Christian life. Let’s begin with Jesus’ Don’ts:
- Don’t return evil for evil. Nothing is achieved by retaliation, except to pile darkness upon darkness (Mt.5:38-42).
- Don’t judge your neighbour. No one knows all the facts in any particular case except God. Therefore, always leave judgement to God (Mt.7:1-2).
- Don’t condemn your neighbour. This follows from the last. If you should not pass judgement on your neighbour, then you shouldn’t pass sentence on him, either (Mt.7:1).
- Don’t worry about food, and drink, and clothes, as if these were the most important things in life. Make it your first concern to live a life worthy of a son or a daughter of God, and all the rest will fall into place (Mt.6:25,33).
- Don’t store up treasures for yourselves here on earth: money, property, goods, and so on. These are like dust in the eyes of God, dust to be blown away in the first winds of judgement (Mt.6:19-20).
- Don’t look back once you have put your hand to the plough, that is, once you have decided to follow my way. And once you have made what you are sure is a right decision in life, go forward trusting in God (Lk.9:62). And
- Don’t give up hope when times are rough. Keep on trusting in me and in the Father. Remember that you are worth more than a thousand sparrows (Mt.10:31).
And here are Jesus’ Dos:
- Let the light of your goodness shine before people. The light you shed around you will help others find their way, and the Father will be glorified (Mt.5:16).
- Love your enemies. Being kind to those you don’t like, or who may have been unkind to you, is hard. But if you do this, you will be the salt of the earth (Mt.5:43-45).
- Give generously. The measure you give to others will be the measure you will receive from God (Lk.6:38).
- Forgive those who sin against you. Then you have nothing to fear in regard to your own sins. God has already forgiven them (Mt.6:14).
- Clean the inside of cup and dish, and the outside will become clean, too (Mt.23:26).
- See that your minds and hearts are clean. Then all your thoughts, words and deeds will also be clean, like water coming from an unpolluted well (Mt.15:17-20).
- Take my body and eat it. Take this cup and drink my blood. Do this in memory of me. In the Eucharistic Banquet you will find the nourishment you need to live as my disciples (Lk.22:19).
- And love one another, the way I have loved you. Then all will know that you are disciples of mine (Jn.13:35).
Flor McCarthy says these Dos and Don’ts aren’t really commandments; they’re more like guidelines for how we should live. ‘What we are really dealing with,’ he says, ‘is a new spirit, new values and attitudes towards God, towards our neighbour and towards life.’ [I]
Loving Jesus isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s actually a way of life that has profound meaning and purpose. Jesus’ teachings give shape and direction to the Christian life, and they are essential guideposts to our final destination – heaven.
So, as Jesus says, if you truly love him, then follow his guidelines.
[i] Flor McCarthy, New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies, Year A – Dominican Publications, Dublin, 2013:141-142.