As an English teacher, I often champion the importance of connectives. They provide structure, give clarity and help you extend your writing. Today, I realised that there is one particular connective that is important to life as a Christian: the humble 'therefore'.
The word occurs 442 times in the NIV Bible, 158 of these in the New Testament. But why is this small, seemingly insignificant word so important? It's important because it links the reason why we do things and what we are doing.
In 1 Peter 1, there is a fantastic passage about the hope that we get from Jesus. This passage tells us that we have a living hope and one that never fades. This hope is the salvation of our souls. What an amazing passage and what a great reason to rejoice! Then comes that magic word: therefore. Therefore, it tells us, live a life of obedience and holiness. We are to focus on the hope we have and then, from that, comes our obedience.
Philippians 2:6-11 is probably the oldest New Testament hymn recorded, and it tells us of what Jesus does. Jesus, who was God, made himself nothing. He was obedient to death, a terrible form of death: crucifixion. Therefore, Jesus was exalted by God, so that every knee should bow to Him. So there's one therefore. Because of what he did, he should be exalted by every tongue. That includes ours.
But, Philippians 2:12 has another therefore. The passage then goes on to list some things that you should do as a result: continue to work out your salvation; don't grumble or argue; be glad and rejoice.
These therefore moments are important when coming to understand a faith-filled life. If you lose the therefore, you can find yourself with a faith without fruit or veer off into legalism. It prevents us putting the cart before the horse, or doing away with the cart or horse all together.
First, we are to recognise what Jesus has done, who he is and the hope it provides. Jesus, equal with God, died so that we could be reconciled with God. These are amazing truths and these are what we have to grasp first. Jesus has done it all. Jesus has saved us. He lived! He died! He rose again.
Only after we have accepted and acknowledged the truth of this good news, do we proceed on to the therefore. The therefore is a definitive statement, a proclamation of a natural progression, linking two mutually bound truths. So, there isn't an option of holding back. You can't choose to stay before the therefore. You have to move forward. It is the simple, obvious response to the first statement.
Jesus did all this, therefore I will be obedient.
He lived, therefore I shall live a holy life.
He died a sacrificial death, therefore I shall sacrifice my life also.
He rose again, therefore I shall live as a new creation.
It's the only way. It makes sense. It's how it should be.
But, the therefore only works if you get it in the right order. You can't skip to the therefore without first understanding why you're doing this. You can't just decide to ignore what Jesus did. This results in legalism and empty religion. You're just going through the motions without understanding or knowing why you're doing it.
So, go live your life in the therefore. Know Jesus' great love for you. Then, do the only thing that makes sense, live a worshipful and obedient life.