Sound Wisdom

I love Jordan Peterson (JP) – like the father I never had. His book, Twelve Rules for Life, is filled with sound wisdom, godly instruction – things I wish my father’d taught me. (Pr 3:21)

In his straightforward, brilliant, humble manner, JP’s helping me understand fundamental life principles, things I wish I’d been taught when I was young, and had been able to teach my kids. It’s priceless. (Pr 4:7, 12:1)

JP isn’t a Christian, not just yet, doesn’t even claim to believe in God; he’s a man who’s struggling to find the truth in the fear of a God Who might exist. If what he’s found so far is any indication, he’ll be a believer before he’s done. He’s seeking and knocking like no one else I’ve seen; he’ll find. (Mt 7:7-8)

Below are his 12 rules, with some summary notes and supporting scriptures.

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Be as strong as you can be, in mind, body, soul and heart. (1Co 16:13) Our nervous system responds differently when we face difficulty voluntarily rather than as a victim. There’s no virtue in self-imposed weakness. Individuals can take down empires, change the world; one who stands for truth in love cannot be defeated. So, stand! (Ep 6:13-14)
  2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. (Ep 5:29) People take better care of their pets than themselves. Self-hatred/disrespect/unforgiveness is inconsistent with God’s love for us. Act like you’re your own best friend, think of your future self as someone you need to care for.
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you. (Pr 13:20) People who don’t want the best for you aren’t your friends. Not only can you separate yourself from them: you should. Set proper boundaries; seek out people who’ll help you be your best self, and be that kind of friend to others.
  4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. (2Co 10:12) Make daily incremental changes in your life, towards a goal of perfection (Php 3:12-14); compound interest is at work, and works both ways.
  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them. (Ep 6:4) What I wish I’d heard as a young parent! This is Dare to Discipline on steroids, with a nuance that’s both encouraging and unarguably wholesome.
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. (Mt 7:5) If we can’t set your own house in order, what business do we have trying to influence anyone else? People and social systems are much more complex than we realize, and we can easily wreck havoc with simplistic ideas. Humility applies wisdom first at home, verifying its utility through experience.
  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient). (Mt 6:33) Life isn’t about happiness, it’s about purpose. Find your path and walk in it.
  8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie. (Ep 4:25) When we lie, we corrupt our own ability to perceive and interpret reality. There is never a good reason to do so. Speaking the truth in love always brings habitable order out of chaos. Articulate the truth in love as well as you can, to yourself and to others, and it clears your mind and spirit to see even more truth.
  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t. (Ja 1:19) Don’t be gullible, yet recognize you don’t know it all. (1Co 8:2) Be willing to learn from anyone and everyone.
  10. Be precise in your speech. Speech conveys information, precise speech does so efficiently, requiring less time and effort. It is a way of honoring others, loving them as ourselves. Anything less is unrefined, tainted, corrupt.  (Ep 4:29)
  11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding. “The spirit that interferes when boys are trying to become men is no more friend to Woman that it is to Man. It will object, just as vociferously and self-righteously, when little girls try to stand on their own two feet. It negates consciousness. It’s anti-human, desirous of failure, jealous, resentful, and destructive. No one truly on the side of humanity would ally him or herself with such a thing.”
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street. Why does God allow evil and suffering? It is the price of being, growing, and limitation. Pay attention to the intermittent rays of light sprinkling down into a suffering world. Enjoy them, and be reminded that the wonder of Being itself makes up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it.

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He Is Precious

Our capacity for delight has a singular purpose: to enable us to enjoy a single Person — Jesus Christ. This is what we’re made for. (Re 4:11) As we discover Him, we’re willing to give up anything and everything for Him. (Php 3:8)

Christ is precious to those who believe on Him (1Pe 2:7); in other words, those who don’t find Him precious haven’t yet found Him … they aren’t believers. Very few do find Him (Mt 7:14); these are the chosen of God. (Jn 6:44)

Christ Himself likens the disposition of the elect to a merchant seeking the finest pearls; trained to prize those of immense worth, he finds a single pearl of such incomparable value that he sells everything he owns to acquire it. (Mt 13:45-46)

We see the extreme intensity and degree of such passion illustrated in a sinful woman’s discovery of Christ; we’re told she loved much (Lk 7:47), and find her kissing His feet, anointing Him with extravagantly expensive ointment, weeping upon Him, washing His feet with tears and wiping them with her hair. (Lk 7:37-38) She is simply overwhelmed by Him; as are all who begin to truly apprehend the living God. (Php 3:12) Nothing compares to Him.

Of course, such love for Christ involves our sentiments, our emotions, the passion of our hearts, but it isn’t limited to this; such love engages our entire being: our wills, in obeying Him at all times and at all costs (Jn 14:21), our minds, in serving His Law (Ro 7:25) as it reveals His heart to us, meditating on Him and His ways day and night (Ps 1:2), and our bodies, as we spend ourselves in pleasing and glorifying Him. (1Co 6:20)

There’s a vast difference as well between cherishing Christ for what He’s done for us, and adoring Him for Who He actually is and what He’s like. A stranger’s generosity might bring forth passionate gratitude, but this is immensely different than finding unfathomable delight in another’s very nature. The former is merely self-interest in disguise, the latter a true cherishing of another soul. How might we distinguish between the two, if not in how we respond to God in our affliction? Are we after Him, or merely His gifts?

And how can we worship Him as He is if we misapprehend Him? If we’re not careful to understand Him, if we’re mistaken about His values, His nature and His ways? The enemy is constantly misrepresenting the divine Way and twisting His message to hide His true nature from us. (Jn 8:44) If we receive these lies about Christ, how can He be rightly precious to us? How do we rid ourselves of every false way (Ps 119:104), such that we’re free of these lying impressions and misrepresentations so we can value Jesus Christ as He truly is?

The documented life of Christ, His Words and ways as offered us in the Gospel narratives, provides a sweeping, panoramic view of His character, and we do well to ponder every detail. Yet a cursory, hit-and-miss sampling of His ways, dismissing parts we don’t understand or dislike, is misleading, incomplete, corrupting the word. We may easily misrepresent His heart if we aren’t deeply familiar with the context of His actions, and in the end receive another Jesus, a false one.

To know Him as He is, to find Him precious, we must perceive this revelation of the nature of God in its rightful context; to see the fullness of Christ, we must turn to Mosaic Law, considering all His commandments, and observe that Christ loved this Law with His whole heart (Ps 119:97), delighting in the wondrous revelation of His Father (Ps 119:18) with unspeakable intensity. (Ps 119:20) We must interpret His behavior through this lens, or we will miss Him. (Mt 5:17-19)

It is impossible, ultimately, to decouple love for Christ with what He values. If He’s precious to us, we’ll be rejoicing in His heart, beholding His beauty, obeying His commands (Jn 14:21), cherishing His words (Jn 14:23), and seeking His face.

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Add Not Unto His Words

When it comes to deciding what’s right and wrong, we only have three choices: [1] make up moral law as we go, deciding for ourselves and imposing our view on everyone else; [2] let some other sinners do this for us, delegating our responsibility to identify the correct moral standard, or [3] look to God to reveal moral law to us, acknowledging His unique right to define good and evil.

Option 3 is our only reasonable choice, and leads us to expect God to either [A] personally reveal moral law to each and every one of us independently, requiring us all to understand and apply moral law in isolation, effectively making each of us a law unto ourselves, such that we’re unable to either verify or validate our own understanding through the insights of others, or to lawfully hold others accountable for breaking moral law, or [B] to provide a formal written document revealing His moral code, one that we can all access, understand and study together, comparing insights and observations as we seek truth in community. Evidently, B is the only rational choice here.

And given that morality is as complex as life itself, nuanced and multi-faceted in ways that take a lifetime to comprehend, we’d expect God to reveal His righteousness within this written Word in multiple ways: (i) through a clearly defined moral code covering all relevant aspects of our lives; (ii) through stories and accounts of how various peoples have kept or broken this moral code in a wide variety of circumstances, and how God has responded to them; and (iii) through recounting the life pattern of one perfect Man, as He obeys this moral code and walks it out before us. And it is no surprise that this is exactly what we find laid out and preserved for us in Scripture.

He has inspired it perfectly (Ps 19:7), even giving it divine life (He 4:12), the perfect spiritual weapon, sufficient to fully enable us unto all good works. (2Ti 3:16-17) God is good, and He is faithful.

To attack this holy document, or any part of it, by altering Scripture in any way, is thus to attack humanity itself, and also God’s intent to reveal Himself to us all; God explicitly forbids this. (De 4:2) For anyone to take upon themselves to diminish, alter or add to the written revelation of God is thus a presumption of the highest order, undermining the very foundation of civilization and spiritual life. (Is 8:20) There is no higher treason than this, to deliberately taint the King’s masterpiece, to misrepresent His heart (Ps 11:3), as if one were qualified to sit in judgment of the Almighty, and correct Him.

Those who commit themselves to carrying out this kind of atrocity, in the myriad of ways that it might be wrought, whether adding to (Pr 30:6), corrupting (2Co 2:17), or taking away from God’s Word (Re 22:19), will necessarily both fail (Jn 10:35b), and also answer to the Author of Scripture for trying to corrupt it; He reserves His severest punishments for such depraved souls. (Re 22:18)

To neglect or misuse such a precious gift is likewise inexcusable; we’re to rightly divide the Word (2Ti 2:15), taking the sword of the Spirit (Ep 6:17), hiding it in our heart and meditating in it day and night (Ps 1:1-3), seeking truth as well as we’re able until we see Him as He is. (1Jn 3:2)

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