"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness." - Psalm 115:1
During the late 1990's, when the phrase "What would Jesus do?" was all the rage, a seminary professor I knew asked an alternative question: "Does it glorify God?"
I never knew how to answer the first question. I could usually guess at it, but I never was quite sure how Jesus would act in any given situation. In the end the whole thing felt like easy ethics and half-hearted speculation to me.
But that second question? That's the one that got to me. And that's the one I started to ask myself more regularly.
In the Westminster Catechism, a shared part of the heritage of both the Congregational and Evangelical and Reformed branches of the UCC, the first question asked is, "What is the chief end of (hu)mankind?" In other words, "What is our purpose in life?"
The answer is simply, "To glorify God and enjoy God forever."
Nearly 400 years later, I think that's the best one line synopsis of what it means to live a Christian life. In the end our choices should not be about what brings us glory. Instead, they should be about what glorifies God. And when we are faced with a difficult choice that one question can bring us clarity, cut through the excess, and make all the difference: Does it glorify God?
If the answer is "no," why do it? But if the answer is "yes," we can act boldly and in good faith. And, if the Westminster divines are right, we might even get a little enjoyment out of the whole thing to boot.
God, sometimes we don't know exactly what Jesus would do, but we do know that whatever he did, it glorified you. Help us to give you the glory, that we may feel your joy. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.