The indicative inspires and motivates the imperative, says the theologian. “Be [the imperative] who you are [the indicative].”
A syllogism is a logical construct stating two propositions and drawing a conclusion from terms shared by both. “All dogs are canine. Fido is a dog. Therefore Fido is a canine.”
I taught these literary and writing devices at the advanced levels of composition. Each begins with a presupposition of truth and ends with an application of that truth. Somewhere in western civilization there is a student reciting and practicing these formulas. Maybe a seminarian. Perhaps a middle school logic student. Either way, they are likely approaching the process in a neat, sterile manner. This means this; that means that. Close the book, take the test. Done.
But also, somewhere in between the two positions, between the is and the do, is should. And that’s not so easily done.
Should implies obligation. Should infers moral weakness if it’s not accomplished. Should rings with failure.
In our flesh, in our insecurity, in our anxiety, we know very well what we should be doing. And we hate the fact that our will sides more often with our flesh than it does with our mind, where we have stored what we know is true.
But should is really where the beauty lies. We cannot escape the indicatives and the imperatives. The Scriptures are full of should statements, so to hate should is to hate what God has told us in this wonderful letter of love to his children.
Should is there because of could.
Not our could. Not our ability to do what is right based upon what is true.
But it’s based upon upon what Jesus could do, because of who he is, and what he did do, because he is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the direction. He is the indicative. He is the imperative. He fulfills the could, and we rest on his work, finished and accepted, for the should. Instead of identifying with the failure of the corruptible, we have been given the right to identify with the could of the incorruptible.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8)