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Morality: Why I Am Better Than You June 28, 2009

(from “Searching For God Knows What” by Donald Miller)

        A great concern for those who defend a propositional gospel over a relational gospel is morality.  Some feel that if we do not emphasize morality, people will have too much fun and refuse to play by the rules the rest of us who know God have to play by.  [But] the Bible is not structured as a moral code.  It does not have all the answers on right and wrong.  A book containing a complete moral code would require all pages in all books.

         Lately, however I have been thinking of morality in less conceptual terms, less as a system of rules and regulations and more a concept very beautiful and alive.  Basically I am a simple sheep, having very little idea of what is right and wrong, and Jesus is going to pull me out of the ditches when I screw up, and protect me from spiritual enemies.

          I wonder if the idea of morality is just another ramification of the Fall.  Paul even says that the law was given to the Jews to show them they couldn’t follow the law.  Morality exists only because we are fallen, not unlike medicine exists because people get sick.  The hijacking of the concept of morality began when we reduced Scripture to formula, and a love story to theology, and finally morality to rules.  It is a very different thing to break a rule than it is to cheat on a lover.

          The moral message I have heard is often a message of bitterness and anger because our morality, our culture, is being taken over by people who disregard our ethical standards.  None of that is connected, relationally, to God at all.  Morality as a battle cry against a depraved culture is simply not a New Testament idea.  Morality as a ramification of our spiritual union and relationship with Christ, however, is.

          I was the guest on a radio show recently that was broadcast on a secular station, one of those conservative shows that paints Democrats as terrorists.  The interviewer asked what I thought about the homosexuals who were trying to take over the country.  “Which homosexuals are trying to take over the country?” I asked.  “You know,” the interviewer began, “the ones who want to take over Congress and the Senate.”  “Well,” I said, “I’ve never met those guys and I don’t know who they are.  The only homosexuals I’ve met are very kind people, some of whom have been beat up and spit on and harassed and, in fact, feel threatened by the religious right.”

Think about it.  If you watch CNN all day and see extreme Muslims in the Middle East declaring war on America because they see us as immoral, and then you read the paper the next day to find the exact same words spoken by evangelical leaders against the culture here in America, you’d be pretty scared.  I’ve never heard of a homosexual group trying to take over the world, or for that matter the House or the Senate, but I can point you to about fifty evangelical organizations who are trying to do exactly that.

          I continued, “As a Christian, I believe Jesus wants to reach out to people who are lost and, yes, immoral – immoral just like you and I are immoral; and declaring war against them and stirring up your listeners to the point of anger is only hurting what Jesus is trying to do.  This isn’t rocket science.  If you declare war on somebody, you have to either handcuff them or kill them.  But if you want them to be forgiven by Christ, you have to love them.  So go ahead and declare war in the name of a conservative agenda, but don’t do it in the name of God.  That’s what militant Muslims are doing in the Middle East, and we don’t want that here.”

          A moral message, a message of us versus them, overflowing in war rhetoric, is not the sort of communication that came out of the mouth of Jesus.  Some Christians, when considering immorality in culture, consider two issues:  abortion and gay marriage.  Moral ideas presented in the New Testament, and even from the mouth of Christ, however, involve loving our neighbors, being one in the bond of peace, loving our enemies, taking care of our own business before we judge somebody else, forgiving debts even as we have been forgiven, speaking in truth and love else we sound like clanging cymbals (turn on Fox News to hear what clanging cymbals sound like).

          Morality, in the context of a relationship with Jesus, becomes the voice of reason and calm in a loud argument, the voice of life in a world of walking dead, the voice of Christ in a sea of self-hatred.

Buy “Searching For God Knows What” at:
http://astore.amazon.com/lifewalk_store-20?node=2&page=5

 

6 Responses to “Morality: Why I Am Better Than You”

  1. Naomi Says:

    As a volunteer at a Christ-centered crisis pregnancy center, I speak to broken teens and women weekly with huring souls and low self-esteem, and they do not know why. When asked about their sexual activity, they freely talk about how often and with how many teens/men they have had sex. When asked how their relationship with God is, they will often say “fine”, “great”, even “perfect”. When asked if there is anything about their relationship with God they would want to change, they often can not come up with anything. Clearly these hurting people, many of whom consider themselves Christians and attend church services somewhere, do not make any connection between their relationship with God and their behavior.

    The center I volunteer at takes great pains in traning volunteers to be loving, non-judgemental, truth speakers. Unfortunately, society currently has taught these women that there is no connection between their relationship with God and their behavior; no connection between their feelings of low worth and their actions. Sex outside of marriage harms men and women physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If these women don’t hear the truth, they will continue to hurt and not understand why. When we develop relationships with them, week after week, and gently confront them with the consequences of their actions, they are receptive and continue to come back. Some continue their behavior but continue to come back because they feel loved.

    It is important that we don’t water down the truth in the name of “unconditional love”, because “love” without “truth” is no love at all. The scriptures clearly teach that we should speak the truth in love. To not discuss morality in the public forum does not make us more loving, it makes us less truthful. Yes, we should talk about morality in the context of loving our enemies, forgiving others debts, and taking the beam out of our own eyes first, but this does not mean that we should be silent about destroying unborn life or sexual immorality…it is all the truth, and if the world does not hear this from the Christian, who is to be salt and light in a dark world, who will they hear this from?

    I weary of the “conservative agenda” as much as the “liberal agenda.” One side thinks they “speak the truth” and the other side thinks they “speak in love”, and neither side helps the heart of man.

    I love Jesus, and when He convicts my heart, out of love for Him I want to change. I do not hear anyone in the part of the Body that I fellowhip with “declairing war” on anyone, but we are taught to speak the truth in love. This is what I do for others, because it is what I want done for myself.

    • lifewalkblog Says:

      I certainly agree with you on most things. I find it somewhat hard to believe you don’t hear the political conservatives declaring war on the abortionists, gays, etc. I know I’ve heard a lot of that. But, we are in general agreement otherwise. Where we do disagree…oh well. You’ll have that.
      Thanks for reading, and thanks for your input. Be blessed.

      • Naomi Says:

        I do agree that there are political conservatives declairing war on abortionists, gays, etc, just none among the Christians I fellowship with. I also have very kind hearted friends and associates who are gay and pro-choice, but if you have not seen gay activists and abortionists trying to lobby congress I am equally surprized.

      • lifewalkblog Says:

        I’m sure none of the Christian friends you fellowship with would say they have declared war against certain sinners. Yet, I have fellowshipped with many (including those I love) who have not declared war with their mouths, but certainly with their actions. I’ve fellowshipped with many who say they love sinners, but who’s distain and self-righteousness was more than apparent. They may not even have been aware of it themselves, but it was clear to others.
        Yes, I’m aware of militant leftists, and well as right-wing hate-mongers. I’ve acknowledged that in many writings. I’m just saying we need to remember God says to each of us “You Follow Me,” and not “You enforce your version of morality on others.”

  2. will Says:

    Dude, that book sounds incredible!!

    I was listening to a message from JV McGee the other day, and he was making the point from I Thessalonians 1.9 how the people “turned to God from idols”. When morality is preached by Christians, the emphasis is on “turning from idols”. JV was saying “preach Christ, and the turning from idols happens when one turns to Christ… it’s part of the natural process”.

    Morality in culture is the by-product of turning to Christ, and yet many in conservative circles make it the point. They think if America follows an outward moral code, God will bless America– in other words, America will be declared righteous as a nation by following a law.

    A few of the many problems with this: (1) outward morality does not mean a clean heart… just ask the pharisees (2) the verses used by those who teach the above are taken out of context from a Theocracy… if they want to use those laws, they need to also teach the rest in context to achieve the righteousness that God was calling for (start reading in Leviticus) (3) that idea is not modeled by the New Testament. The thrust of teaching morality in the New Testament was always in the church– keeping the bride pure, never trying to wash culture.

    The only thing that can wash culture is as individuals find Jesus and begin walking with Him. All other good works done are as dirty rags…. where have I heard that before?

    • lifewalkblog Says:

      Good post, Will.
      And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Morality for the sake of morality is just religion. All religions preach some form of morality, even if it’s immoral. Morality in and of itself, is, at best, a band-aid…and not a very good one. Plus, even “Christian” morality (that is, socio-political, so-called Christian morality), is somewhat arbitrary. Just poll 100 “Christian” churches on right and wrong, and you’ll see how arbitrary it is.
      As I’ve said before, they all “just believe the Bible,” and yet their “rights and wrongs” can still be very different. Fall in love with Jesus; head-over-heels in love with Jesus, and the concept of morality fades, as the concept of “living in love” takes its place.


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