(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.
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