Christianity is Not a System of Morality

Keith KettenringBible Insights, Christian Living, The Uncommon Journey, Uncategorized2 Comments

I’m not quite sure how it happened (Was I was taught or just caught “moralism?”) but for most of my life I thought the Christian faith was primarily about moral behavior, mine and others. This is what that looked like…
I thought being a Christian primarily involved:
  • not sinning
  • behaving morally upright in my outward actions
  • staying away from people who were morally questionable (“sinners”) lest they cause me to compromise my high moral standards
  • making judgments about who is morally questionable (“a sinner”) and who is not
  • defining morality according to my personal beliefs informed by my understanding of scripture and my personal opinions
  • living, without fail,
  •  according to my high moral standards. (Failure was not an option!)
  • being fully convinced that my moral standards were the right ones
  • never allowing anyone (even myself) to question my moral system and standards
  • informing others about what is moral and what is not
  • influencing govern
  • ment, education, and society towards my moral standards
Don’t get me wrong. All of us, Christian or not, are to live moral lives. What I’m digging at is a system of morality people develop which is equated with being Christian. The label “moralism” or “being moralistic” might fit the idea as well. Moralism is an ideology, a system of thought and belief, which can easily replace the true understanding (and practice) of Christian behavior.
One of the main reasons I started to question the notion of “Christian equals morality” were people who did not claim to be Christian yet they had similar or higher moral positions than I had. Non-Christians can be moral? Morality is not just Christian? People can be moral without Jesus? If life is about being moral yet I can be moral without Jesus, who needs Jesus? See where moralism can lead? It’s possible to be a moral person without Jesus. But that’s definitely not Christian. Apparently, you can have a Christ-less morality but you certainly can’t have a Christ-less Christianity. So, being Christian is about Jesus Christ not about morality.

 

Reminders
Let me state it similarly to Jesus:
You have heard it said that being a Christian is about your moral behavior. But I say unto you…
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
You have heard it said that being a Christian is about your moral behavior. But I say unto you…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
You have heard it said that being a Christian is about your moral behavior. But I say unto you…
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 
You have heard it said that being a Christian is about your moral behavior. But I say unto you…
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second [commandment] is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
Am I pushing it too far if I take the moralists who cling to their stringent “code of conduct” imposed on others and compare them to the “teachers of the law” of Jesus’ day? He did not speak kindly or them:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Wow – “beautiful” and “righteous” on the outside but full of self-indulgence, deadness, hypocrisy, wickedness, and uncleanness on the inside. Jesus didn’t mince words, did He. Moralism is a dangerous business.
You have heard it said that being a Christian is about your moral behavior. But I say unto you…
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Reorientation
Jesus reorients our understanding about what it is to be a Christian by teaching us that:
  1. Our relationship with the Trinity is the supreme priority not whether we behave a certain way.
  2. Real life in Christ transforms our inner being (spirit, heart, soul, mind, strength, desires, attitudes) fostering our love for others. In other words, “righteousness” is not primarily moralistic but ontological (having to do with our “being”). Christianity is not about right behavior but about right being.
  3. When being and living in dynamic union with Christ (“abide”) are the source and goal of our journey, how we behave becomes more and more according to Christ and less and less according to a moralistic code or standard we set for ourselves and/or others.
“Clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Our individualistic, moralistic code becomes unnecessary in light of the enlightening life of Christ operating within.
So all you moralists (especially the one writing this post), please climb off your high horse, humble yourself, and journey into a deeper experience of Jesus Christ who will transform you into the loving and gracious moral person you really want to be. Then you can live well by loving yourself and others in a manner reflecting God’s mercy and goodness.
What’s your reaction to these thoughts? Please comment below. Thanks!
Dr. K/Keith

2 Comments on “Christianity is Not a System of Morality”

  1. I love this post… I’ve always believed that what’s on the inside matters more than outward appearances… I am70 today and still have much to learn… thank you for your guidance Dr. Keith and we miss you here at CBC/The Cove.. but very happy to see you are still teaching us…
    Eva 🙏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *