Growing up, there was just nothing worse than when my parents said the words, “Because I told you so.” (1) Even as a young boy, I wanted to know why. What’s the purpose behind the rule? Now that I’ve grown up, that desire has only intensified and I’m now realizing there is great damage done when we lack meaning in our morality.
I’ve met people who are moral for morality sake and all it does is separate them from any meaningful relationships with those different from them. They judge easily from a safe distance. Their callous without even realizing it because they just assume everyone should join the moral club they paid into. Immoral people are seen as a threat to their personal morality. I suppose this is where the term “self-righteous” came from because ultimately, it’s all about, well… yourself.
I see something different in God. His morality is always relationship based. If you look at the Ten Commandments, you’ll find you can easily break them down into three relational categories. Our relationship with God, our relationship with our family, and our relationship with all others. This gives a much needed meaning to morality because the end goal is no longer to be more moral. The goal is, and always will be, to be more loving.
Take swearing for example. Now, the Bible speaks about how we shouldn’t use foul language, but do you really think God is up in heaven keeping tally on the times I said “Shit” instead of “Shoot”? I can almost hear him shouting, “Gosh darnit, Kyle! You missed the mother flipping double O’s again!”
I mean, come on! Of course not! God is however, concerned with how I use any words that hurt others. That’s the meaning of this morality. It’s not moral for morality sake but God deeply cares about our relationship with others and doesn’t want us to speak any hurtful word toward another. The meaning of morality is relational.
What about porn? So many have fallen into the lie that porn only effects the one looking at it. Porn is perceived by many as a victimless crime and so it runs rampant in both “morally” Christian homes as much as all others. However, I’ve learned there are 1,400 girls being bought and sold in my city tonight. I’ve discovered the average age of these girls is 14. I’ve become aware the leading cause of this sex trafficking in our world is pornography. Every click we make further enhances the demand. Not to mention the research showing the effect porn will have on our spouse, sex life, friendships, kids, and so much more. Porn rapes relationships. So when Jesus says to a crowd, “I was naked and you clothed me,” He is inviting us into a morality with meaning. (2) The meaning is always relational.
A final example for a morality with meaning is the time Jesus decided to reinterpret the ancient scriptures. He’s asked by a very moral religious person what is the greatest commandment to which he replies,
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (3)
Jesus starts off correctly reciting an ancient text all the moral people would have known (4) but then changes things. He starts off quoting the part about Loving God but then goes suddenly off script. Jesus replaces the second commandment of following a bunch of rules and making sure your family follows those rules with simply, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He’s consolidating and simplifying and making a great point.
Jesus is again revealing the meaning of morality. The point of following the rules is to love our neighbor. The purpose of “righteousness” is not about self, but others. The reason I’m moral, is so I can be more loving. Anything less ends up doing more damage than good. Morality was never meant to be isolating, but inviting.
I used to think signing up to be a Christian meant I’d have to become that really moral guy who kept his lawn mowed, got uncomfortable when someone swore, and my neighbors didn’t want to spend much time with. I’m now realizing God wants me to keep the lawn mowed so the neighbor kids can play squirt gun games on the front lawn while the parents and I drink beers in the shade.
Morality – Community = Isolation
Community – Morality = Assimilation
Morality + Community (& Holy Spirit) = Incarnation
Which of the above do you look most like?
1. I caught myself telling Linc that the other day and threw up in my mouth a little.
2. Matthew 25:36
3. Matthew 22:36-40
4. Deuteronomy 6:5