Posted by: jefriesen | June 1, 2010

Why Morality Matters

On occasion in this space I will make comment upon or reference to a current moral issue that is vexing our county, state or nation. Most people think that, as a pastor, I believe that morality matters. Morality does matter, but not in the way that people think. Many people assume that I think morality matters because I believe that good people go to heaven. Under this theory, I would want people to be good so that they would go to heaven and would thus encourage moral behavior at every step. People who think this would be wrong. I do not believe that good people go to heaven. More to the point, the Bible does not teach that good people go to heaven. This raises two questions: what does the Bible say about morality and why then, is morality important? I will say at the outset that I will answer this question according to what the Bible teaches and, consequently, what I believe. I do my best to be an equal opportunity offender, but today may be an exception.

First, what does the Bible say about morality? The response to this question could itself be divided into two parts: morality for the Christian and morality for the non-Christian. For the non-Christian, the Bible’s commands are intended not to show the way to heaven, but to show our moral bankruptcy before God. You cannot earn God’s favor by trying to be good. Incidentally, there is a group of people described in the New Testament who believed that following the Ten Commandments would earn them favor with God. They were called Pharisees, and Jesus reserved His strongest words of condemnation for them. No, for the non-Christian, the Bible issues only one command: repent and believe (these are not two commands, but one). What this means is that, from the Bible’s perspective, I don’t really care if you drink too much, do drugs, steal, cheat on your spouse or your taxes, become a politician or any other sin you can think of to do. It doesn’t offend me. I am not the Judge. There is a Judge, but I am not Him.

The Christian, on the other hand, is one who has come to God to receive mercy and grace. Mercy and grace cannot be merited, they must be granted. For the Christian, morality matters. But morality matters not because we are trying to either earn favor with God or repay Him for His grace. Rather, morality matters because, having been saved by God’s grace, we are called to live no longer for ourselves, but for Christ, who paid the penalty for our sin. Because we have been given grace, we are asked to be set apart for God’s purpose. What this means is that whatever we do, we are to do it in a way that pleases Christ. For the Christian, morality matters because it reflects our relationship with God. “We love,” the apostle writes, “because He first loved us.” So from the Bible’s perspective, morality matters mainly for Christians.

So then, why do I write about moral issues if it is not to earn favor with God? Simply this: even though morality doesn’t earn us favor with God, it does help us live together in our community in a more harmonious way. Though it doesn’t earn favor with God, it is good for our community if people aren’t killed in accidents caused by drunk drivers. It is good for our county if families aren’t torn apart by abuse and divorce. It is good for our kids if they do not abuse their bodies through drug and alcohol abuse. It is good for our city when people refuse to gossip and tear down, when words are used in constructive ways. Morality matters for us.

But I write on moral issues for another reason. If, in the midst of personal evaluation of these moral issues, you decide that you are sick of yourself and the pain you are experiencing because of the choices you have made, you might discover your own fallen-ness before a holy God. You might discover your own need for God’s grace and come to Him for mercy. You may begin at a point of frustration and end up on your knees. And that is why I write about moral issues.

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