2 March 2021
As our hearts are burdened by the news of Christian leaders and workers drifting off into immorality, we need to refocus on commitment to Christian morals and to firmly believe that this is a path of wisdom and duty and it is the fruit of genuine saving faith.
I find the illustration given by the late J.I. Packer very helpful:
“Think of Christian morality as a ship, but one that is drifting off course and is adrift. Up on the bridge, a crowd of people has been squabbling as to which of them should steer, with the result that the ship is not being effectively steered at all. It has already grazed some rocks, and started to leak, and unless remedial action is taken its condition is bound to get worse. God will no doubt ensure that it does not sink altogether, for if it did, His promise of perpetual preservation for His church and His truth till Christ comes again would have failed. But the battering that Christian morality has received has already done much harm”.
First of all, we need to be clear of the fundamental structure of Christian morality, for it seems to many that clarity is often lacking,
Christian morality is an expression and function of Christian theology. Our ethics are to be drawn from our theology; Christian duty is determined by Christian doctrine. It is not to be equated with secular morality, or the morality of a cultural heritage. Christian morality is essentially a declaration of God’s will for human behaviour; it is precisely the doctrine of God’s commands to mankind in relation to His works for humankind and HIs ways with humankind.
God the creator wants His human beings to serve, please, and glorify Him by specific courses of action that He likes to see, and He directs us accordingly by encouraging us to do right and discouraging us from doing wrong. Christian morality, according to the BIble, is like a ‘blueprint’ for living under the authority of a personal awesome Lord, by whose grace we have been saved to serve, and to whom we must one day give an account.
The practice of Christian morality, which is the outward aspect of living the Christian life, must never be separated in thought or in reality from the inward aspect of that life. If our thoughts about doing God’s will get detached from our thoughts about the inner spiritual life, as if these two areas are not one, or if, even worse, we define the Christian life entirely in terms of external obedience and forget that there is more than mechanically correct performance, then we can hardly avoid ending up in some version of legalistic Pharisaism. The practice of Christian morality must however rest on the truth that Christ’s servants live only by being daily forgiven for their daily failures – repentance is a way of life until we see Christ in His second coming.
We must guard against two things going wrong. Our godliness and morality must not be excessively human-centred. It focuses on ‘my personal satisfaction’ rather than ‘the glory of God.’ Such an emphasis is all on self-fulfilment, happiness, being shielded from trouble, and being enabled to succeed. Success in relationships, success in one’s sex life, success in everyday activities, has become the norm and the name of the game.
Secondly, there is a great deal of Christian activity these days so that activism almost becomes our religion. The whole of our Christianity becomes a matter of running around and doing things for God – being busy, busy, busy for God. We admire the busiest Christians. We take it for granted that they are the best Christians. Ironically, we are too busy even to pray!
So we need to remember that Christian morality is not just ‘external’ but also ‘internal’. It is not focused on self but on God and His desires (which may include ‘sufferings’ to mould us); it is not reflected in activities and busyness but it has to do with fellowship and relationship with our Lord God which overflow in our actions and activities.