This part has been a long time coming, mainly due to the fact that I’ve recently become a parent and that’s taken a lot of time to get used to. However, since the only person I know who is a regular reader is my wife… she’s had the same problem. If there are others out there than here is the last part of this three-part look at Liberty, Morality, and Moderation.
The reason I decided to do this three-part post was because it is pretty reflective of who I am. I do not think the extremes of doing whatever I please in Christian liberty or fencing my life away in an effort to be moral to please God or protect myself from the evil world is really what we’re called by God to do. Is there both Christian liberty and a need for morality? Yes, I think there is. However does it necessarily have to result in no rules living or rigid morality? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.
I think Tim Keller in his book The Prodigal God sums up my feelings about both of these types of living. He says, “There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good.” At the end of the day both of these paths can lead us to or dangerously close to being our own savior. Our focus becomes doing what we desire or by following all the rules of the community and protecting ourselves from the world. In these endeavors we can miss that God may be calling us to a greater focus than either of these.
I think it is easier to see the danger of breaking all the rules than it is to see the danger of keeping all the moral laws. However, if we really read the Gospels, the Pharisees thought they were keeping all the moral laws of the Bible and even ones that went above and beyond the Bible. These were the ones who are recorded in conflict with Jesus more than any other group. Can we not see how it could be dangerous for us to get to a place where we act and think like we are the moral ones who are truly pleasing God? Those subtle sins of pride and self-righteous are just as sinful as wild debauchery, if not more so because they’ve subtle.
Do I have an answer to what we should do? Not entirely. I do believe we’re called to something much deeper than a life of self-fulfillment or a life of rules. We are called into a relationship with God. A relationship the requires us to remember who we are and what He has done for us. A relationship that we did not start, and had no desire to start. When we forget that we can forget to show love and grace to those around us and foster the sins of pride and self-righteousness in our own hearts. A relationship with God also requires us to realize that we are not the only person in this relationship. It is not all about us. It is not about being able to do whatever I want. There is morality in the Bible there is no doubt about that. However, the Bible is equally as clear that none of us are or will ever be perfect in this life. Our “perfection” comes only from Jesus Christ who lived that perfect live and paid for our sins so we didn’t have to. God’s mercy is the only way we are ever able to enter into a relationship with God is because he enabled it.
So often we get into battles over what to do with aspects of our culture. Do we watch movies/TV or not? If so, what ratings/shows are acceptable to watch? Is it okay to drink alcohol? Both the sides of morality and liberty love these issues and make a huge deal out of them. At the end of the day though it comes down to why or why aren’t we doing something? Is it for us or is it for others? Are we trying to feel moral and Godly in order to receive what we want from God? Is it because we don’t care and we’re the only one who is important? Or do we do the activities we do to engage people while engaging ourselves and God in the whole process?
At the end of the day our morality and our liberty is like dust in the wind. They are only vanity. We can be looked up to and be moral and care less about God. We can also have evident sin in our lives and be seeking and struggling to follow after God. This was revolutionary when Jesus was teaching it and it still is today. It doesn’t mean that there is no liberty or morality in the Christian faith, but it does mean that they may be less important than we’re led to believe. That our life and faith is often found somewhere in between the two extremes that Christians can take. There is morality in the Bible, but we need to be careful not to add our own rules to that no matter how good the intention. There is also liberty in the Bible, but it is not to come at the expense of those around us. Where one ends and the other begins will be something that I know I’ll wrestle with probably all my life, but I’ll be struggling and seeking what God wants from it all.