This morning, I happened upon an article which touted the release of a revised study concerning moral education for congregations titled, “Standing at the Crossroads: a Study of Christian Moral Decision-Making.”
Now, what I’m about to say is not based upon actual content from this study because I have not viewed it. It is based upon my initial reaction to the title, specifically “Christian Moral Decision-Making.” And maybe the series addresses what I’m about to share, but I’m only going to share my thoughts about what comes to my mind when I read the title.
When I read “Christian Moral Decision-Making,” there is one very important Biblical, heart-of-the-gospel, heart-of-God word that I don’t automatically connect with it. That word is love. What I do connect with it is the behavior, approach, and attitude of the Pharisees whose only concern was for morality and maintaining a moral code.
The Pharisees were not concerned about love – only morality. And it was morality upon which they based practically all their decisions and actions. They didn’t care if it hurt others. They didn’t care if it was devoid of mercy. They didn’t care if it was totally empty of grace. All that mattered was adhering to morality and a moral code by and because of which they felt perfectly justified and righteous in doing and saying what they did.
In Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 9), Matthew recounts how Jesus, after calling Matthew to be one of the Twelve, had the audacity to be not only in the same house with tax collectors and other “sinners,” but to actually eat with them, meaning fellowshipping with them. In the eyes of the Pharisees and by the moral code based upon the Law given by God to which they adhered, this was an immoral act on Jesus’ part. It was sin! Jesus responds to them by quoting Hosea 6:6 to them when he says, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” There are things which trump morality.
I guess when I read “Christian Moral Decision-Making,” I see decisions made based on deeply held convictions having nothing to do with love. Deeply held convictions often justify, in people’s minds, acting in totally unloving ways. And because those deeply help convictions are based on things God has said, they have no problem connecting God’s name to an act totally devoid of true and real love. That is the ultimate taking God’s name in vain.
It is quite common today that when a news story comes out about a Christian making a certain type of decision that the reason given for the decision and action is a deeply held religious conviction based upon morality. And for that person to do differently would be sin in their mind, because of their deeply held moral conviction and adherence to a moral code. Just like the Pharisees did, which also caused them to criticize and rebuke the Son of God.
Want to know what I don’t ever recall from these news stories as being the reason and motivation for the actions taken? Love. Mercy neither. All I hear is adherence to a moral code – morality – which I equate to “sacrifice.”
Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13 that without love, everything else is nothing; it’s meaningless; it’s worthless, practically rubbish. If that’s the case, why not have the decision-making process be about love first and foremost and allow love to dictate from that point forward, instead of morality or a moral code.
What a concept. Who’d have “thunk” it? Oh yeah, God did.