I’ve been contemplating this question for the past few weeks. In our evangelical world, we seem to be obsessed with morals. From arguments for prayer in school and posting the 10 Commandments everywhere we can, to protests and boycotts against lifestyles that clearly don’t fit into a Christian worldview, we see efforts by conservatives to expect a certain morality from the world around us.
Stop for a minute. I’m not against morality. I do think civilization works best when there is a set of values and corresponding actions and consequences we agree on.
Morality is not the goal
But for those who have faith in God, morality is not the goal. If we aim for morality, a list of dos and don’ts, we will end up at the place God abhors. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)
High morals enforced by godless men and women becomes oppressive. Not that we shouldn’t want good laws, but we need to be reminded that outward conformity, rather good or bad isn’t what God ultimately has in mind for this world and the new creation that is coming.
So, what does God want? He wants holiness. The apostle Peter reminded us, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16) Holiness involves our behavior; but it is also a trait that should fill our being. Just as the Scripture says, “God is love” so it says, “God is holy.”
Let me give you a Sermon on the Mount illustration of the difference between morality and holiness. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
Caring only with not committing adultery is a good moral stance. Actually, it’s in the big 10. But here Jesus said, no, you’re morality isn’t what we’re after. People who share God’s heart and God’s life should also share God’s nature – pure hearts. You see, that’s another standard. It’s a level, not higher, but deeper. And most of us would admit, it requires some sort of transformation in us.
The morality standard caused at least two individuals, who are praised by the religious right, to surmise that pornography might actually be a good thing. From the interview with Jordan Peterson, it’s recounted:
“Men want variety,” Prager said during a recent round-table discussion hosted by The Daily Wire’s Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and author. Pornography, he went on to say, is “not awful,” so long as it’s used as a “substitute for adultery.”(Faithwire)
This is where a morality-mindset leads us. It promotes a standard set of behaviors while leaving the heart of the matter untouched. And that is a dangerous place to be. Because it leaves us with the impression that we’re doing okay. While at the core of our being, we are rejecting the God who has called us to share in his nature. And it cleverly covers up the sin within, leaving more damage to be done in the lives of women who are objectified, used, and trafficked. It gives young girls no hope of not being sexualized. And it traps men in a world of enslavement to their basest desires.
It’s time we as the people of God, fight for holiness in our own lives and the lives of other believers. When that’s our standard, we’ll raise the bar of morality and we’ll give hope for lives which truly reflect the goodness, beauty and truth of God.