Saturday, June 29, 2013

Moralism, Morality and Grace

Sometimes when Christians really get ahold of the grace of God, and their release from the bondage of legalism gives them a new joy, they become a little confused between “moralism” and “morality”.
“Moralism”, for our purposes here, is that awful, even nauseating, idea that if we’re good enough, if we follow enough “rules” of what’s right and wrong, then we can earn the love and favor of God.  Indeed (so says “moralism”) we DESERVE the love and favor of God, even heaven itself.
Such “moralism” is rightly criticized, because:
1) No one is “good enough”.
We instinctively know this of other people.  Their faults are often glaring, and their blindness to them is just another chink in their armor of “goodness”, evident to all but them.
2) When we think WE are “good enough”, we are merely adding pride to our long list of sins, any one of which would be enough to bring condemnation from the Perfect and Holy Lord God.
However, when people of grace rightly criticize the concept of “moralism”, they often throw out the baby of “morality” with the bathwater of “moralism”.
Here’s what I mean.
“Morality”, for our purposes here, is the thinking and doing of what’s right.  It’s knowing the difference between right and wrong, and doing the right, even if imperfectly.
And “morality” is good!  It’s right for people not to steal.  It’s right for people to have sex only within the bonds of marriage.  It’s right for people not to bear false witness against others. And it’s right to refrain from killing one’s unborn child.
Conversely, it’s wrong to steal, to have sex outside of marriage, to bear false witness, and to kill the unborn children.
True, no level of “morality” will gain us heaven.  We are born with a sinful nature, and we’ve committed many sins as a result, and our acting “moral” will not erase that condemnable record.
That’s why we needed a Savior, Jesus Christ, and when we believed in Him, He forgave us all those sins, having paid for them on the cross, and He declared us righteous by grace through faith in Him.  A free gift.  GRACE!
But that doesn’t mean we are to be so foolish as to join the world in blurring the difference between right and wrong.
“But who are YOU to judge ME?”, one asks.  “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Judge not?’”
People acting immorally love to quote that verse. But it doesn’t mean don’t “judge” what’s right and wrong.  God has already determined that, and put it in His Word, and in our heart and conscience.
In context, “Judge not” merely means not to judge the heart of another, especially in a self-righteous hypocritical way.  But to judge right and wrong actions is not only legitimate biblically, but necessary to a society.
Here’s the bottom line.
“Moralism” stinks.
But there is, and always will be, right and wrong, morality and immorality.
To deny that, or ignore it, is to use “Grace” to chip away at some of the “Truth” — whereas Jesus is “full of Grace AND Truth”.

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