Do We Really Need Moralistic Preaching?


While on the road alone recently I stopped my search of radio stations to listen to a preacher decrying the state of American morality. His solution was to get back to living by the bible.

It's hard to argue that there is not a problem. Substance abuse, wonton sex, and domestic violence are common in the news - even in our own small community.

As Christians we ponder how we can change lives. The answer to that is simple - we can't.

But one historical event should be making a difference in people's lives. God came to earth as the human Jesus and worked actively among us for little over three years.

What difference should that make? It is unrealistic to think that Jesus' teachings are going to fix humanity's problems. If that was his plan, he should have written a book - a BIG book.

So it is not surprising that the first century letters from church leaders like Paul, Peter and John did not tell people to live by Jesus' teachings or by the bible. They didn't even quote Jesus' sayings, except for two short sections in all the preserved letters.

So what did these letter writers tell people instead of "get back to living by Bible"?

Most often they reminded people of what Jesus did. I preached portions of the letter to Colossians recently and before Paul talks about moral living, he lists about fifteen things that Jesus did for all people- not just for "good Christians" like you and me - but for even the most despicable people you can name.

In that list is the most common thing that we all should remember first. He allowed humanity to beat him and brutally murder him. The first century letters and theologians over the centuries express what that accomplished in different ways. But what it means for you and me is that we can even abuse and murder God, and he will not take it out on us. You can't do a more serous sin than murdering God, no matter how hard you try!

The list in the Colossian letter even says that in God's mind, all humanity is right now in heaven sitting at the right hand of the Father along with the living Jesus Christ. A metaphor you say? I say that what's in God's mind is as real as the floor that is supporting you. (And a little venture into quantum physics would show you that floor beneath you is not really that real!)

So when these letter writers tried to steer people toward moral living, they, in effect, said "Repent." That means to change your whole idea about God - he is not out to get you - he loves you immeasurably. It means to change your idea about who you are, and then live according to who you are. Paul says it most clearly in his letter to Titus. "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (2:11-13)


Pastor John Torgerson