Judeo-Christian beliefs on morality stand in direct contrast to modern ideas of relative morality and situational ethics. For Christians, though the things of this world wither and fade, God’s Word is a never changing rock and an anchor to their souls forever. (Isaiah 40:8) Therefore, morals are absolutes that do not change for the convenience or comfort of those involved in any given situation. But the general standards of Judeo-Christian morality are not exclusive to Christians because the influence of its ancient laws have shaped Western society so that even those that do not adhere to the faith, often live with its standards of right and wrong written on their hearts by cultural conditioning. In the Christian worldview, however, it goes beyond general morality and being a “good person.” It is a matter of the authority of their faith to direct their lives even when it asks difficult things of them as a sign of their recognition of God’s Lordship over every choice and action they take.
Whenever the question of morality comes up, there are inevitably questions about where the standard comes from and who defined it. For Christians who truly hold to a Judeo-Christian worldview, this is easily answered by appeal to the Bible, which they believe is the inspired, infallible, unchangeable Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 1:23-24) Hebrews 13:8 asserts, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The psalmist writes, “The goodness of God endures continually.” (Psalm 52:1) The Bible clearly teaches that the nature of God is good and that His goodness is unchanging and unchangeable. He cannot act contrary to His nature because it is who He is. (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) Psalms 25:8 adds, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way.” In other words, He gives them instructions on how to live in accordance with His goodness and because He is inherently good Himself, whatever He commands is good. Pastor Rich Jones, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Worship Center in Hillsboro, Oregon explains, “God commands something, not because it is right on its own merit, but because it is part of His nature or character. Honesty was right before God commanded it because it was part of His character.”
For Christians, then morality is defined by what God reveals to them about his expectations in Old Testament Law, such as the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5), the various writings of Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jesus’ teachings in the four gospels and the Apostles’ writings that comprise the remainder of the New Testament. The importance of loving God above all else is the overriding theme of the first commandment. Jesus confirms this priority in Matthew 22 when asked which commandment is the greatest,“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Much of the rest of biblical moral directive develops what it means to live out these priorities and covers prohibitions against lying, stealing, cheating, lust, greed, gluttony, murder, adultery and selfishness; and wisdom regarding lending and borrowing, forgiveness of debt, fair wages, submission to authority, charitable works and trustworthiness.
Paul explains in Romans 7 (vss.14-25) that though Christians have a clear guide as to the morals they should live by, there is an inner conflict between the natural man and the spiritual man who wars against his best intentions. He laments, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.” Morality tells a person what he should do, much as a doctor gives a patient health advice. But just as the patient may choose to ignore the doctor’s orders or fail to fully carry them out even if he means to, so a Christian can sincerely believe and intend to live by the precepts of biblical morality, yet fall short of perfection because of human weakness. The Christian Research Institute explains that the fact that people cheat, steal and lie on a regular basis does not make such behavior the moral standard for what they should do. Nonetheless, even when they find the standard difficult to live up to, Christians generally agree that God’s directives in the Bible are the ideal for which to strive.
Paul relates in 1 Peter 2:21-22 that Christians should follow Jesus’ sinless example, striving always to be more and more like Him. He, however, does not throw out an unreachable goal and leave His followers to dangle helpless, powerless to live up to His moral expectations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises Christians, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” And Hebrews 4:15 assures them that Christ can relate to their weaknesses for He faced the same temptations, yet remained sinless. Romans 6 corroborates the idea that God not only sent Jesus as an example of the moral purity He expects of Christians, but that He empowers them through His Spirit to live a life of righteous morality when they submit to His guidance and direction.
By Tamara Christine
Got Questions Ministries: Why Should the Bible Be Our Source for Morality?
Got Questions Ministries: Should Christians Be Tolerant of Other People’s Religious Beliefs?
Pastor Rich Jones, Calvary Chapel Worship Center, Hillsboro, Oregon: personal email
Image courtesy of the writer