We need to quit portraying the face of Christianity as moral goodness. Because that's all it is—a face, a veneer, an appearance of goodness. But this misrepresents genuine Christianity.
If you ask most people to describe Christianity, believer and non-believer alike, you'll get a reply related to some form of moral goodness...
I try to be a good person, who does good things and is kind to others.
But is this what Christianity is all about?
A caricature of Christianity
When we try to establish our own moral goodness, we are doomed to failure. We may look good on the outside to others, but inside we'll remain corrupted by our selfish nature. This is what self-righteousness looks like.
It's what condemned the Pharisees. Jesus saw through their veneer of religious goodness, and saw into their heart. But they couldn't see past themselves, their form of religion, and their own caricature of moral goodness.
Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matt 23:28 NLT
The problem of pursuing moral goodness
No matter how hard we try to be good—whatever the description—we can't change our selfish nature from the outside in. It just doesn't work. This is what the apostle Paul spoke of in his epistle to the Galatian believers.
For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. Gal 3:21b
So, what is Christianity?
Over the centuries, Christianity as a religion has morphed into the pursuit of living according to a biblical moral code of goodness. Someone might ask, "So, what's wrong with that?" The short answer—a lot!
Should we discard any desire for moral goodness? Not at all! We just have it backwards when we see Christianity as living by a moral code of goodness, rather than a trust relationship with God based on faith.
When we try to live by moral goodness alone, we are trapped in a squirrel cage of behavior modification—"Don't do this... do this," and so on.
So... how are we to live?
We are to live by faith (Gal 3:11). Is that too simplistic? Yes and no.
Let's face it, we like a good set of parameters to tell us when we're doing ok, and when we're not-so-ok. It's easier that way... sort of.
When we have a certain code to live by things are defined, right and wrong are delineated and there's no guess-work, if you will. But a life of faith, like the patriarch Abraham for example, is not so defined.
Faith, real faith—an implicit trust in God—is messy. Yet, with God, faith is necessary (Heb 11:6).
The Christian faith as a way of life
At its core, true Christianity is not about a life that follows a prescribed moral code. It's about following Jesus the Christ (Messiah). Of course, it's also not to be a life void of a moral compass.
The issue isn't about moral goodness, but relationship. This becomes easier to see when we look at those God esteems, and as we focus on what God says (the Bible).
Abraham was considered "a friend of God" (James 2:23) and declared righteous because he believed—he trusted in God. But he presented his wife Sarah as his sister, not just once but twice, to save his own skin (Gen 12:11-13). So, he wasn't a model of moral goodness.
The Lord called King David "a man after his own heart" (1 Sam 13:14) and chose him to be king of Israel. Yet, he also was not an example of moral goodness, especially with his infamous affair with Bathsheba that cost Uriah, her husband, his life (2 Sam 11).
Even the apostle Paul, who wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament, denounced his own goodness (Phil 3:4-7 NLT)—
For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. (1 Cor 15:9 NLT)
How can we gain an understanding of true Christianity?
I hope to start looking at this next week, and perhaps further down the road. But in the meantime...
What are your thoughts about this?
What do you think Christianity is all about, if it's not about moral goodness?
I'd like to hear from you!