American society was founded on the principles of Christian values and which were incredibly important to the founding fathers. Yet, for those who look around the world we live in today, it seems that these ideals and core values have eroded over time. Sure, there are insightful explanations for why this has occurred and how the church in America ended up in the situation that it did. However we ended up in the situation we find ourselves in, we are in a place where our faith can and must be on full display through our adherence to a Godly morality. What we do and how we behave as members of the community puts our faith on full display.
One of the most eye opening experiences for me occurred when things like marijuana use, abortions, and other things became legal and needing to explain that difference between legal and ethical to a student group. Previously, it seemed almost possible to live out your faith by living according to the law. But with the shifting tides of the culture, we can no longer adhere to the minimum standards of the law and say we are following Christ. Being counter cultural according to our faith would mean living by a higher standard than the law. Furthermore, in seeking to establish a Missional Outpost of the Gospel in the world and letting our light shine out, adhering to Godly morals and standards is key to this expression of faith.
One of the most iconic messages on the law in the New Testament came from Matthew 5-7 called The Sermon on the Mount. Yet, in talking about the law, Jesus did not make the requirements easier, but tightened the standards. For instance, murder was described as beginning in the heart before the physical murdered happened. The standard of holiness was more accurately depicted as a matter of the heart. The faith in our heart produces actions and expressions of what we feel, think, and believe. We are exhorted on numerous occasions to pursue the righteous standard of holiness in our lives for our own well being and for the community to see.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
– Hebrew 12:4, NIV
Whatever the culture deems as appropriate or okay does not necessarily give permission to the Christian to indulge in it. In our culture, to live in holiness means that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the world around us. For instance, while our right to free speech is protected under law, the standard of holiness requires that we not only speak with righteousness but look at our heart in what it desires to speak. Living according the standard of holiness, even above the law, shines our light outward for all to see the salvation and transformation that Christ has done.
Submission to Our King
The issue at hand culturally is that everyone gets to decide their own morality. The objective standard of what is good and what is bad is decaying at the hands of secular humanism and pluralistic thinking. People seek to verify what they do in their heart. Yet, it is precisely this environment where the light of Jesus Christ can shine the brightest. During the time of the Judges in the Old Testament, those who chose to follow God stood out as those living missional above the standards of the community. Furthermore, their example was seen by the nation through its difficult atmosphere.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
– Judges 17: 6, NIV and Judges 21:15, NIV
However, we do have a King. Our King is the God who is seated in heaven and cannot be dethroned. With God as the standard of holiness and perfection, morality is no longer a subjective concept, but an expression of our very being. When a person does only what they see fit, it is selfishness expressed and moralized, and sinfulness glorified. Our own heart and desires are elevated to the point of being legislated and accepted. Jesus came to not only show us the perfection and holiness but to pave a path to it through his act of sacrifice on the cross. As we submit to our King and follow Jesus Christ, holiness becomes attainable by the grace of God. Through missional morality, we illuminate the path towards God and set an example of the better life that God has set apart for His people.
Question of the Week
Where do you see the standards of holiness being above the requirements of the law? Comment or email to firstname.lastname@example.org