We Christians—genuine followers of Christ—need to stop moralizing the Christian faith because this misrepresents genuine Christianity.
We need to quit portraying the face of Christianity as moral goodness. Because representing the Christian faith as moral goodness is just that—a face, a veneer, an appearance of goodness.
If you ask most people to describe Christianity—believer and nonbeliever 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? No!
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 religious veneer of goodness and saw into their heart. But they couldn’t see past themselves and their form of religion. Their religious attempt at goodness was only a caricature of moral goodness.
Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matt 23:28 NLT)
Our attempt at parading our sense of moral goodness as the Christian life makes Christianity nothing more than a caricature of the real.
The problem with pursuing moral goodness is that no matter how hard we try to be good—whatever your description of good is—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)
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 is—a lot!
Should we discard any desire for moral goodness? Not at all! We just have it backward when we see Christianity as living by a moral code of goodness, rather than a trusting relationship with God based on faith. When we trust in God and His goodness, He transfers a measure of His goodness into us.
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? It may seem so, but 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. Well, sort of.
When we have a certain code to live by, things are defined, right and wrong are delineated and there’s no guesswork, if you will. But a life of faith, like the patriarch Abraham, for example, is not so defined. Faith, genuine faith—an implicit trust in God—is messy. Yet, with God, faith is necessary (Heb 11:6).
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 whom God esteems, and as we focus on what God says in His Word.
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 perfect 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) — For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor 15:9)
So, how can we gain an understanding of true Christianity? What do you think Christianity is all about if it’s not about moral goodness? What are your thoughts about this?