Morality – Staying Pure in an Impure World
Do you remember what we said in the introduction to this section? Morality is not a matter of keeping an external list of do’s and don’ts. No, morality is the result of a real, growing relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. This is the difference between what I like to call black and white morality and colorful morality. The Ten Commandments paint a picture of black and white morality. When Jesus came into our world, he took that black and white picture and filled in the colors. Jesus wrapped it in flesh and blood. He internalized the Ten Commandments turning code into conduct, law into lifestyle, and external constraints into internal motives.
One of the most significant signs that you and I are becoming God’s masterpieces is seen as we move from black and white to colorful morality. We begin to live faithful, obedient, moral lives not because we have to, but because we want to. The richness and color found in living life in relationship with God replaces the drab, colorless life of following rules and regulations. The result of this is that others outside of the church begin to see Christianity in a different light. The sinners in Jesus’ day rejected the Pharisees with their black and white morality. These same sinners became friends and followers of Jesus. Why? Because they experienced in Jesus, life. Abundant life. Joyful life. They also experienced in Jesus an invitation to a relationship with God rather than a list of rules for following God.
The religious leaders were greatly offended by Jesus’ colorful morality. They questioned his holiness, calling him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. (Matthew 11:19) But this friend of sinners showed people what life with God was meant to be. Jesus’ morals were not weapons used to beat down and belittle others. Neither were they barricades meant to isolate him from others. Jesus’ morals did not place him on the defensive around other people. They didn’t reek of judgmentalism and a condescending attitude. The colorful morality of Jesus lived out in such a relaxed and easy manner, was the very thing that attracted sinners to him. They saw in Jesus what a relationship with God could be, indeed, was meant to be.
The opposite was true of the Pharisaical forgeries who lived their lives by a colorless code. The sinners didn’t want to have anything to do with their lifeless religion. A religion focused on outer rules rather than inner relationship. (Matthew 23:25-26) A heartless religion that demanded sacrifice, but neglected mercy. (Matthew 9:13) A religion of pretense and show, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. (Mark 12:40, Matthew 6:2, 5, 16)
The difference between Jesus, God’s masterpiece, and the religious forgeries was unmistakeable. The same thing is true today. The religious outsiders are experts at spotting forgeries, black and white copies of the real thing. But the colorful morality that is a part of the lives of God’s masterpieces stands in stark contrast to these forgeries and demonstrates what a life lived with God can and should be.