Posted by: Dan | September 11, 2004

Farewell to Morality

“And he [Jesus] said to him [a lawyer], '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 neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:37-40

For as long as I sought moral perfection I was unable to attain it. The more I tried the more I failed. Even in the simple things, the most clear-cut and obvious things that were impossible to rationalize, I found myself unable to create any lasting positive change. There were moments of conviction, moments of passion but they were fleeting and inconsequential.

I have given up the pursuit of some transcendent state of moral perfection.

After all, that's not what we are called to as followers of Jesus.
Christians need to give up the pursuit of moral perfection.

Instead we are called to journey in love relationships with God, with others, and with the rest of the cosmos. We should be pursuing love relationships, in particular we are to pursue love relationships with those who are most vulnerable – those who have been abandoned, abused and shattered.

It is only after we have begun to prioritize love and journey in those relationships that we discover that love truly is at the heart of the law and prophets. Suddenly we discover that the morality we were incapable of attaining as an end of it's own is something that occurs as we are transformed by intimacy. Things that always seemed forced become natural. Actions that seemed alien, that seemed to belong to the character of a transcendent God – and certainly not to the character of a finite being like myself – suddenly are the only actions that seem to be true to who I am.

When we journey in love relationships the sayings ascribed to Jesus and Paul suddenly gather a whole new coherence. What once seemed a poetic phrase about love and Law, or an abstract theological argument about grace and Law, suddenly make practical sense. Increasingly I find myself thinking, “Of course that's the way it is. Of course.” It just makes sense.

The problem is that the church has prioritized moral perfection, often at the expense of love. Not only is love neglected but by making morality the foundation of a Christian ethic the church gives itself an impossible task and dooms itself to failure. It is only on the foundation of love that any sense of moral perfection (or understanding of what that even looks like) becomes possible.

I've given up on perfection, in the end I think that whole idea has a lot more to do with Greek philosophers than with the God of the Bible.
What I have not given up on is love. It is love that lies at the heart of the Triune God.

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Responses

  1. amen.


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