A GOOD MORAL GUIDE
Imagine a nation with a strong Christian leader. Imagine the UK with a PM who has a fervour for God.
It happens from time to time – social media buzzing with excitement – look what this politician said, look what that politician said, isn’t it wonderful? We may even see #Revival banded around!
It was back in August of this year that David Cameron took part in a question and answer session in Darwen near Blackburn. As reported in the Mail, he was asked a question about his Christian faith: “What would your response to Jesus be on his instruction to us to sell all our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor?”
I do feel sorry for the guy – he was clearly put right on the spot! His reply went like this:
“I’m a Christian and I’m an active member of the Church of England, and like all Christians I think I sometimes struggle with some of the sayings and some of the instructions.”
I think most of us can empathise with him here. Following Jesus does have it’s struggles – for all of us!
He goes on: “But what I think is so good about Jesus’s teachings is there are lots of things that he said that you can still apply very directly to daily life and to bringing up your children. Simple things like do to others as you would be done by; love your neighbour as yourself, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount.” And further: “I’ve always felt the strength of the Christian faith is the basic core of moral guidance. You can find moral guidance from other sources but it’s not a bad handbook.”
I’m just wondering if this view of the Bible fundamentally misunderstands a) the purpose of the Bible itself and b) the nature of the Christian faith.
Have you ever felt burdened by something? I know I certainly have! And for many of us, maybe we have had times in our lives as followers of Jesus that we’ve felt burdened. If so, I wonder what those burdens were? I have an inkling that for many of us, those burdens may be to do with that word that Cameron uses: morals. Are we doing the right thing? Are we acting in the right way?
If we take Cameron’s understanding of the Bible, then what we have is a book of morals. And if we adopt his understanding of faith, then what we are left with is the slavish burden of attempting to live up to those moral standards. You see, by reducing the Bible to a book of morals, what we really do is impose the law upon ourselves – that very thing that Jesus died to set us free from:
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
A DIFFERENT WAY?
So what is the Bible for? And what is the nature of the Christian faith?
The Bible tells us itself what it’s for. Listen to how Paul puts it in 2Timothy 3:15:
…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Or how John puts it at the end of his Gospel (20:31):
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
It’s beautifully simple, isn’t it? The primary goal of the Bible is to bring us to a living relationship with Jesus.
And that is the nature of the Christian faith. It isn’t about applying the law to our lives successfully. If that were the case we’re all doomed to a life of failure and condemnation. Even the Apostle Paul knows he can’t do it when he says:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’ (Romans 7:15)
No, the Christian life is 100% about a real and living relationship with Jesus Christ. That is Jesus’ invitation to us.
28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’