My last post on why Christians should let non-Christians off the moral hook seems to have sparked a lot of interest.
It also raises a lot of questions.
If we let non-Christians off the hook morally, (as I suggest), do we then let ourselves off the hook?
How do we have the lifestyle conversation with non-Christians if they decide to follow Jesus?
How do we even talk about Christian morality in a post-Christian world?
This is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. I live in Canada, a country in which less than 10% of the population regularly attends church. And a country in which moral relativism is pretty much a part of the water supply. Just talk to anyone under 30, or their parents. You’ll see.
So do Christians just cave and become part of the dominant culture? I don’t think so.
The ethic that characterizes authentic Christ-followers is distinctive.
There is something inherently attractive about really pursuing obedience without judging non-Christians who don’t.
Even non-Christians find something inherently attractive about:
pursuing good over evil
loving rather than hating
staying faithful to one person for life
taking care of your body
living out radical generosity
putting others ahead of yourself
Strangely, the culture still admires Christian values, even if it doesn’t like the Christian part.
So how do you talk about Christian morality without sounding like a…jerk?
Here are three ideas for how to talk about Christian morality:
1. Talk about what you do, without telling them what they should do. I have a friend who’s not a Christian who doesn’t drink. He never talks about it from a perspective of “nobody should drink”, but says that he’s never seen good come out of drunkenness and he doesn’t trust himself to not get drunk. It’s a strangely compelling conversation. Helpful, authentic, and never judgmental.
What if you starting talking about your morality in these tones:
I find that being married to the same person for the rest of my life, while not easy, has been really rewarding in the end.
I’m not telling you shouldn’t get drunk I’m just saying that it’s not something I do.
Yeah, I guess I just don’t swear…
Smoking weed just isn’t something I do. I guess you could say my happiness comes from other places.
Conversations like this (you might be better at this than I am) can lead to the next question, such as “Well, where does your happiness come from?” Or “So how have you guys made it through 15 years of marriage?” At that point, you can legitimately start to talk about the difference your faith has made.
2. Start with salvation, not discipleship. When Jesus called Matthew as a diciple, he didn’t attach conditions. He just called him, as awkwardly and embarrassingly imperfect as he was. When Jesus comes to town, you don’t get loved because you change, you change because you’re loved. Just ask Matthew.
3. Embrace sanctification. Sanctification is a big word, and an old word, but a good word. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, and it refers to the process of ‘being made Holy’. As David Kinnaman says, disciples are hand made. God does his work in people over time…identifying issues and prompting them to change.
If you teach what’s clearly right, God has a way of prompting the conscience of believers to change. Sure, sometimes direct intervention and tough conversations are necessary, but I am amazed how often after a message about marriage or a small group experience, couples who are living together come to their own conclusion that they need to move out, get married and make things right with God. The Spirit is at work, and he’s actually quite good at life-change.
Those are some thoughts on how to talk about Christian morality in a post-Christian world.
What are you learning? What’s making the dialogue better (or tougher) where you are?