Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jesus' Moral Teaching

This post is kinda technical.  It's a list, a condensed summary of all that Jesus taught about morality.

For a non-Christian, this list is maybe an interesting intellectual exercise.  For a denominational Christian, it may be unnecessary to go over an area that the church presents for our own good, and with greater detail.  But for a Jesus follower, this list is essential, a basic tool of our lives, that we return to again and again.  When the Spirit is working in my life, I find myself resembling this lifestyle, and as I grow distant from God, I struggle with this way of life.

This is the shalom that Jesus leads us to.

A. The Basics
Jesus basically summarized the ten commandments, but he also applied them in specific ways.
Don’t murder

Don’t steal

Don’t defraud—
This means not lying in court or trying to cheat someone in business.

Don’t commit adultery—Jesus described this as not cheating on your spouse, not having sex with someone else’s spouse—even if they are divorced—and not desiring that someone else’s spouse was your own.

Honor your parents—Jesus described this as giving respect for your parents and providing for them in their old age.

B. Loving God
“No one can serve two masters”—This command also comes from the first two of the ten commandments. Jesus doesn’t want us serving other gods, nor does he want us to worship images as God. The main issue that Jesus spoke of in this regard was wealth. He considered wealth, money and possessions to be another god that demands service. There are certainly other gods that we can serve instead of God as well, such as sex, drugs, alcohol, or television/movies.

“The Lord’s name in vain”—Part of respecting God, Jesus says, is using His name carefully. So we do not use God’s name in cursing, falsehood or broken promises.

“Pray this way”—Jesus told us that we need to pray on a regular basis. When we pray, we use the Lord’s prayer as a model. Also, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit. Another thing that Jesus would often do when he prayed is to listen to God and see if he has anything to say to us.

“Clean the inside of cup”—To be right before God, Jesus says, we have to have our intentions and motivations pure, not just our actions. Even the smallest of actions display our true intention, and that is what we will be judged on. This is why we pray for the Holy Spirit, to clean our inner thoughts.

“Don’t be as the hypocrites”—Jesus wants us to take care when we worship or serve God that we are doing it for Him and not for other people. Jesus said that it would be good if we did some of our religious deeds in secret, so no one would know else would know we are doing them.

Porneia— As a part of our purity before God, Jesus wants us to not participate in sexual immorality. By this Jesus meant not being involved in: sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, pornography, or incest.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”—Jesus wants us to focus on two things—what God says and helping people. But he doesn’t want our added traditions or commands—our religion—to in any way harm others or to stand against God’s commands. This means, for instance, that we don’t use the Bible to destroy others, emotionally.

“Faith the size of a mustard seed”—Jesus wants us to recognize that God can do anything He wants to—and that He will respond in love to our prayers. This means sometimes that we need to step out in faith to do what God wants us to do, even if it seems crazy to those who don’t trust in God.

“Seek first the kingdom”—Jesus wants us to do work for God, expecting no wage. There are different kinds of work Jesus affirmed—evangelism, giving to the poor, prayer, teaching Scripture, healing the sick and more. Also, Jesus tells us to pray that God would call more workers.

C. Love your neighbor
“Do Unto Others”-- Treat others as we would have them treat us. We want to be respected, communicated with and supported—so, Jesus says, we do the same to others.

“Whoever is angry”—Jesus told us not to act in hostility against others, including insulting them or harming them in revenge.

“Look of lust”—Jesus told us that our sexual purity must include even the smallest actions such as looking at someone with lust.

“Certificate of divorce”—Jesus tells us that the only thing that breaks a marriage is adultery or divorce. But to divorce and get remarried is adultery, and a forced divorce could cause great harm.

“Let your Yes be Yes”—Jesus said that if we make a promise, we must keep it, even if it’s inconvenient. To do less than keep our word, Jesus says, is of Satan.

“Love your enemies”—Rather than getting revenge, Jesus says that we are to do good to those who do evil to us. We are always to think of how to best benefit others in all circumstances.

“Be reconciled”—If we have done anything wrong to others, we should make our wrongs right by going to the person we have wronged.

“Judge not lest you be judged”-- Don’t judge without mercy. Always assume the best and give people a chance to make their wrongs right.

“Forgive and you will be forgiven”—Jesus says that if anyone tries to make their wrongs right, we must take them back into relationship. We cannot keep people at arm’s length because we don’t like something they’ve apologized for.

“Give to the poor” – Jesus says that if we see anyone in need, we should do what we can to help them.

D. Church Morality
“Love one another”—Jesus said that in the church we are all to look out for each other, caring for each other as we would family members.

“Be at peace”—Jesus doesn’t want us to have arguments about minor matters. Nor are we to divide ourselves from others in the church, except for continuing sin.

“Rebuke him privately”—Jesus told the church to correct anyone in the church not living up to Jesus’ morality. This correction is to be done gently, with the intention of restoring the sinner.

“Well done, good and faithful servant”—Jesus said that everyone in the church needs to do work for the kingdom of God, with God as our employer and rewarder.

“Wash each other’s feet”—Jesus wants us to be hospitable to others who follow Jesus—including feeding each other, inviting others to our homes, praying for each other, and visiting each other when we are sick or in prison.

“I came to seek the lost”—The church of Jesus is to constantly be open to those who have failed God and wants to come back to Him.

“Preach the gospel”—Jesus tells the church that we—especially our leaders—are to proclaim God’s kingdom, the death and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins.

“Heal the sick, cast out demons”—The church of Jesus, especially the leaders of the church, are to pray for others to give them spiritual freedom from sickness and evil spirits.

“Beware of false teachers”—The church is not to put leaders over ourselves who teach something apart from what Jesus taught. Nor are we to place people who are disobedient to Jesus over us as leaders.

“The last shall be first”—The leaders of Jesus people are there to serve all the others, to be humble and merciful.

“Freely received, freely give”—The teaching and the ministry that Jesus gave the church to give to others is to be free—without cost.

“The worker is worthy of his hire”—The church of Jesus is to take care of their leaders, providing for their basic needs.

E. Humility and Sacrifice
“The humble will be exalted”—Jesus says that we are to allow ourselves to be humiliated, disrespected and put down. If we do this, God will honor us and raise us up.

“Invite the poor”—We are to give honor to the lowly, poor and outcast, who cannot repay us, so God will give us honor.

“Sell your possessions”—Jesus wants us to not just give to the poor when it is convenient, but to sacrifice our own personal wealth for the poor.

“Turn the other cheek”—We are to submit to authorities, even if they do us harm. The only time we do not submit is if they tell us to disobey Jesus.

“Take up the cross”—Jesus wants our lives to be surrendered for the sake of others and God. Doing minor acts of mercy or devotion is not enough—we must surrender our whole lives, even literally if necessary.

“Rejoice and be glad”—Jesus said that if we do get persecuted, hated, isolated, or rejected because of following his way, speaking the gospel or living for Jesus, then we shouldn’t be depressed, but happy. For God will look at our faithfulness and reward us greater than the persecutions we suffered.

How did I come up with this list?
I wrote out by hand all of the sayings of Jesus, creating an index of Jesus' main themes.  Then I pulled out from this index the moral teachings and summarized them.  This list was distilled even more over years of teaching and discussion with other Jesus' followers.  This list covers Jesus' commands in the gospels only.

I am sure there are many who disagree with my findings.  I would appreciate any polite comments and critiques.  

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