Christian Faith and Ethic

A few Sunday’s ago I gave a sermon in which I tried to make the point that to have a Christian faith meant that you had to have a Christian ethic, and of course therefore to have a Christian ethic, one needs Christian faith. You cannot have one without the other and call it Christian – emphasis on the word Christian. You can have an ethic, and you can have faith, but If you are Christian, you must have both, and they must be rooted in the love of God and the love of Neighbour.
I also made the point that following all the bad things that are going on in the world how easy it is to blame God – to point a finger and demand He intervene, that He stops all the bad things happening, that He makes good all the attempts of Human Beings to do evil, avoiding entirely the root cause of all this badness – Humanity itself.
My wife who heard the sermon after the service said that she found my sermon ‘rather amusing’ especially the bit where I made the point about Christian Faith and Christian Ethics. When I enquired why this was so, she told me that broadly it was because…. ‘I was horrible, she didn’t question my faith but pointed out that I often get thoroughly annoyed when driving, that I have little sympathy when people are being blatantly stupid (I confess even I know that is an arbitrary judgement) I am inpatient, and that I often get agitated if I feel I am being wronged.’ Actually I have abridged this list as it was rather long.
It was interesting though, because she made a very valid point about perceptions, and in particular perceptions of the Christian Faith. I have a friend who is now the Bishop of Whitby, but then was the Archdeacon of Cleveland. I remember him telling me once that he had had the most enormous row with his neighbour. The neighbour continually parked across his drive and when challenged simply dismissed the objections – eventually my friend lost his temper with his neighbour who was shocked and protested ‘you are a Christian you’re not allowed to be annoyed’
I made the point to my lovely wife that Jesus wasn’t always that nice or good either. In fact, Luke 18 just after Jesus blesses the children, which is good thing to do, the Rich Ruler address Jesus and asks ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered with a question ‘Why do you call me good? Going on to point out that no one is good except God alone. I recounted Jesus’ words to Peter ‘get behind me Satan’, Jesus’ anger in the temple – in fact Jesus invading the temple and going on a righteous rampage against the mercenary money makers apparent in the Temple yard – I like that story. Read Matthew 23 the entire chapter is entirely devoid of positive encouragement, railed entirely at the Pharisees and their followers. Jesus curses them – no dialogue, cooperation or collegiality only confrontation and condemnation, I again rather like this story.
Jesus confronted religious error robustly and without theological pacifism – He challenged evil, greed, and self-importance, preaching a Gospel of Love, self-sacrifice, charity and unselfishness. But to think Him a push over is an error of the worst kind. Jesus preached an exclusive Gospel – which often people find uncomfortable, because theologians, worshippers and liberal academics alike prefer a passive Jesus, this could not be further from the truth. I cannot find this person in the bible, and believe me I have looked.
Our Faith is not passive, dogmatic, esoteric or detached – It is a vibrant, demanding and a declaration against those that would do harm and do evil, that would subjugate and even eradicate those weaker or less powerful or even less likeable. The Christian Gospel is no shrinking violet – Even the kindest shepherd must throw stones at the wolves who come in sheep’s clothing.
Don’t throw stones – but do not be passive either. Jesus Christ is the epitome of greatness, there is not a person alive that doesn’t need to hear this story, this great Gospel – it’s all very surprising isn’t it?

 

Graham

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