So What Then, Becomes Of My Moralistic Boasting?
By Sarah Taras
It’s high time that we stop trying to sell Christianity to the general public as a life dedicated to moral codes. If I am being honest, morals, left in my own hands, tend to be rather fluid and I will easily dismiss one moralistic idea if I find that by doing so, I can keep a handle on this other, grandeur moral for what I consider to be my greater good. Evangelicals are notorious for doing this. We take the Law given by God and craft it into something else entirely which leads us to believe: “I can withhold love from other human beings because of my stance against _______.”
Our american pulpits are fueling this sort of thought at an alarming rate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Romans chapter one described as the “downward spiral” of humanity. This downward spiral, from the lips of uber moralistic people always lands on homosexuality as if to suggest that at the point of homosexuality, you’re done spinning…you’ve arrived at the ultimate depraved state. They take this misguided logic and use it as a means to separate themselves from a particular group of people, “repent or I have nothing to do with you”. I sat down and read the book of Romans for myself and found something way more terrifying than the conclusion the moralists would have us draw in those first few chapters– my own self righteousness.
Moralists, with agenda as thick as the disdain dripping from their tongues stop reading Romans chapter one before it gets devastatingly haunting for themselves. Ironically enough, at the end of this list is not the homosexual, but the “faithless, heartless, and ruthless.” Romans one is an all-encompassing list describing humanity that places none of us in the place of “good” and leaves each of us at fault for the corruption that plagues our own societies.
Paul takes out his Swiss army knife and lobs off that finger we’re pointing around at the rest of the world and then drags us by the bloody hand behind the woodshed in chapter two on our wishwashy rules. The Jews were boasting in their law-keeping abilities while taking retaliation against gentiles who didn’t have the written code. In their hatred for idolatry, they were pillaging temples. “It’s okay for me to steal from you because I’m showing you that your idol worship is wrong!” The irony is painful to look upon though Paul refuses to let them (or us) off of the hook, “You who boast in the law, dishonor God by breaking the law.”
We do this all of the time. We hear Jesus’ words, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ and immediately we want to clarify (aka justify) who it is that we are supposed to love. “Sweet, okay…. But Jesus, Who is my neighbor?” We desperately want to call the shots on our obedience to the Law and if I can somehow shine a light on your sin, I can justify not loving you, and then I’m able to take the attention away from my own failure. This is the stuff every moralist’s wet dreams are made of and if we are honest, every single one of us has woken up at some point, from gospel amnesia, with a mess on our hands.
Paul has our number, he knows in this moment that we are frantically trying to craft our own moral code to avoid the Law actually crushing us to shit and so he allows the absolute horror show to continue in chapter two by saying, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself…”
None of us are keeping the law, not even those of us who’ve been washed — and if we use our disillusionment about that to withhold love from our neighbor then we are in the scariest position of all because the Law is nothing like our bullshit morals. No, it is a concrete standard of perfection that will never waver nor grant us the slightest relief. If we intend to enter the kingdom by way of Law keeping, then we had better make sure that our righteousness exceeds that of the pharisees — according to the One who came to blot out our transgressions with His own blood.
Truthfully, we are the most atrocious thing found in Romans one. We who have the Law and preach that Jesus came to save sinners, yet we still hold the Law over the rest of the world and yell, “repent you filth” from atop our shiny thrones of morals. It’s our own hypocrisy and self righteousness that lands us in the place of condemnation — because we’ve taken a serious detour from the gospel. May we repent and believe.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus for all who believe.”
So what then becomes of all our moralistic boasting? It’s excluded.