What Does the Bible Say About Right & Wrong?
How do we decide what is right and what is wrong? Good and bad?
How does something become considered to be right or wrong?
What does it feel like when you do something right? What about something wrong?
Why are we called to do right as Christians?
What Our World Says About Right and Wrong
According to some, the only reason that a thing is right, and therefore obligatory, is, that it tends to promote the greatest happiness, or the greatest good of the universe. According to others, a thing is right which tends to promote our own happiness.
The common doctrine of Christians on this subject is that the will of God is the ultimate ground of moral obligation to all rational creatures.
God’s will and commandments for us to live good moral, loving lives is the ultimate basis for doing what is right.
Our moral judgments, or, in other words, the conscience, has an authority from which we cannot emancipate ourselves. We can neither deny nor ignore it. It has a lordship. It commands, and it forbids. And we are bound to obey. It has power also to enforce its decisions. It can reward and punish.
Its rewards are among the greatest blessings we can enjoy. Its punishments are the most intolerable agony the human soul can endure.
Our moral nature involves, therefore, a sense of responsibility. We must answer for what we are, and for what we do.
This responsibility is not to ourselves, not to society, nor to being in general. It must be to a person - God.
Sin (actively choosing the wrong or bad) from its very nature involves not only a sense of pollution, or moral degradation, but also a sense of guilt.
We feel a personal and deep conviction that we deserve punishment, that we ought to be punished, and, therefore, that punishment is inevitable.
We can get stuck in this place in our minds, can’t we? That we are shameful, guilty, broken, useless people.
Doing Right = Christianity, Doing Wrong = Sinful
For most of us, we believe that to be a good Christian is to follow the rules, right?
That to be a good Christian means to follow the 10 Commandments, to follow the rules and avoid sin - don’t drink, don’t swear, don’t gossip, don’t sleep with your boyfriend/girlfriend.
And if you live a good enough Christian life, you will go to Heaven when you die.
But this doesn’t really seem like that meaningful of a life does it?
What is missing in this rule/law first model of faith?
We Know, But Don’t Live
We know what is right and good. We know what we should say, think, and do.
Sometimes, we do the right thing. Other times, we do the wrong thing.
Why is this?
Why can’t we just always do what is good and right? We know that it is good, we know that it is right. We know that we won’t feel bad for our actions, nor shameful, or guilty. We may feel proud or glad.
And yet, time after time, we choose the wrong thing. And we feel guilt, shame, and even at times, depression for the fact that we continually choose the wrong sinful thing.
We know what we are supposed to do, but we don’t always live in response to that knowledge.
The Good Law, Broken People
Read Romans 7:14-25
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
This feeling is exemplified further in the lives of those around us in holy positions – Pastors, Priests, those who work for churches or in ministry jobs. They seem to be more holy than we are, closer to God in their relationship, they know the Bible more and are just all around better Christians. We feel ashamed that we don’t pray or read our Bible. We know it is right, but we don’t do it. This creates a cycle that we can get stuck in as Christians – the I’m not good enough cycle.
Luckily for us, to be a Christian is not about following all the rules, or doing what is right.
To be a Christian is not just a new set of moral rules that you have to follow.
To be a Christian is primarily about being changed into someone new in Christ. To be renewed and forgiven from our broken cycle of inability, to be reminded that we are Christians exactly because we cannot do what is perfectly right on our own.
God does not expect this from us, not even Paul was perfect.
This is why He sent Jesus.
And Jesus called out some of those who thought they were following all the rules perfectly as an act of faith.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Outwardly ‘Good’, Inwardly ‘Bad’
Why is Jesus calling out the Pharisees in this text?
To the world, the Pharisees are the picture of rule following goodness. They are teachers and keepers of the law. They focus on every little rule, all of the right things, within the Old Testament that people must follow to come before God.
And yet, Jesus is not commending them on the beauty of their rule following, but instead, is calling them out.
Calling them hypocrites. They are showing off their faith, but they have no internal relationship with God. They are not loving their neighbours deeply, they are only loving externally for others to see.
The Pharisees are examples of someone doing what is right for the wrong reasons.
Why the Rules Don’t Matter
This seems like the wrong thing to say, but as a Christian, the law, the rules, the focus solely on what is good and right is not to be our focus.
Our focus is to be Jesus Christ.
And it is when we focus on Jesus. When we let go of our desires to be perfect and have it all together, that we begin to change. That we begin to give our heavy burden to Christ, who replaces it with a light yolk.
It is when we focus on Christ that we are renewed, that the old falls away.
The old focused on perfectly following the rules.
The old focusing only on not giving in to that same sin again.
The old that is only concerned with not doing wrong.
The old falls away, because we realize we cannot do anything in our own power. We cannot become perfect. We cannot only do good.
All we can do is follow Jesus, and in our relationship with Him, everything will change.
In our time with Christian community, accountability, and the prayers of others.
In our time spent in Church, singing and being reminded of God’s grace.
In our time in Bible study, prioritizing learning more about God and one another.
The Christian life is no longer about following the rules and earning Heaven. But instead, allowing the rules to fall away and focus on Jesus. And allow for Him to change everything in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul; while receiving the unearned gift of eternal life.
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.