Christianity is not about morality. No caveats. No qualifications. No stipulations.
My friend, we’ll call him Tim, sat across from me at dinner explaining how hard his life has been trying to live up to expectations—from his parents, the church, even God.
“My dad (a para-church minister) gave me this framework that was terrible. He told me ‘There are no boundaries, you just have to reach toward the center.’ It was so grey, I didn’t know what to do with it. No matter how good I was, there was always a sense where I heard his voice, ‘You could have done more Tim. You could have done better Tim.’ I hated it—to the point I literally thought I was going to hell as a little kid because I saw a candy wrapper on the ground on my way home from school and didn’t pick it up and throw it away.”
Oh man, that’s terrible. That’s not the Gospel at all. I tried to encourage him.
“It was so helpful when Pastor Tom said ‘God gives us a double yellow line that creates a box. Inside the box, there’s total freedom.’ My problem is living inside that box. But at least I know the rules. I know what a moral, God-honoring life looks like. I struggle to live it out in my life and I still honestly feel a lot of guilt. I just need to try and avoid crossing the boundaries.”
But Tim, both of those paradigms are wrong. They’re not biblical. Christianity is not about morality at all…
He cut me off, anger in his eyes, “No, you can’t say that. God wants us to live…”
Tim, I interjected, seriously, you need to listen to me.
I love my conversations with Tim. We are both strong personalities and prepared to debate each other. Neither of us worries about hurting the others’ feelings and we tend to understand each other quickly. Best of all, Tim is one of those people who takes growth in his life and faith seriously. He is not content to remain stuck in the issues that hold him back professionally, personally, or spiritually.
Tim is real in his struggles. We have been there for each other at times when our lives were out of sync with who we want to be. I knew the conversation was turning real and I truly felt God’s Spirit at work between us.
Tim, the problem in the Bible is not a moral problem. If the problem was immorality in the Bible, then the solution would be about the need to be morally upright. But’s that’s not the language of the Bible at all.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve do not commit an immoral act. They didn’t listen to their Creator’s voice. They broke relationship. God told Adam and Eve where to find life—everywhere in the delightful, lush garden He had created for them! And where to find death—the fruit of one tree. Designed to be stewards of the King in His cosmic Temple, made to be co-creators in the good world God had created, humanity chose death and to disconnect from their Creator.
Check it out—have you ever noticed, God’s response to Adam and Eve? Without doubt, He clearly tells them the curses they have brought upon themselves—pain, difficulty, toil, and death. Exactly what he warned them about. But His own response is merciful, gracious, and loving—removing them from the eternal state of enmity with God by taking them out of the Garden of Eden. And providing clothes for them to cover their nakedness and shame.
For the rest of the biblical narrative, it’s never about morality. It’s always, about God pursuing His people. He is always trying to restore humanity to its original calling to rule and fill the earth as His agents.
As he says when he delivers the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you outfrom under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Ex. 6:7) The biblical story is about God restoring us to relationship with Him despite ourselves.
Tim looked at me. He didn’t say a word—that’s a big deal. I could see him taking in what I said.
“I’m going to have to take that in. I know the gospel is all about grace, but I’ve never really seen my life through that lens before.” He offered at last.
Do our lives take on an increasingly different look when we are in relationship with God? Yes, without a doubt. We see that truth in the world and the Bible clearly teaches it. But the Bible is not a Christian version of Aesop’s fables, with heroes to imitate, villains to illustrate the wrong path, and a life moral at the end.
The Bible is the story of the Creator’s unrelenting pursuit to bless and love His Creation through His people and ultimately His own Son. Live like God’s love for you is that high and deep and wide, and live in that freedom.