Should we expect non-Christians to abide by Christian teaching and morality? (19 Feb 2017)

We Certainly expect it of Christians:

Leviticus 19:1,2

1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

  • To the entire assembly of Israel and in Matthew 5 Jesus applied the same instruction to Christians.
  • Given guidelines for generosity, honesty, just dealing, care for the disadvantaged and avoiding discrimination, slander, hate and vengeance.
  • Summed up in “but love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Reading the Bible we can conclude that God wants everyone to be holy.
  • But the Bible and history lead us to be pleasantly surprised when non-Christians behave in a Godly way.
  • Unfortunately it sometimes surprises us when Christians behave in a Godly way.

Psalm 11933Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,that I may follow it to the end.34Give me understanding, so that I may keep your lawand obey it with all my heart.

  • The desire of a Christian should be to seek to learn and live by God’s teachings, looking to understand what he wants so we can wholeheartedly obey it.

What does it mean to “be holy”?

  • It means to be dedicated, set apart, separation, different, having a special purpose, consecrated to God.

Jesus in Sermon on the Mount;

Matthew 5:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

The old law (from Exodus 21:24) was meant to ensure punishments or recompense should be no more than equivalent but you don’t have to ask for as much.

  • Martin Luther King Jr pointed out that following this teaching only leaves both parties blind.
  • Jesus sets a much higher, more difficult standard. How comfortable are you with this? Do you see people behaving this way?
  • It’s behaviour expected of Christians. Can we expect it of non-Christians? What would be the chance of enforcing it?

He went on to say…

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

  • We are called on to respond to people in the way God does to us.
  • As God’s children
  • God allows his goodness to flow to all of us, to both the good and the evil.
  • We are not to discriminate, even though the non-Christian pagan might.
  • Be holy, be perfect following your heavenly Father, who is perfect.
  • How are we supposed to manage to do this?

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to urge them to live this out.

1 Corinthians 3:

10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

  • Paul was not looking for personal credit or status – he had a Holy Spirit filled role in founding the church in Corinth.
  • He had laid a foundation and since then others had built the church – that is, the congregation, the people.
  • BASIC: the foundation is Jesus Christ. It is HIS church
  • Don’t do anything to make the foundation anything else but Jesus.
  • Build carefully on this foundation so what you build is only on that foundation.

This building is unique and very special:

16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

  • 3 or 4 on street corner: Temple of Holy Spirit. Then in coffee shop or for lunch and here this morning – you yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.
  • This make you (as a group) very special, very precious to God. He warns that he will respond seriously to anyone who does his temple any damage.
  • You are not like any other club or society or agency in our society, being “sacred”.
  • But don’t let it go to you head: we are no more clever than anyone else around us.
  • In any case, the wisdom, cleverness and knowledge of others in our society is going to be different from God’s; so different that our society will think we are foolish. But the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight in turn. Let them think we are foolish because that’s the way to learn the wisdom of God – which is possible because you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit!
  • It’s a backward step to accept the so-called wisdom of the world and change our thinking and behaviour accordingly; that is real foolishness.
  • We can respect and use the amazing things human intellect has worked out.
  • But when it comes to holiness, to perfection, morality and wisdom, that comes only from God.
  • We have access to this because
    • You are the temple of the Holy Spirit
    • You belong to Christ
    • Christ belongs to God.

SO, should we expect non-Christians to abide by Christian teaching and morality?

  • Yes AND No.
  • Yes – because it is God’s will and purpose. It’s the best way to go, following the maker’s instructions. They would be better off doing so.
  • NO – because they are not God’s temple, they don’t have God’s wisdom. They follow their own wisdom, not God’s
  • We can try to share God’s wisdom but expect to be treated as fools.
  • We might be accused of trying to force our beliefs on others but, being realistic, we cannot
  • In fact we must take care that the so-called wisdom of the world is not forced on us.
  • We can tell people what we understand to be the wise way to go, to share our opinions and even vote accordingly.
  • Just because an opinion is popular, if it is not in accordance with the wisdom of God then we are not required to agree or approve of it.

You are the Temple of God’s Holy Spirit. In that temple we strive for God’s wisdom, for his holiness, for his purity.