Everyday Ethics and a Grand Purpose

What are your everyday ethics?  What metrics guide your daily living? Paul’s letters often offer little passages dedicated to everyday ethics. You might think of these passages as “Checklist for Christian living,” or “Christian Rules to Live By” or a “Jesus’ daily metrics” Our passage in Romans’ 12 revolves around Jesus’ Great Commandment Part B: “Loving neighbors as self”. (Matthew 22:39). Maybe some software engineer might develop a Spiritual-Fit-Bit to track each step we take in imitation of Christ. A heavenly bell might chime each time we walk as Jesus walked. Hear these Christian metrics.  

 

  • Practice Genuine love.   
  • Resist evil.
  • Hold onto what is good.
  • Strive to honor others.  
  • Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit.
  • Serve the Lord!
  • Be happy and hopeful through Christ
  • When the sands shift stand your ground.
  • Devote yourself to prayer.
  • Contribute to the needs of God’s people
  • Welcome strangers into your home.
  • Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them.
  • Be happy with those who are happy.  Weep with those who weep.
  • Consider everyone as equal.
  • Don’t think that you’re so smart.
  • Associate with people who have no status.
  • Don’t repay evil actions with evil actions.
  • Show Respect for what others believe is good.
  • If possible, as much as you can, live at peace with all people.
  • Don’t seek revenge. Leave room for divine justice.
  • If your enemy is hungry- feed them.  
  • Don’t be defeated by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Wouldn’t you love a neighbor who every day strived to upheld such standards?

Shouldn’t we be neighbors like that?

 

Christianity is not just a set of beliefs.  Christianity is a set of practises. Jesus warns that many, “who say Lord, Lord”  do not know the Lord!  Jesus speaks of measuring a Christian not by their theology  but “by their fruit!” (Matthew 7:21-23.)

 

John Wesley preached “It has been the endeavor of Satan, from the beginning of world, to pull apart what God has linked together: to separate inward and outward religion from each other: to set faith and works against each other… Some well meaning people seem to place all religion in attending the prayers of the church, in receiving the Lord’s Supper, in hearing sermons, and reading pious books while neglecting the point of these spiritual and inward acts: the Love of God and neighbor. And this (inward focus on personal piety) has led others to neglect and even hold contempt for the inward spiritual life”. (Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount Discourse 7)

Everyday ethics reveal faith. Yes, we are people of grace and forgiveness , but “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)  If you love God, then you will love your neighbor, for “God is love”. (1 John 4) Jesus’ Greatest Commandment finds context in his Second Command.   

 

These everyday ethics are essential to Christian living, but I think there is even more that God intends for us and indeed calls us to.    

 

In our passage, Moses, a former prince of Egypt, lives in exile in the desert. I feel confident, after earlier ethical failures, Moses practiced everyday ethics. You see it in Moses’ humble leadership style. The aging freedom fighter settles into a secure life, raising children, worshipping God, caring for neighbors, and building a business, but one day Moses sees smoke up on the mountain. Fires matter to farmers so Moses moves up the mountain to investigate.

 

Atop the mountain, Moses sees a small tree burning. Yellow, red, and blue flames dance around green leaves. Mysteriously, the leaves remain verdant, not blackening with smokey suette or wilting in the blaze. God is present.  The Lord calls out from the bush. “Moses, Moses! Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground”  Moses heeds the command to love God through worship. God then articulates a call to love neighbor as self: “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain.  I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land …Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them.  So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

 

Jesus’ Second Commandment compels us to live for something bigger than ourselves, our family, and our friends!   

 

My question is simple: Where do you hear God whispering, “so get going, I am sending you?”  Do you hear God calling from a sermon, a hymn, the news, or a neighbor?  “Get going, I am sending you”?   A meaningful life requires us to live for more than ourselves, our friends, and our family.  

 

In my coffees I hear from you that Belmont is an outward focused church, living for more than  ourselves. Can there be another kind of church? Look at our bulletin today and see where God might be whispering “get going, I am sending you.”

 

  • Africa University
  • Texas flood victims- 100% UMCOR  goes to the affected
  • Brighter Days
  • Teach Sunday School
  • Care for Alzheimer’s
  • Join the church
  • Defend Human Rights  

 

Life is not about taking care of you. Yes, we must care for our body, mind and soul, but life is about more than that.  We need to Love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. These are the Jesus’ Metrics.   We will live with an uncertain hollowness until we live beyond ourselves.     

 

Not all of us will lead like Moses, but God whispers to each of us “so get going, I am sending you! ” My mother taught at a Title 1 school for over 30 years.  One year half the first graders flunked the first grade. Two shelters for families ensured that some students moved every 45 days. Over dinner, Mom often unpacked her day with us. One evening, after she tearfully, shared a particularly horrifying story of pernicious child abuse,  I asked mom, “why don’t you go teach at a better school?”.  Mom might have said, “If I go away the problems will remain”, but she did not.  Instead, the light of God waltzed in her eyes as my question called her back to her larger purpose, “Paul, I just try to shine the light of Jesus’ in my little shadowy corner”.  You may not be called to lead school reform, but God whispers “get going, I am sending you”.  

 

Now, I know this is a perfectly good spot to end the sermon, but I am making one final sermon pivot and point.  It is not enough to just live for some larger cause.  A larger purpose without everyday ethics  can lose its’ way and sew greater damage into the world it longs to change.  As we address life’s larger purposes, we must not forget everyday ethics.      

 

In the midst of the Civil Rights struggle Doctor King warns:  “One of the most persistent philosophical debate…has been over the question of ends and means. There are those, like Machiavelli, who argue that “the ends justify the means”… (King rejects such thinking) In a real sense, the means represents the ideal in the making- the end in process.  So in the long run, destructive ends can not bring about constructive ends, because the ends are preexistent in the means ( King then offers an example of the means becoming the end).  “Hate is always tragic, it is as injurious to the hater as to the hated. It distorts the personality and scars the soul” (The Case Against Tokenism)    

 

The ends are pre-existent in the means.  If we become righteous warriors, we may spread more war than righteousness. If we employ hate, we establish hate. If we bully, we begat bullying. If we demonize our enemies, we conjure demons.   If we tweet sarcastic words, we help create a sarcastic world. If we trick our adversaries, we will foster a manipulative culture.  If we lie, we support falsehood.  If we we pass ugly words, we make the world less beautiful.  If we fail to listen we help end dialogue.  If we shout down others, we fill the world with shouting. If we resort to unfair practises we make the world less just!   

 

Oh friends, let us live with two guides, everyday ethics and a larger sweeping mission.  Let us live beyond ourselves and may our daily ethics always call us back to a deeply personal incarnation of Christ within our daily steps. Christianity is more than beliefs. So lets us get going, for God is sending us! Amen!

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