for some folks, christianity is most centrally a moral system. this is, i believe, a great mistake. christianity does not even have any distinctive moral commitments.

morality is simply a matter of merely doing one's duty. but the christian seeks to do more than merely duty. it is the bonds of love and compassion, of service and free self-giving, which turn the world on its axis. yes, duty and justice and obligation are important parts of life, but the christian life is about something more than those.

so there are no moral commands here, no new obligations. Jesus did not so much deliver commandments, as call people to recognize the tremendous importance of every choice they make. we already know what the right thing to do is, in the vast number of cases. the problem is not figuring out what to do, the problem is our willingness to voluntarily do what is wrong, in the full knowledge that it is wrong.

the christian life therefore is not about never doing wrong. it is about picking oneself up, and resolving to do better next time. or more properly, it is about calling on God to pick me up, time and time again, because i cannot start over on my own. and this divine forgiveness, this permission to start over whenever i wish, is a free gift of God.

it is also too easy to focus on only one subset of one's obligations. when keeping obligations is all one cares about any longer, it is very tempting to reduce the set. some prize their own personal daily action, while ignoring the plight of those less fortunate across the street, let alone those across the sea, to whom we owe (yes, we owe) the means to make their lives better. others spend tremendous energy on social and political improvement, while behaving as a terror to those closest.

christianity is not about sin.

pages on christian life: