Tag Archives: Morality

“What Would Jesus Do?” Try Asking, “What Did Jesus Do?”

“What would Jesus do?”

The answer to that question often depends on who you ask.  It’s a question that fits nicely into the relativistic mind of our age.  It allows each of us to thoughtfully rub our chins, look up at the sky and say, “Well, I believe Jesus would…”  So, the question is really just Jiminy Cricket’s “follow your conscience” line wearing a Christian mask.  It is relativism presented as religion.  Whatever answer you come up with is as good as anyone else’s answer as long as we are all “sincere.”

Often, the honest answer to the question “What would Jesus do?” is “I really don’t know.”  His disciples lived with him for three years and Jesus constantly kept them surprised and guessing.  Why are we so convinced that we have Jesus pegged?  For example, it astounds me when celebrities claim to know what Jesus would or would not approve of, as if being a famous celebrity makes one an authority on the mind of Christ.

When we ask, “What would Jesus do?” we can only think and act hypothetically.  We can only speculate and take our best guess.  Maybe we’re helping, maybe we’re doing harm.  What if we decide to do the exact opposite of what Jesus would actually do?  Our world faces daily situations for which there are no explicit instructions in the Bible.  Dealing in general, biblical principles does not always provide enough specifics.  Asking what Jesus would do often doesn’t help much.

Perhaps a more helpful question is, “What did Jesus do?”  There are documented answers to that question.  In terms of what our world faces today, an important answer is, “Jesus established an authoritative, teaching Church to guide us and to spiritually feed us.”  In the midst of all the confusion over what Jesus would do, we have a Church to inform us of what we as followers of Jesus in this present day are to do and what we are not to do.

I sometimes hear people defend immorality by stating that the Bible is silent or ambiguous about certain modern day issues.  Of course it is!  Jesus never told his disciples to write a book to instruct us on every possible, future, moral issue.  Jesus established a Church (only one Church) with the authority to provide us with those instructions on faith and morals.  Jesus did not establish multiple church denominations to speculate and argue about what He might or might not do.  Men established those churches (some very recently).

God is not the author of confusion.  Jesus did not leave us with a Bible, the Holy Spirit and hypothetical questions about what He would do.  He left us with His Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth.  Does this mean we always have every answer to every question?  No.  Does it mean we put it to a vote when we are confused about what Jesus would do?  No (Christianity is not a democracy).  It means that by following His Church we are following Jesus.  We are to strive for obedience to the faith, not speculation.

It comes down to trust (i.e. faith).  Either we trust with all our heart that Jesus knew what He was doing when He established the Church (trust what He did), or we try to constantly change the Church to conform to our speculations about what Jesus would do (lean on our own understanding and feelings).

Stones In Our Hands And Logs In Our Eyes

Luke 6:37 tells us not to judge.  But, we can’t stop there, because Matt 7:1-5 spells things out in more detail.  The message is that we are not to be judgmental hypocrites.  There’s no point trying to remove a speck from someone’s eye if you have a huge log in your own eye.  First, take care of your own sins.  Then, you have the proper perspective to help someone else grow spiritually.

When you make judgments about certain behaviors or attitudes, remember that you will be held to the same standard you are using.  For example, there’s no point in judging someone’s lies if you yourself make a habit of lying.  There’s no point in judging someone for watching or making pornographic videos if you yourself entertain pornographic thoughts and images in your own mind.  Don’t look with disdain upon someone who gossips if you gossip, too.  Clean up your own act before trying to help another clean up theirs.

Jesus took this to an even higher level in John 8 when he told an accusing crowd, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  After those who wanted to condemn her had all left, Jesus said to the woman who had sinned, “I’m not going to condemn you, either.  Go, and sin no more.”

The crowd knew that the woman had sinned.  Jesus also knew she had sinned.  Jesus did not admonish the crowd for recognizing and hating sin.  We are supposed to recognize and hate sin (otherwise we can’t get the logs out of our own eyes).  Jesus admonished the crowd for not recognizing and hating their own sins and for wanting to condemn the woman for hers.  So, Jesus showed us the better way.  Recognize and hate sin, but treat sinners with love and mercy rather than condemnation.  We’re all sinners.  We all want love and mercy when we sin.  We should apply the “Golden Rule.”  Any condemnation is God’s decision, not ours.

“Go, and sin no more.”  Victory over sin is the ultimate goal of God’s love and mercy.  Notice, Jesus did not say, “I don’t condemn you, either, and I never will, so go ahead and keep sinning.”  If we continue to prefer sin over God’s love and mercy, condemnation may very well be the result.  Jesus left the woman with her free will and the choice to either obey him or ignore him.

In summary:  Hate the sin but love the sinner.  We are all sinners and need empathy for each other.  Make sure you hate and address your own sins, first (regular confession and genuine repentance).  Leave condemnation up to God (if you throw a stone it may bounce back and hit you).  Don’t condone sin in yourself or in others (judge behaviors, not souls).  The ultimate goal for all of us is to “go and sin no more.”

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

It took me a long time to see the light about the Church’s teaching on birth control.  Like so many other aspects of the Faith, the teaching holds both a simple beauty and a profound complexity.  There is still much I need to learn regarding the Theology of the Body.

If I had to sum up my thoughts on what the Church teaches about human sexuality, I suppose I might use the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  God knew very well what He was doing when He created our reproductive systems.  Healthy men and women don’t require medications, prophylactics or surgeries to fix or prevent anything.  Our reproductive systems need to be respected and managed, but not broken by being “fixed.”

The idea of natural family planning (NFP) was confusing to me for a long time because I did not grasp the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” concept.  Why not use chemicals or devices?  These are just various ways of managing the body.  We do all sorts of medical things to manage our bodies.  What’s the big deal?  The big deal turned out to be that artificial birth control “breaks” something that is already operating in a healthy and normal way.  It repairs or enhances nothing.  When else would we go to a doctor and ask for a drug or device to break that which is healthy?  “Gee, Doc, my legs are working so well!  Can you put one of them in a cast for me, please?”  “I have 20/20 vision?  Hey, Doc, can I have some glasses to blur my eyesight and really give me some good headaches?”  NFP does not “break,” or interfere with, a healthy, normal human system.

Artificial birth control does not teach people responsibility.  It teaches people to try and have their cake and eat it, too.  It teaches people that the primary purpose of the reproductive system is pleasure, when in fact, it is procreation.  God was nice enough to make sex pleasurable.  He could have made it as stimulating as shaking hands.  Let’s not forget that those “feel good” nerve endings have lots of other equipment attached to them.  Those nerve endings are part of an entire system, not just “accessories” for us to bat around like cat toys whenever we want.  NFP keeps this in mind by respecting both the pleasurable and the procreative aspects of sexual design.  Everything remains intact, unobstructed and chemical free.  It all works like God designed it to work, baby or no baby.

Incidentally, some people argue that since post menopausal women can no longer conceive, then they should not be having sex if sex is all about procreation.  Again, menopause is perfectly in line with the natural design of human sexuality.  No pills have been taken, no condoms have been put on, and nothing has been unnaturally altered.  So, of course, post menopausal women are allowed to enjoy the natural pleasure of sex.  It’s only natural!  (There are also women that have had hysterectomies or other medically necessary procedures that have rendered them sterile without choice).  And, of course, there are the stories of Sarah and Elizabeth.  God can surprise us.

Much more could be said, but I think the primary motivator is fear.  People are afraid of the responsibility that comes with new life.  That is why we now exist in a culture of death.  People want to have lots of fun without “fearing” the responsibility.  The entitlement mentality and the contraceptive mentality are very close cousins.  Look at it this way: we are not likely to see NFP being used among the promiscuous population.  Not because it is ineffective, but because it requires responsibility, communication, commitment, self control and respect by both partners.  Artificial birth control does not require those qualities in partners.  It only requires a willingness to break a normal, working system by “fixing” it.

I’m not trying to lay a big guilt trip on folks.  I’m just trying to help expose the lies we have swallowed for decades.  Christians in particular should be concerned about whether or not they are actually becoming “one flesh” within their marriages, and whether or not their sex lives are in keeping with God’s natural law.

This is not just a “Catholic” issue.  It’s not true “because the Catholic Church teaches it’s true.”  The Catholic Church (like a voice in the wilderness) still teaches it because it is true and always has been true!  Catholicism refuses to allow society to dictate God’s truth.  Catholic reproductive systems and non-Catholic reproductive systems were all created and designed by the same God.  Artificial birth control affects us all the same.  The truth hits everybody.  The question is, “Are we responsibly honoring God’s creative design, or are we trying to play God with our bodies just to have some pleasure?”

Here’s an interesting website I found recently about NPF.

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Whose Conscience Are We Following?

It seems to me that one very misunderstood idea within Christianity is the idea of conscience formation.  While people are generally willing to do what they feel is right, they are less apt to consider how they came to know right from wrong in the first place.  People usually don’t think about what formed their conscience.  None of us totally “think on our own.”  We all borrow and exchange ideas, opinions, beliefs, values, principles, etc.  We learn things from parents, schools, churches, media, politics, friends, etc.  These sources all influence or “form” the conscience.

When presented with questions of morality and justice, which sources do we turn to?  What if parents taught that something is immoral, but school taught that it is moral and normal?  What if it is politically correct to normalize and embrace a certain lifestyle or behavior but Church teaching says it is wrong?  Who or what gets to have the preeminent spot in the conscience?  Out of all the competing forces inside the human heart, which one has the final say?

I have heard it said that if I follow the teachings of the Catholic Church I am not thinking for myself.  I am blindly going along with oppressive, religious teachings that marginalize or hurt certain peoples and populations.  Those who would make such an accusation apparently feel that I would be better off following their teachings instead of the Catholic Church.  In other words, they want to do my thinking for me.  They want to be the force that forms my conscience and teaches me right from wrong.  Why should I submit my will to theirs?

There is also a popular notion that one should be able to pick and choose which Church teachings to follow and which ones to reject based on one’s conscience.  However, the purpose of the Church is not to form the conscience and then produce a smorgasbord of rules for us to choose from in order to give us practice using our conscience.  It’s not like the military where soldiers are trained and then put through simulated battles to practice their skills.  The conscience is trained within the Church in order to fight battles that oppose the Church (i.e. Christ).  Put simply, the Church teaches us how to be good so we can fight evil.

It doesn’t help much in the fight against evil to have a conscience formed by the world rather than by the Church.  If the conscience is formed by the worldly, secular, politically correct culture, then following it will simply perpetuate the worldly, secular, politically correct culture.  A conscience that has been formed in opposition to the Church has been deformed.  It struggles to operate as a force against evil because it does not function properly.  It is more likely to assist evil ends than good ends, even if it does so blindly.

When we encounter a teaching of the Church that is difficult, we have choices.  One choice is to assert our conscience over and above that teaching, thereby potentially letting in the other conscience-forming forces that oppose good.  The other choice is to obediently allow our conscience to be formed by the Church.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church all things.  Following Church teachings is placing faith in the promise of Christ.  Faith requires a reasonable, obedient act of the will, not just feelings or hunches.  A properly formed conscience is not a “gut feeling.”  It is an obedient act of faith.

It also does not help the battle against evil to have multitudes of Christians believing and teaching different things.  While Christians vie against each other with, “The Bible says this,” or “The Bible says that,” evil exploits their distractions.  When all Christians are willing to follow the Church instead of their individual, misinformed consciences and private biblical interpretations, evil will cower.

The Bible? Yep, There’s An App For That. But…

We have reached a point in history where the Bible is available to practically everyone.  We can even carry it around on our smart phones if we want to.  We have access to all sorts of information about the Bible with a few clicks of a mouse or the slide of a finger.  Things have changed drastically since the days when there were only a few Bibles copied by hand.  And yet, some things have not changed at all.  The meaning of Scripture has not changed.  The truth contained in Scripture has not changed.  The ability to properly discern the meaning of the text still resides with the Holy Spirit, not human technology.  Our technology cannot match God.

Consider the account of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:31.  The Apostle Phillip saw him reading from the prophet Esaias.  So, Phillip, guided by the Spirit, approached the man and asked him if he understood what he was reading.  The man replied, “How can I unless some man guides me?”  So, Phillip explained (preached) to the man how the Scriptures pointed to Jesus Christ.  The eunuch then asked to be baptized.  He became a Christian, not because he read and understood the copy of the Scriptures he possessed, but because a Spirit-led, authoritative interpreter of that Scripture preached to him.  That Ethiopian eunuch might as well have been sitting there Googling the Scripture on his iPhone.  He still would have needed the apostolic authority guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible contains, among other things, Paul’s letters to various churches regarding many different topics such as salvation, end times, proper behavior of Christians, the Lord’s Supper, etc.  Peter (the first pope and head of the apostles) also wrote some letters.  In 2Peter 3:16, Peter mentions the letters of Paul.  Peter writes that Paul’s letters contain information that is “hard to understand.”  Not only are the letters hard to understand, but there are a lot of people twisting the truth of those letters “to their own destruction.”  In other words, interpreting the Bible is difficult and dangerous.  Peter then warns the Christians not to be led astray by people that are improperly interpreting Paul’s letters.

Having a laptop with fancy Bible software or a smart phone has not made it safer to interpret Scripture.  In fact, it has probably increased the danger.  We now live in a world of relativism, the antithesis of truth.  People generally no longer believe in absolute truth.  “You have your truth and I have my truth.”  “You have your Bible interpretation and I have my Bible interpretation.”  “You follow your Jesus and I’ll follow my Jesus.”  This is partly the result of many Bibles with little or no guidance from apostolic authority.  Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Pontius Pilot says, “What is truth?” and then washes his hands of it and crucifies Truth.  Such is our world of mass information and relativistic mindset.

Can’t people become Christian in any church?  Isn’t it even possible for people to pick up a Bible, read it, learn about Jesus and become Christian?  Of course.  But becoming Christian is only the beginning.  Disciples must learn how to remain Christians, grow as Christians and conduct themselves as Christians.  Just as we do not leave newborn babies to fend for themselves, The Master did not set us adrift on the winds of conflicting doctrines.  Jesus did not leave us alone with only our Bibles.  He left us a Church for guidance.  When we ignore or abandon the apostolic guidance of that Church, we place ourselves in peril.  When we act as if we know better than the Church that Jesus established and gave His own authority to, we place ourselves in peril.  When we have devotion to the Bible but not to Christ’s Church, we place ourselves in peril.  It is not the Bible that divides Christians; it is the issue of authority.

The question of authority extends even beyond the interpretation of Scripture.  The Bible does not explicitly address certain issues facing modern Christians.  While technology has given us smart phones, it has also enhanced our ability to “play God,” particularly in the beginning and ending stages of life.  Science promises great power and ingenuity, but it does not promise morality or spiritual truth.  If Christians are divided over moral issues that are addressed in the Bible, how much more will they be divided on issues where the Bible is silent?  There has to be an authority to interpret Scripture and to address contemporary moral issues.

Keep your Bible on your phone, your Kindle, your laptop, your desktop or in a drawer by your bed if you wish.  It matters not.  What matters is the authority by which we discern the Bible.  There are now literally thousands of conflicting interpretations and various lifestyles all claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit and all using the name “Christian.”  It’s confusing.  God is not the author of confusion (1Cor 14:33).  We still need the apostolic, Spirit-led authority that unlocked the Scriptures for the Ethiopian eunuch.  We don’t need more technology or Bibles, and we don’t need just any church or just any preacher; we need the Church preaching apostolic truth.

Sorry, Even The Pope Is Not Allowed To Change Those Things

The other day, a news agency posted opinion polls on Facebook asking whether or not the new Pope should “change the Church,” “allow women to be priests,” “approve contraception,” etc.  Such opinion polls reveal at least two important things.  First, society is generally clueless about authentic Catholic teaching and the Pope’s authority.  Secondly, people tend to believe that Christ should serve them, not that they should serve Christ.

The Catholic Church (including the Pope) does not possess the authority to change Natural Law or the Law of Christ.  Certain things have already been established by Christ.  Some things the Church has deemed immoral and/or unnatural within the physical realm and the supernatural realm.  The Church cannot say, “OK, those things are now considered moral and natural.”  Morality and nature are not subject to public opinion.  Catholic doctrine is not subject to public opinion.  (Incidentally, there is a difference between Church doctrine and Church disciplines, a distinction many don’t consider).  Christ’s Church is not a democracy.  Catholic Christians are subject to the Church, because the Church is subject to Christ.  The Pope has been given authority to protect the Deposit of Faith, not change it.  Hence, the Catholic Church stands fast on matters of Faith and morals, even while other Christian churches cave in to public pressure.

We live in a fast food, have-it-your-way world.  This is why so many people “church hop” and look for a church that agrees with their own opinions.  People want to worship a Jesus that fits nicely within their zone of comfort.  People want to shape God and the Church into their own images.  This is upside down.  Christians are supposed to be conformed to Christ, not to the world.  Nevertheless, they often use the world’s standards to push for change in the Church.  When those changes do not happen, they are indignant.  This is not the humility of servants of Christ.  It is ignorance at best, and rebellion at worst.

Women’s Rights (?)

None of us had the option of choosing who our parents would be.  We did not know the content of their character or the color of their skin.  We did not know if they were upstanding members of society or common criminals.  We did not know if they practiced any particular faith, or if they had any sense of morality whatsoever.  We did not know if they were going to nurture us or abuse us.  We had no sense of how they treated each other.  For all we knew, our fathers could have been rapists or ministers.  Our mothers might have been prostitutes or soccer moms.  We simply did not get to choose who our parents would be.  Yet, here we are, existing, and trying to make the best of it, because someone gave us a chance at life.

Life is the primary, inalienable right.  Without life, none of the other human rights make any sense.  Consider the rights of a woman, for example.  What good are her rights if she is not alive?  One of life’s greatest ironies is the killing of women in utero in the name of “women’s rights” (or, for that matter, the killing of any human in the name of “human rights”).

Incidently, it is sometimes claimed that, since I do not have a woman’s body, I am not allowed to say anything about women’s issues, particularly abortion.  Foolishness.  My very existence is due to a woman’s body and her choices, as is the existence of anyone reading this.  Furthermore, any woman would be glad to have the support of my opinion if it was in agreement with her own.  It is only when I disagree that my gender becomes an issue.

I cannot be supportive of “women’s rights” by excluding the weakest and most vulnerable of all women; those women still in the womb of other women.  They are living in what used to be the safest place on earth.  Now it is one of the most perilous places to exist.  Don’t tell me how important your  life and your female body are while the body living inside of you (possibly another female) is being destroyed.  They are both equally important.  They both deserve the right to live and have a chance to show their quality, no matter who the parents are.

 

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.