Let’s define moralism (adding an ism to a word is never a good thing) as being overly concerned and judgmental about another’s behavior.
The Pharisees were moralists in that they always considered their righteousness to be above that of others. Moralism means that we think we know best how one approaches God. I once had a Christian pastor say to me that unless I was ‘born again’ we could not have fellowship. That pretty much signaled the end of that relationship. I don’t want to be defined by a set of terms or phrase that makes me acceptable to others.
I recall doing a funeral once for an elderly woman. Her niece approached me before the ceremony urging me to ‘really’ preach the Gospel because some of her ‘unsaved’ family were attending the memorial service. That really gets my gall, as they say. And I subsequently have the tendency to judge the niece as though my thoughts and actions are more acceptable to God than hers were. That’s the way life goes and I make peace with God and hopefully ‘let it go’ because I want to be free of any emotional attachment with people who are not close to me.
The conservative churches sometimes speak as though they have a corner on truth or they find a truth in scripture and use it to prove their own righteousness. I am acquainted with churches that leave a particular denomination over the ‘sin’ of that denomination. They head off to another where they find greener pastures. It would be great if they did such in a spirit of love and peace but from my experience there is too much judgment on their part and mine. There’s something else I need to ‘let go’.
Liberal churches can take that same route. Usually the only people who don’t ‘go there’ are the sinners in life, people who understand their own sickness and need of a Savior, a savior who graces all people’s lives.
I think it was Jesus who said that God makes his sun to shine on the good, the bad and the ugly. Who are we to act any differently than God? We are people invited in our newfound freedom to love others. Jesus was free and that’s what he did. And when he had a problem with, for example, the Pharisees, he called them on it. He spoke very little in private, that I know, of their ‘sins’.
I love the story that is told in John about the woman caught, red-handed, as they say in the very act of adultery and was brought to Jesus for judgment but Jesus was FREE of that kind of judgment. He would rather forgive and love that lady than to have her condemned. And when he told the crowd that the one without sin should throw the first stone, they all left. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and we all live in such houses made safe only by the grace of God.
Jesus was so free that I like to call him the RIGHTEOUS OUTLAW. He needed no rules and laws. He and the Father worked and loved together, side-by-side. Maybe we should all be such righteous outlaws, free from any inhibition to love others as well as ourselves. Which brings me to another observation.
We followers of Jesus have a tendency at times to practice ‘moralism’ on ourselves, never satisfied with the standards we have set up to meet God’s expectations. I do that too often in my life. Let’s take today as an example. I enjoy a good smoke now and then. Al Capone little cigars are my favorite. So as I think of going outside I have this feeling of guilt associated with my smoke. Why is that? I might be doing something that’s not great for my health but I am certainly not being separated from the love of God in my action. Thereby I know I am not really free. And if some self-righteous follower of Christ judges me then I have to let it go. But it usually me that judges me. Christ did not die so that I would not smoke. He gave his life so that I could have a FREE relationship with him. Who knows? Maybe Jesus even enjoys a smoke now and then.