Love and Morality According to Jesus Christ
The Fresh Perspective Podcast - Episode 17
How’s it going everyone? I’m Nick and you are listening to the Fresh Perspective Podcast.
When many of us leave spirituality, dogmatic belief, and religion behind, we tend to throw the good out with the bad. We think of our past religious beliefs like a pie in which we found a worm. Do we really want to eat any of it now that we see that it contains flaws? Well of course religion has flaws. All religions and belief-systems we have are man-made. But I compare them to ancient ruins. True, the ruins would be a terrible place to live, but does that mean we can’t find anything valuable inside? Are there still treasures worth preserving from the ancients? I think so.
This episode is the third part in a series in which we explore moral teachings from Christianity that even non-Christians can value.
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A lot of people can be confused by the idea of an Atheist examining the utility of certain teachings that come from an ancient religion, so I will try again to quickly clear up that confusion before we get started. Just because I am talking about a religion’s belief doesn’t mean that I personally endorse all of the teachings or practices of the religion in question. I’m not a Christian, but I am a student of world religions and of philosophy. This organization advocates for the open discussion of ideas and considers no idea beyond examination, discussion, or criticism. I should also make it clear that any commentary on belief should not be misunderstood as an attack on any individuals who hold those beliefs. Christians, just like anyone else, should be treated with decency and with respect toward their rights and their inherent worth as individuals.
If that all works for you, then feel free to join me as I share with you three more life lessons from Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus Christ:
8. Be “No Respecter of Persons.”
I believe that respect is something we would do well to show more members of the human family. But that isn’t the kind of “respect” this quote addresses. Someone who is “no respecter of persons” is actually someone who doesn’t play favorites or bend the rules for their friends. They are someone who doesn’t exalt a select few over the many. This is the kind of person who sees all people deserving of equal treatment under the law. This is someone who doesn’t discriminate, demonize, or dehumanize.
Theologically and historically speaking, this teaching in Christianity was a bold one at the time. The majority of world religions, both then and now, tend toward a kind of nationalism or ethnocentrism. People often believe that they belong to their gold’s “chosen people,” and to hell with all the rest! It is a primitive idea and one that we had even before we were human.
But this in-group and out-group kind of thinking, this “tribalism,” isn’t what we see in Christian teachings. In Christianity, all people are on equal footing before God. There are no chosen people. Rather, salvation is afforded all on an individual basis.
Matthew 18:12,13 "How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray."
Acts 10: 28, 34 “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean… Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons…”
In our day-to-day lives, we should be “no respecter of persons.” Let’s treat everyone fairly, according to the same consistent rules. Let’s look at every human being as an individual, rather than as a member of any social or ideological group.
9. Gladly Give to the Poor
John 12:8 “For the poor always ye have with you;”
1 Corinthians 13:3 "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
2 Corinthians 9:6 “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
In the entire history of the world, there has never been a country that has donated more to the poor in terms of both frequency and amount, than the United States. Now, this can be because of many reasons. However, I suspect that a major reason for all of this charitable giving comes from the prominence of Christianity, and its direct command to give to the poor.
This giving should not be done begrudgingly, reservedly, or dutifully, but rather, with sincerity, genuine concern, and gladness.
This is an incredible message! It actually agrees with deep psychological patterns well known to science. When we donate to those in need, we feel good. When we give to those in need with a generous and positive attitude, we feel even better.
I would like to add that in our modern age, we should take this idea a bit further. We shouldn’t only send money, donated items, and our time to those in need. When possible, we should think more deeply about the actual impact our contributions will have in the long term. We should do what we can to educate, enable, and empower those in need so that they will be able to pull themselves out of their crisis and be able to sustain themselves in the future. If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
There will always be people in need, so if you are in any position to give the gift of money, donated items, volunteered time, education, training, and other forms of empowerment, then that is what you should do, and do it with a sincere and a cheerful mindset. Gladly Give to the Poor.
10. Love Your Enemies
Matthew 5:45 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” When it comes to the potentially difficult idea of loving your enemies, I think that quote illustrates its best interpretation. Usually, when we look around us and see mostly enemies, then we don’t have a realistic mindset. If we are to be more realistic, and really look at our assessment of people around us with a more critical lens, then we may be surprised with what we see. Our number of so-called “enemies” drops. The truth is, most people don’t care enough about you to consider you a real enemy or threat. To most people, you are just another person.
Nevertheless, we tend to look at our relationships with others pessimistically. We read bad-intent where there may only be ignorance or indifference. We write up a long list of those who we think hates us, and at different stages in life, that list may include our parents, family members, friends, classmates, coworkers, and so forth.
But even when we disagree, fight, or feel hurt by someone we trusted, should that really put them on our list of enemies? Of course, I am not talking about illegal behavior. That belongs in a different discussion. I am talking about the smaller offenses we suffer by others that may lead us to resentment and harsh judgment.
What are we supposed to do with people with whom we disagree, resent, feel jealousy toward, or despise? Are we to ignore them? Block them on social media? Spread rumors about them? Or send an online hate-mob to dox and harass them? According to Jesus, we should love them.
We should love them. We should forgive when we can, look at the bigger picture, recognize that their misdeeds are just part of being human, and recognize their inherent worth. Love is the highest kind of friendship, and the most generous feeling we can feel toward another person. It is something that belongs not only to our family or our friends, but to everyone, even our enemies.
To wrap up this episode, I’d like to finish with my favorite parable from the Christian Bible, found in Luke 10: 25-37. It involves a lawyer, wondering to whom he should show love. Should it be to the chosen people? To his in-group? To his relatives? To answer his question, Jesus tells him this story about a Samaritan, a class of person that was seen as an enemy to the Jews:
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
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That is all I have for you today, but the conversation continues across social media and in the comment sections below. Do you agree with today’s message? Am I mistaken about some detail? How can I better elaborate on this topic in the future? Feel free to share your perspective!
Written By Nicholas Burk, Executive Board Member © 2019 Free Thought Initiative