Proclaimed or Ashamed: Are You Falling for the New Moral Code?
A look into the rise of a “morality of self-fulfillment”
A recent book by the Barna Group reported that 89% of US adults agreed with the statement, “People should not criticize someone else’s life choices.” 76% of ‘practicing Christians’ agreed. They also report that 79% of US adults, and 61% of practicing Christians also agreed that, “people can believe whatever they want, as long as those beliefs don’t affect society.” Barna labels these as two of six indicators of a New Moral Code that is dominating the psyche of our American culture. The authors see this code as the rise of a “morality of self-fulfillment” that is replacing a Christian morality at the center of our national life.
I had just read these statistics the day before I found myself greeting an older woman and her twenty-something son who came to my house to share their faith in Jesus. It became apparent within seconds that the ‘Jesus’ they were sharing bore no resemblance to the One I call my Lord and Savior. From the pages of their Watchtower pamphlet they explained how God created a ‘special man’ to come to earth and die for our sins.
What was I to do? According to the ‘New Moral Code’ I should not criticize their beliefs but affirm their right to believe whatever they want to. It would have been easy to ‘agree to disagree’, wish them well and get back to my job of finally putting away our outside Christmas lights. But there was another opinion to consider. Another voice to heed.
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
Peter encourages us to,
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
As stewards we believe that God owns everything…everything! That includes the opportunities we are given to ‘share the reason for the hope we have.’ How do we steward these divine moments when God opens a door for us to proclaim Him?
I consider it a pretty clear divine opportunity when two Jehovah’s Witnesses drive up to my house, meet me in my yard and want to talk to me about Jesus. So we talked and I shared. I attempted to do so ‘with gentleness and respect’ while also proclaiming the true Jesus, Son of God and second person of the Trinity. In doing so I broke two rules of the New Moral Code. I was critical of someone else’s life choices and I did not accept that whatever others believe is just fine. With all the love I could muster, I earnestly invited them to know Jesus, to walk away from the deception in which they were enmeshed and be set free to follow the Jesus in whom, “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Colossians 2:9)
I wondered if the 76% of practicing Christians who think we should not criticize other’s life choices would think my witnessing was wrong? And I wonder what the 61% of practicing Christians would have done, if they affirm that people can believe whatever they like? I am sure some of my liberal Christian friends would admonish me for assuming my JW visitors needed to change anything at all about what they believed.
When my encounter with the mother and son was over (they took back their brochure when I promised to pray for them), I spent a little time asking the Lord if I acted appropriately. I’m not especially good at these sorts of situations so I was sincerely seeking His guidance. What came to mind was the call on our lives to steward every opportunity for God’s glory and proclaim His kingdom purposes for all people. He loves that mother and son, and maybe, just maybe he had them drive up my driveway so they would hear about the hope they can have in Jesus. I have no idea if anything I said will have any affect, that is up to God. But I believe we are called to be stewards of the opportunities He opens up to us.
Which brings me back to the Barna study. I am deeply troubled at the high percentage of practicing Christians who would not see this as an opportunity to steward but reject it as a cultural transgression. What is the future of stewarding opportunities for evangelism if a growing percentage of our fellow believers pledge allegiance to the new moral code?
David Kinnaman, Barna CEO states it clearly,
Millions of Christians have grafted New Age dogma onto their spiritual person. When we peel back the layers, we find that many Christians are using the way of Jesus to pursue the way of self…While we wring our hands about secularism spreading through our culture, a majority of churchgoing Christians have embraced corrupt, me-centered theology.
Confronting heresy and proclaiming Christ is becoming anathema to a growing number of people claiming to be followers of Jesus. Yet God will continue to provide us with divine opportunities to steward for His glory. How will you steward the ones that come your way today?
Let’s give the Apostle Paul the final word.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)
 Barna Group, Barna Trends 2017. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016, pp.50-53