In youth group, I remember studying how Christianity was different than other world religions. It was said that every religion taught us morals, and how to be a good person. However, Christianity was the only one that said we don't earn our goodness; it's gifted to us from the work of Christ. It's the only one where God is the one completing the work, not us. It's the only religion that says that we can never do enough, which is why Jesus had to come as a man, suffer and die on a cross, then be resurrected and glorified in heaven—all to redeem that which we lost.
And yet, I find as an adult; I run into several people in the church who consider "teaching people to be good" as synonymous with Christianity, and in fact, synonymous with outreach. We're spreading "good, wholesome movies" or "good, wholesome stories" and "teaching people good morals." God's active sanctification in our lives produces good works by default. And yet, we still think that if we just teach people to "be good" we are getting them closer to God, which is like saying if only this dead person could be propped up to exercise, he would start moving again.
But what about those of us who have been reborn? Those who live in the resurrection? Shouldn't we be focused on good morals, now that we have God living within us? Good morals aren't bad to practice, by any stretch. They're just not the source of power. Scriptures repeatedly say that our power to do good deeds doesn't come from us, but it comes from remembering, understanding, and meditating on the work God has done for us. Taking our eyes off of the works of Jesus and turning them onto our works is like Peter taking his eyes off of Jesus as he was walking on water, and turned them to his own feet.
So, how do we teach this? How do we teach morals to our kids? In a lot of our homeschool curriculum, we read a lot, from fairy tales and Aesop's fables to Greek myths. These are stories that have seeped into our culture, and influence the way we see the world. What parent doesn't want their child to learn not to cry wolf, or to learn to save like the ant and the grasshopper?
I've been thinking about how to teach morals, and then I found myself at an event where someone was leading a devotional to a group of women. We had broken off to a group of 6 or 7, and we read through the story of "The Good Samaritan" found in Luke 10. We identified all the characters of the stories, and compared what they had in common, and what type of people they were.
After about 5 minutes of discussion, the leader asked the ever-popular question: "What's the moral of the story?"
I looked around the room, and all seven women in the room looked sad, and convicted. They talked about seeing people begging for money on the street corners, the struggle to know how to help, the worry of having kids with, the safety of reaching out to a stranger.
They spoke their struggle to know who was deserving of help, and who was merely pretending to need help. They wondered if money was the best way to help, and talked about when helping hurts. They wanted to be wise about helping, and yet they didn't know where to start.
Finally, one woman said, "I guess the hardest part is that no matter what you do, it isn't enough."
A heavy hush fell upon our group.
I wondered if anyone would say it. I looked around the room, wondering if I was the only one who was thinking it.
We sat with the discomfort for a minute. The moral of the story was God was asking us to do something that was way out of our league. We had so much on our plates. We weren't trying to be selfish. We had kids who were always with us to protect. We need to steward our own finances for their sakes. What degree of being "radical" for Christ was a notch too far? Where is that boundary?
"I think the moral of the story is that Jesus is the Good Samaritan." I quietly said. Several women looked confused. "In this parable, he's talking about himself. He's the one who binds our wounds. He's the one who saves our life. The parable is about him being our neighbor."
The inner-wrestling continued, until one woman, who had tears in her eyes said, "Well if that's the case, I feel incredibly seen by God. He sees how much I'm struggling this year. He knows how worn and beat up I feel just from tragedy after tragedy hit."
If we are to teach morals, we must start with the one foundational to our faith: Jesus is the Good Samaritan. We are seen. We are rescued. We are reborn. All the other morals show us the beautiful standard of God's goodness, but we do not have the power to adhere to those morals by simply knowing the morals, but by knowing the true hero of the morals. There are too many, and they are too great for us. We are strengthened by understanding God's great love for us (Ephesians 3:14-21) and what better way for us to understand than through stories, like the Good Samaritan, where our pain is seen, he covers us and carries us to safety, and he does not look away.