Moore: Our greatest need is God, not moral superiority (column)
How can so much joy come from something so simple?
That’s where we left off last month, with the question applied first to the simple joy of a cup of coffee, and then the simple gift of faith in Jesus. You may object to my assertion that faith in Christ is simple. If you’re talking about the expanse of Christian religious culture, I completely agree. But I’m not talking about Christian culture, I’m talking about faith in Jesus, and these aren’t always the same.
I’ll agree that saying faith in Christ is “simple” is, well, overly simple. The same is true with coffee. The simple joy of hot java is possible because of the complex work of roasting a coffee bean. In a beautiful example of human ingenuity, the art of coffee roasting involves craftsmanship developed over centuries. Generations of tradition have led to that triple shot masterpiece you’re savoring right now. And yet, underneath it all, there stands a handful of essential principles — I’ll call it coffee truth — from which all those years of development pour.
At the risk of metaphorical over-brewing, let us apply this to the question of faith in Christ. Without question, historic and cultural Christianity is complicated. If you work to peel back all those layers, however, what starts to emerge is a core of essential Biblical truths that lie at the heart of the New Testament. A few examples are the literal resurrection of Jesus, the reality of sin, the gift of forgiveness, grace, and the fundamental assertion that God is love. These all are summed up in the famous Bible verse John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
That may sound simple, but it raises some very important questions. I would love to talk with you about any of them (over coffee, of course, pick your venue), but let’s address just one right now. What does Jesus mean by “perish?” Is this about the consequences of sin? Why does this idea of sin cause me to need Jesus? What is sin that it should be a concern for me? And herein lies the critical Biblical reality that so many miss. This underlying “coffee truth” is that at its core, sin isn’t a wrong moral choice between good and evil. I don’t need Jesus to save me from perishing just because I choose wrong over right … it’s much simpler than that.
If you carefully read the beginning of Genesis chapter three, you will find that when Adam and Eve ate that apple, they didn’t yet know the difference between good and evil. This is crucial. At the point of “original sin,” the choice wasn’t moral wrong over moral right. There wasn’t even any concept of wrong and right. Rather, the choice was to trust themselves rather than God. To put themselves in control, rather than allowing God to be in control. That, my friend, is the essence of sin, and we all do it.
We fight so bitterly over questions of morality. But a Biblical worldview asserts that sin is not a question of who is right, but who is God. When Adam and Eve ate that apple, they chose self-dependence over God dependence, and humanity appointed itself its own moral authority rather than trusting God’s authority. In this sense all our moral bickering is a massive adventure in missing the point because our greatest need is not moral superiority, it is God Himself. In the cross, we see God’s provision for that broken relationship to be restored, through the forgiveness, freedom, hope, and new life received by faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection. It’s a story that’s been brewing all of human history, and yes, it’s that simple. Just like this cup of coffee.
Ethan is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and his wife Lisa have lived in the valley since 1995. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he would love to have a cup of coffee with you.