May 9, 2013

Moral Police

Written by Boyd Bailey

Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today- May 9, 2013

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. Luke 15:28-29

Some religious people feel responsible for monitoring other’s behavior with moral smugness. They judge people’s motives, while their own heart becomes filled with a sense of superiority. These defenders of their definition of decency feel no need for mercy, nor do they offer mercy. The Bible becomes a “billy club” to whip people into shape with bouts of shame and guilt. Ironically, moral police lack moral authority. Their pronouncements are birthed from pride, not pity.

The moral police person is driven by anger. They are not satisfied until everyone they know conforms to their standards. They become especially perturbed when a sinner repents and is accepted back into the fold of faith. Cynically they say, “Is his conversion real?” “If anyone deserves recognition and rewards for their behavior, I do, because I have always been a good person.” Indeed, their pious prayers preach down to those less religious. They become a closed minded judge and jury.

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry… But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry? Jonah 4:1,4

Has your religious zeal drifted into the arrogant attitude of the older brother in Jesus’ story: jealous, judgmental and joyless? Are you bound up within because life doesn’t seem to listen to your demands? The same Lord you represent can free you from being a self appointed judge. Take a step off your religious pedestal of pride and kneel in humble brokenness. Confess the need to be free from an attitude of moral superiority and admit to being a chief of sinners.

The moral police of Jesus’ day had Him crucified. Today we are called to be crucified with Christ, so we are reminded of our weak condition outside the love and grace of God. Yes, there are standards God expects us to obey. Christ calls us to a high level of moral and ethical behavior. However, it is the inner work of the Spirit that conforms us into the image of Christ. Truth transforms us from the inside out, so we walk in humility not pride. God is our judge.

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Matt. 7:1-3, The Message

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for judging others and neglecting my own proud heart.

Related Readings: Luke 6:41-42; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5, 5:12; James 4:11

Post/Tweet today: A person who feels morally superior is not satisfied until everyone else conforms to their standards. #moralpolice

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© 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
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  1. Penny Shepherd says:

    What is my part when my Son continually makes the same mistakes and the same bad choices? I know God is the judge, not me, but what does a Mother do but pray ? He is not in Church anymore, he is living with his girlfriend and keeping her two year old while she works nights (and I am very upset with what she does). He doesn’t even spend the time he needs to with his own daughter who is six. This pattern has been going on for many, many years.

  2. Tim Cogar says:

    Two items that bother me today. I don’t believe Luke 15 is about “Moral Police.” It is about the older son questioning his relationship with his father. He was wrong and his father did put his mine at ease.

    The next item is the statement, “chief of sinners.” While I am sure there are people that need to come off their “high horse”, not sure that is good for everyone. There are just as many Christians on the opposite side that this could hurt. We need balance in our lives. Thanks for your time. I enjoy your work. Tim

  3. Boyd says:

    Penny this is very hard and it breaks my heart to see your heart broken. I do not have a simple answer. Just reinforce what you are already doing with prayer and keeping your relationship with each other a priority.

    One ministry I really like is ….

    A fellow servant of Jesus, Boyd

  4. Matthew Schenck says:

    I know I had a period of time where I was away from the church (until about 2 years ago) for around 11 years. Judgement from my mother never made me want to change. Obviously he should know your feelings (and God’s for that matter) on his actions, but that should be done in love. Even if done in love, he might not receive the guidance if he is not ready to. The Holy Spirit is what changes the heart, we can’t do it. Prayer and Love. Help him to hear truth and provide Love to him when he is hurting. God is the one who will do the work in his heart…I could share so much, but not enough space here.

  5. Kelly Merlo says:

    Excellent article!!! For years, I was the older brother and didn’t even know it. I couldn’t understand why the younger brother had so much trouble obeying. What was the big deal? I didn’t think I judged but I did feel morally superior. And hidden in that is judgement. Now I understand that we are all standing on the level ground at the foot of the cross. Now I know that I too, am the chief of sinners and I am able to truly love and minister to others.

  6. Jane Gordon says:

    The moral police can relax. Someone who truly converts sees what they have missed while they were selfish sinners; they see that they raised their children without providing a TRULY Christian home. They realize that they wasted years withour having a consistently close personal relationship with God — years that they can only try to make up for by embracing God now, and by taking up the cross as Christ did an firgiving, forgiving, forgiving.
    This sinner is learning from an amazing faith community (my chruch and others, and individuals) to obey the most important commandment: To love one’s neighbor as oneself. They, and He, forgive my imperfections every day. Forgiveness and love requires emotional maturity.
    The moral police can relax. No one dumps more hot coals on his own head than the person who truly converts.
    Thank you for your wonderful daily devotions.

  7. Bill Maynard says:

    I am aware that I judge people through the prism of scripture. I also believe that God is a God of Grace and I in know way feel that I have it all figured out or am without sin, as I humbly go before the Lord everyday to seek His forgiveness. I to have a son who is “good” person in heart but is living in the same situation as Penny Shepherd’s son mentioned above. While we continue to have a good relationship, he knows that I disapprove of his living with his girl friend, not because I don’t love him but because I do! I really have a hard time with the idea that we are not to make moral judgements. Should I not out of love for my son pray that he either remove himself from the this sexual relationship or marry the lady? If I read scripture correctly if we live a life in unrepentant sin are we not condemned to eternal punishment? Am I supposed to say, “son, I love your girlfriend, next time you both visit you can share the spare bedroom.” Or do I make a judgement and tell them they cannot sleep together in my home because I believe God views their behavior as a sin. I agree that it will take the Holy Spirit working in his life to bring about his repentance. Is it not possible that the Holy Spirit is working through me to convict him of his sin? How are we not to judge? Are we not to identify sin and remove ourselves from the temptation? Did not Joseph run away from his master’s wife?
    Maybe I’m just too far gone but I believe, but open, that God calls us to Judge, but not condemn, for God is the judge of us all and knows all that we have done and will hold us accountable. Are we not called to repent, turn away from our sin, for God is faithful and true to forgive all who call upon His name and ask? What happens if we don’t ask? What happens to those we love who choose not to view their lives through the prism of God’s word?

    Based on this article I need lots of help, but we are called to come out of the world and unless we make some sort of judgement how do we know what part of the world to come out of?

  8. Susan McCutchen says:

    I have a 52 yr old step daughter who has been addicted to d rugs and acohol since she was a teenager. Her husband died 3 yrs ago left her money to help take care of her. Her Dad spent a month with her helping her get her financial house in order as soon as he left she did what she wanted and has blown thru the money. She has lied to us for 3 yrs. We have continually prayed for her. At this point we are trying to back off and now she is blaming us for all her problems. So, how do you handle something like that? I feel guilty for alienating her but she has proven to be a lyer and is untrust worthy. She claims to know Jesus but the life she is living doesn’t reflect that. She is the type that the better you are to her the more she takes advantage.

  9. Susan McCutchen says:

    I agree with Penny. My 52 yr old step daughter has been addicted to drugs & alcohol since her teens. She has been to rehab. She was married to a decent husband who died 3 years ago. He left her in good financial shape. She has gone thru the money quickly having breast enlargement, buying expensive cars, etc. now that she is getting near the bottom she expects our help. She has lied to us, she is still on drugs ,etc. at this point we are shunning her hoping it might make a difference. You can’t talk to her she won’t listen. We have been praying continuily.

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