Author Carey Nieuwhof has described modern moral thinking in this way: “Whatever, wherever, whenever and whoever. You can’t tell me what to do, where to do it, when to do it or who to do it with. Truth and morality are what I need it to be. I decide what fits me best. Objective truth has disappeared and thankfully so has objective morality. The best morality is what works for me.”
Where in life can you do whatever you want with no consequences? Can we
do it when we’re building a house? Can we do whatever in our relationships with others? Can we spend whatever with our money? We quickly discover what happens in Vegas always comes home with you. There are consequences to every choice. We belong to communities: families, neighborhoods, and work places. Where and when we do things has relational fall outs
In the realm of whoever, many people say “it’s just sex” or “it’s just partying”. Yet is this not a cover for objectifying and exploiting our neighbors as mere objects for personal pleasure? Do we cover up the truth that she or he is a human being with a soul and who is made in the image of God?
Subjective morality leads to chaos and confusion. Who would want to drive if everyone made up their own traffic laws each day? Who would put their money in a bank if everyone made up their own accounting standards? One of the most gruesome chapters in the Bible is Judges 21. Abuse, murder, rape, atrocities, war and abduction unfold in the most unthinkable way. How can people act this way? The answer is in the last verse of the chapter, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” When people make up their own morality it’s blind to the consequences for themselves and others.
Jesus gave an objective standard for morality. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34). For Jesus love was not an emotion, it was a choice to act in very specific ways towards others even when we don’t feel like it. These ways of behaving are found in Jesus’ teachings and his own example. For Jesus, objective morality leads to life. Love is the missing element of “whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever” thinking today. Modern morality centers on the notion of “freedom” but Jesus centered morality on love—a love he specifically defined with his own life, “as I have loved you.”
Christ set us free not to follow our fleshly desires, but free to love and serve others. Paul describes the fruit of subjective morality in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” Look around. It this not what characterizes social media? It’s dark, depressing and empty.
Objective morality has life-giving fruit. Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This is human thriving. The objective morality that Jesus taught and lived leads to life. Who would not want to be living in this list? The key element is to no longer settle for doing what is right in your own eyes and to accept Jesus as the king, bending your life to fit the objective standard of his love.