Do or Don’t Do?

You probably know people who don't believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, yet many of those folks would probably tell you Jesus was a great ethical teacher. Your kids are being taught this everyplace they turn. This benign, non-committal view represents a venerable tradition in America, dating back to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson didn't believe in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and he disliked the miracles of Jesus so much that he actually cut them out of his copy of the Bible. But what parts of the Bible did Jefferson like? Jesus' ethical teaching, of course. Jefferson's view of Scripture, though colorful, is wrong for at least two reasons. First, it's only reasonable to expect a great ethical teacher to tell the truth about who he is. Yet, Jesus said that he and God the Father are one and the same. Would a great ethical teacher lie about something like that? The second problem with rejecting Christ's divinity while lauding his ethical teaching is that this mindset treats Jesus as a relative newcomer, as if he were building on existing ethical systems, like Buddhism or Confucianism. Some who hold this view have pointed out that Confucius gave us the Golden Rule before Christ was born. But what he gave his followers was a negative version of the Rule, saying, "Do not do unto others what you would not have done to yourself." Now, Buddha, as well as Confucius, said some wise things about life and morality. But we need to remember that Christ's morality goes far beyond traditional ethical wisdom. The Confucian version of the Golden Rule, for example, says "do not do," meaning, leave other folks alone. You build your wall around your life, and I'll build mine. We each retreat to our own private space so that we don't step on each other's toes. Jesus, on the other hand, demanded that we get involved in other people's lives. "Do unto others," he taught, which means loving others. He put it plainly: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." [John 15:13] When you see a man lying in a ditch, it's not enough to leave him alone. Confucian ethics allows you to pass him by, but the ethics of Christ praises the Samaritan, the alien, who actively involves himself in the needy person's life. The difference between these two views is as profound as the difference between self-interest and self- sacrifice. Leaving others alone is more comfortable, and entering into others' lives is more daunting. But that's Jesus' teaching, and it is what God commands. People who say it's merely the ethical formulation of a human ignore the fact that no one would make up a religion so contrary to human nature and our basic instincts. This is something -- the difference in ethical systems and the proof for Christ's divinity -- that you need to teach your kids. Call us at BreakPoint and we'll tell you about some good apologetic resources for young people. Yes, Jesus was a great ethical teacher. But it would be wrong to believe that He was merely that. The evidence of history is clear. And remember, Confucius' body is still in the tomb, but Jesus' tomb is empty. For further reading: Jefferson, Thomas. The Jefferson Bible. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1964. Quote from Confucius as recorded by Russell Kirk in The Roots of American Order. Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1991.


Chuck Colson


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