October 9 – Our Churches: Morality

What Has Happened to Goodness and Righteousness?

Vital Sign Religious Freedom

Nearly two decades have passed since the Barna Research Group surveyed American adults about morality in America. At that time, more than four out of five—83 percent—contended that they were concerned about the moral condition of the nation. In 2016, the same group questioned whether there is a new moral code in America, one that denies absolutes. The same proportion – 80 percent – expressed their concern about the nation’s moral condition once again.

A blog by Ethics Sage, suggests several reasons for the decline: The negative influences of social media, including the use of offensive words; the negative influence of television and movies; a decline in civility in the way we speak with one another; the lack of ethical leaders in politics, government, the workplace, Hollywood and sports; and the lack of a work ethic, made worse by COVID.

In 2019, a survey by The Associated Press and Religion News Service found that 44 percent of Americans said that belief in God is necessary “to be moral and have good values.”

A blog by Christian apologist and author Bill Pratt asserts, “God is the only source of morality.” He continues, “God, according to Christians, is the good. God commands the good because he is essentially good. His nature does not change, so he cannot declare murder to be right tomorrow. On the other hand, morality does not exist outside of him, but as part of him. He is only subservient to himself, which is no subservience at all. It turns out that no dilemma really exists once you understand the nature of God. He truly is the source for all moral values and duties.”

Where does a turnaround begin? Psychologists, educators, and clergy agree that home is the initial laboratory where children develop morality and character. A Focus on the Family article says that parents are the place where children are given a moral compass that will ultimately enable them to make moral choices on their own. They offer hints, including “read the manual [the Bible], connect to power [the Holy Spirit], avoid interference, and bring help.” 

The neighborhood church could potentially be of assistance. Yet, research shows that, apart from a strong emphasis on moral teachings by the Catholic Church, there is little to no emphasis on teaching values and morals from other Christian pulpits.

More often than not, morality is shaped and changed by culture. Social consensus becomes the moral compass. A generation or two ago, homosexuality, divorce, and adultery were not accepted and were considered sinful. In current times, as the Got Questions blog states, “Homosexuality and divorce are normal and adultery isn’t as stigmatized as it once was. Basically, what we have with social consensus is what happened to the Israelites a couple generations after conquering the Promised Land. ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 17:6).”

In becoming more culturally relevant, churches are becoming “woke,” and the Scripture and God’s laws are discarded or “rearranged” to fit the new generation’s social gospel. The question the church leaders might ask themselves is, are they caring too little about activism on the social issues of the day, or caring too much about the wrong issues? 

A blog by the Institute on Religion and Democracy says, “Moral relativism is the camel inside the tent of American Christianity today. Its effects are most obvious among mainline Protestant denominations.” They cite statistics by the Pew Research Center that revealed only 32 percent of mainline Protestants believed in absolute standards of morality, and 24 percent looked to religious teachings as a moral guide. They opine that this “likely began with a rejection of Scripture—the authoritative standard by which to understand these things.” They report that only 24 percent said the Bible is to be interpreted literally.

In addition, they said mainline Protestantism has been on the decline in America, and they warned that “evangelicals may soon suffer the same fate.” As the apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” They conclude, “It may be that this camel has only got its head into the tent of evangelicalism. But if evangelicals continue to imitate the mistakes of the mainline denominations, then we too will prove that where the camel’s nose goes, the rest is sure to follow.”

Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

As Paul exhorted Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

How then should we pray? 

  • For parents to model Christ-likeness and lead their children in Biblical study and memorization.
  • For family members, including extended family, to encourage one another through Scripture and the message of Jesus Christ.
  • For leaders of churches and congregations to seek the Lord’s direction as they guide the people under their care.
  • For pastors and ministers to delve into the Word of God, adhere to the principles and teachings within it, and live out His righteousness.
  • For followers of Christ to recognize the need for the Gospel to have an impact on society rather than letting culture alter the message.
  • For wisdom and discernment for deacons, elders, and lay leaders as they assist and support the pastorate.

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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