Beyond Merely Moral!

Titus 3:1-2

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men.

Some people think that Christianity brought a stunning new morality into the world, as though no mother had ever thought to tell her child not to tell lies, kick dogs, or hate your neighbor before it occurred to Jesus to say these things were bad. But the reality is highlighted by today’s verse. Note that Paul tells TitusĀ  to “remind” his flock of their elementary moral duties, not to “teach” them these duties. That is because, in large measure, neither Jesus nor the apostles have much new to add to the human race’s age-old deposit of moral wisdom. Everybody has always known that speaking evil, quarreling and laziness are bad. Everybody has always known that gentleness, courtesy and honesty are good. But everyone has always needed reminding too, because we are fallen. What is new about the New Covenant is not exactly morality, but the fact that a new power has come into the world through Jesus Christ that enables us (if we are willing) to do more than be minimally moral. In Christ we are empowered to live with the life of God himself. Morality, in light of this, is a bare minimum. In Christ, we are not called to be merely “moral.” We are called to be filled with the glorious love of God himself. But, being fallen, we have to start somewhere. And so we have to be reminded of our elementary duties, not because these are the goal but because they are the starting line. Today, let us live out our elementary moral duties, not with an eye to filling a moral quota, but with both eyes on beginning a life of total self-donation to God in love.

Mark Shea

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Mark P. Shea is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker.

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  • crazylikeknoxes

    I was always under the impression that Christ’s contribution to the conventional wisdom was found in the final words, “toward all men.” Prior to the ministry of Jesus, the qualities of peacefulness, gentleness, and courtesy had a relative character. Peacefulness was good, as long as there was no reason to fight. Gentleness was good, when it was reciprocal. And courtesy was good, when shown to those deemed worthy of it. By dying for all, Christ in some way raised the dignity of all, so that the respect that would naturally be shown to those who love us or are otherwise bound to us became due to all, not because anybody necessarily deserved it, but in the same generous spirit in which the give of salvation was made available to all. Just a thought.

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