To Love Values

VALUES     Most, if not all, religions in the world focus on shaping morality or on defining a moral code.  This can easily slip into a legalistic governing of its followers to the point of fear and bondage.   Yes, following Christ is to be conformed, but it is to be conformed to His image and in that conforming we are changed at our very core and only then begin to live a truly free life. Christianity without reflecting Christ at the core level is nothing more than religion.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27)

     We live in challenging days and God is creating a people who Love in the midst of opposition and struggle.  For Christians, we focus our efforts in order to show others God’s holy yet loving nature which can lead to their ultimate healing in spirit, soul, and body.  Love is not a soft word.  Love is an action that will first cause a change in us and then the world around us.

     As we have been discussing in previous weeks, to love Life and Others will require us to understand and make adjustments at the very core of who we are.   This core is the very seat of our morality and ethics.  This core is the place where values are shaped.  Values are not morals, though our personal values shape our lifestyle and morals which coexist in a corporate or national standard of ethics.  Morals can be legislated, but values determine if they need to be.

     Morals can be relative, but alter the values of a person or nation and they will ultimately change who they are.  Our values are a collection of what we value in life.  A person who has not grown to understand their values will be ‘tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine’.   Value, or virtue, is not necessarily the ability to do right, but rather it is the innate desire to try.

     A nation with its leaders who have forgotten their core beliefs, and the very purposes that called them to exist, will soon be conquered and fade into history as a changed or non-existent nation.  In America, our Declaration of Independence contains our ‘inalienable rights’ which are ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness'.   A great effort has been made to change how our nation considers these three rights. 

     To many, Life is meaningless, having been taken away in the cause of Liberty.  Liberties are being taken away in the Pursuit of Happiness.  Happiness is relative and its definition has become meaningless and vague.

     Globally, the value of Life has been changed and we are no longer protecting the unborn, the elderly, nor anyone in between when they get in the way of our current quest of personal fulfillment.  Liberty has been defined as something other than individual freedom, from government overreach or feudal law.  The Pursuit of Happiness is the ultimate expression of relative morality.  People now say, ‘If it feels good, do it’, ‘if it doesn’t hurt anyone, then who cares?’, and after all we’ve been told for a long time we can and should ‘get it your way’.   

     These three measures, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are a three-legged stool and each leg helps to secure the other two.   To seek happiness in a way that compromises the value of life or liberty becomes invalid.  To seek liberty or life in a way that perverts any of the other two becomes invalid as well and breaks the core value as a whole.  We could go deeper into this subject and may at a later date but my main point here is that if you change or redefine the core values of a nation you can change the measure of morality and ultimately the acceptable ethical standard across a vast array of beliefs.  The same can be said about individuals…core values define the moral expression for good or for bad.

     In the world today, the younger generation wants to know why you believe what you believe. They are not so willing to just take your word for it.  They are thinkers.  They are properly searching for understanding much like the Bereans in the Apostle Paul’s day.  Perhaps this is correct.   It is true that we are told to come as a little child and one of the most frequent questions of a child is a simple word – ‘WHY?’

     Why are you the way you are? Why do you believe what you believe? Why do you do the things you do?  The Church is being challenged to answer these questions and answer them, we must.  We appear to have the same struggles that the world has - divorce, bickering, accusations, moral struggles, grumbling, and more.  For Christians and the Church as a whole, our core values are found in scripture.  Is the world around us thinking, ‘Why don’t you live what you say you believe?’    Our values should not simply hold doctrinal positions; they should be the reasons or strength behind those doctrinal statements.

     The difference between morals and values is the root cause for the struggle between generations.  The Generation Gap is one generation struggling to bridge the perceived misalignments of the other generation. Relationship and Trust are keys as values are explained and passed forward to the new generation.

     Psalms 103:7 tells us that ‘He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.’   It could have been said a different way such as, ‘He made known His values to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.’  Because of relationship, Moses was trusted with the heart of God or to understand His core values.  Since God is Love, then Love is a Core Value to God.  God the Father values relationship.  He knew that if we get to know Him and take on His nature - our own value system would be transformed.  The Fruit of the Spirit are the impartation of His values and studying the Bible is the marriage of morals and values.   I do not believe it is insignificant that the Fruit of the Spirit starts out with Love.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22:23)

     Romans 2:13-15 tells us that ‘not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them’.

     As Christians we need to focus on character values more than our gifts and callings. To understand our core values is key to our success as witnesses of God’s Love.  Our gifts and callings are important as they reveal the Lord’s fingerprint on us but they will not be sustained without core values that carry them and dispense them to a world that needs help.  Our world does not need doctrine or moral dictates more than character.  Our world needs to know God’s values, His core nature, the result (or fruit) of His Spirit when shared in Love.  Our world needs to know that we as Christians Love Values First.