What do I mean by the “living Christ” and morality?

I was chatting to an atheist on twitter, and we were discussing how we can know what is right and what is wrong – and how we can be sure we’re not being deceived. My answer is, ‘The Bible and the living Christ’. He said he didn’t understand the latter, so I thought I’d write a blog post to explain.

Christians debate about what extent their own experience of God – which could also be called the presence of God, mystical experiences, being filled with the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Christ – should play a role in the Christian life. Usually if they are concerned or sceptical, then they say it should just be the Bible. After all, we could be deceived as to what we’re feeling. And, presumably, most atheists would think that we are deceived.

Yet – a secular morality has to come from conscience and/or rational thinking. But how do you know whether your conscience, or reasoning, is correct? Both of those things can be entirely subjective. Even groups of people can come to very wrong moral decisions together through their own thinking and feeling. So the atheist has the same issues as a Christian does – how can we know what is right?

That’s why the Bible as a foundation is so important to me – and why the living Christ is just as important. The Bible is an objective measure of standards, particularly if we are focused on the simple and beautiful teachings of Jesus, as I think anyone who follows Christ should be. If I am tempted to have an affair, and ‘feel’ that it might be right, or even think that God is telling me to do this – I can look to the words of Jesus that tells me adultery is wrong. (I can also see his words of mercy for things I’ve done wrong in the past – but I would be clear that he does not want them to do this in the future).

Of course, many people have twisted what the Bible says to suit their own ends, sometimes for evil and murder. This is harder to do though, when you focus on Jesus, what he did and said, as a whole. How can you be deluded into thinking that Jesus wants you to kill, or even hate someone, when Jesus said ‘love your enemies… do unto others… pray for those who persecute you… he who lives by the sword dies by the sword?”

But, coming back to the living Christ. Why is this important? Why not just the words written down? Well, one danger is to just think that Jesus was a good teacher who lived a long time ago, which can mean we don’t pay much attention to him. But as a Christian, I believe that he lives today, that he is the visible image of the invisible God. That his presence can be felt in the here and now, as a very clear reality. That we can talk to him and know his love – in the here and now. I do feel this, though there are ups and downs in this journey and I am not always in this state of bliss!

The Bible says that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ, that we will feel and demonstrate: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

In this state of feeling or knowing the goodness of God inside of us, the written words of Jesus written down are also given more insight, beauty and clarity. Because as we KNOW Christ in the here and now, by experience in our hearts, we can also read his clear, objective words in the Gospels, and clearly hear His voice. They become alive, and have more power and meaning.

Many times as I’ve struggled with something, particularly if I’m annoyed with someone, or hurt, or in some way battling with anger and negative feelings – if I repent and focus on Christ’s presence, and His words in the gospels, then there is a breakthrough and I feel love once more.

So this is how the living Christ influences what I do and think in the present. By knowing Him in my heart, and also knowing him through his Word. This can be kind of a simple morality – about what I need to do with myself in my life in the here and now, rather than philosophical debates. But without doubt it has led to more love in my life (though there is still plenty of room for improvement, and more of that love).

This was the experience of the early Christians, as St Paul wrote as a prayer to other believers, that God would: “empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

This is obviously difficult to understand for someone who has never experienced it. I am no better than anyone else for having had these experiences – and I need much more of his indwelling presence in my life, as I have only made limited room for it so far. But Jesus makes my life richer and more beautiful, and has brought much more love to my life. I still make wrong judgements and I’m sure I could be led astray with wrong thinking or emotions. But I know it’s only the living Christ who could bring me back to a place of love, and its his presence and his words that I rely on.

I hope that makes sense to you, please feel free to ask questions.

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8 thoughts on “What do I mean by the “living Christ” and morality?

  1. If the Bible is your only yardstick, how can you know that ‘people are twisting the Bible’ to commit atrocities? or to simply run along with their feelings?

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    • Hi, thanks for your question. I think that comes from a) reading all the Bible, knowing what’s there, and spending a lot of time in the Gospels, so I can get a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of what it is saying b) specifically focusing on Jesus as the living God – his words in the gospels and also his presence in my heart and c) thinking about these things and trying to listen to other points of view. I’m not saying I’m personally infallible – just that I’ve found that the living Christ in word and heart has helped me, and many others. The Bible checks my feelings, and my relationship with God enhances my reading of the Bible. Hope that makes sense.

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  2. Your words here, are very apposite. The “ringleader” of the gang of terrorists, in Paris, has been proven to have been destroyed in the police action, in St. Denis, Paris. Normally, the violent death of a young person, would provoke sadness, human feeling about the life being lived by such as the victims of this young man’s evil. I am not saddened by his end, but that his own video, says what a lot of the promise of life, he could have shared, as their contemporary, with that of his victims. It’s too easy to put a limit on the Mercy of God, by saying that Heaven is not where he has gone. But actions as horrific, as his, do de-stabilise, one’s calm, equanimity, the will to love, people, generally.

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    • I think there is a very human response to feel revenge and hate towards this man. But I don’t think that’s the way of Christ. I know I have felt very conflicted about the whole situation, and a temptation to hate or wish their end. But St Paul was a vicious man who was slaughtering his religious foes, and yet when he came to Christ he was transformed into a loving, wonderful soul. So I hope that for each and every one of the people in Isis. Having said that, I really do not know what our country should do in response to all of this. Obviously it would be better if we arrested people who are planning or committing violence, but with the state of things in Iraq/Syria I really do not know what is best. I don’t envy the people who have to make those kind of decisions. Thanks for your comments! I guess we’re all thinking about these things a lot at the moment.

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  3. Thank you for this excellent blog on the Scriptures important role in our lives. Morality, I believe is governed by society and changes over generations. For example, in the early 1930;s morals were grounded in Eugenic theories that evaluated humanity, where an individual Christian could move aside from worldly ideals and peer pressures, because scripture clearly tells us to do so. Graham Hevey, Southend On Sea UK

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