Many say that we can follow the morality of Jesus, but avoid the supernatural overlay that has been placed “over top of the pure gospel” of that moral message. I appreciate these concerns and the heart that is behind such a belief. They recognize that Jesus’ extreme teaching of love is a high and noble standard, even for those who cannot abide a “foolish” belief in resurrection or supernatural healing.
However, Jesus cannot be divided in such a way. With almost all of his moral positions, Jesus also gives reason for such extreme good actions and they are all based on supernaturalism.
- Jesus says that surrender one’s own possessions to the poor is based on the idea that such a one would receive greater goods in God’s future kingdom. (Luke 12:33-34)
- Jesus says that loving one’s enemy is a good act because imitating the God who gives food even to the ungrateful is a proper goal of life. (Luke 6:35)
- Jesus says that we forgive others because otherwise God would not forgive us of our sins. (Matthew 18: 21ff).
- Jesus says that we should not look at the opposite sex with lust, for to do so would send us into hell, and likewise insulting another, and so displaying hate toward them. (Matthew 5:21-32)
Thus, Jesus bases his morality on the final judgement and the resurrection.
Frankly, to have such an extreme morality makes no sense in a strictly material world. Loving all, even those who do us harm, makes no sense if this world is all there is. After all, those who do us harm should learn that harm-doing is unacceptable, and the best way to do that is to harm them for their harm-doing. That is basic human morality. That is what makes sense in a limited universe. But Jesus’ high level of morality only makes sense if there is a second chance on life for those who live that high morality. Only if this life is not all there is could there be enough time for all to be made right.
On the other hand, Jesus recognizes that such a high level of morality is necessary for this world to be made right. Only if some live to never punish another, but to help all those in need—even those who do not deserve it— can the world be a place of justice. Only if we forgive the unforgiveable can we be forgiven for our unforgiveable actions. Only if we give to those who have nothing to give back will our needs be met when we have nothing to give. For us all to survive, at least some must live the outlandish morality of Jesus. But none of us will do it unless we believe in an outlandish justice, beyond life’s limitations.
Thus, faith is the basis of living.