One of the misunderstandings of the Christian moral life is that it is basically a long list of dos and don’ts, or that it is a set of rules imposed on us. As such it is largely seen in negative terms wherein out behavior is said to be limited and our freedom circumscribed by authoritative norms. All in all, not a very positive understanding of the moral life.
A more helpful and true understanding of the Christian moral life and of Christian moral norms is that they are descriptions of what a transformed human being is like. What begins to happen to a person who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ? What do they look like, act like? What are their priorities and attitudes? In other words what begins to happen to a person in whom Jesus Christ really beings to live and whom he is transforming? In the great moral treatise of the Lord known as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is not merely giving negative prescriptions (not to be angry, not to look lustfully, not to divorce or swear oaths, etc). Rather he is describing the transformed human person. Such a person has authority over their anger (Mt 5:22); has the courage to be reconciled to others around him (5:24); has authority over his thought life (5:28) and sexuality (5:28); loves his or her spouse (5:31); Is a man of his word (5:34); is not revengeful, feels no need to retaliate (5:39ff); and loves everyone, even his enemies (5:43ff). This is but a partial description of a human being not only being transformed but also set free from deep drives of sin like anger, greed, lust, pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, resentments, hatred, fears, bitterness, self-centeredness, egotism, bad priorities, worldliness and the like.
As the saving power of the blood of Christ begins to have its effects, the human person is transformed and the negative drives are replaced by positive ones such as joy, peace, patience, serenity, kindness, chastity, confidence, courage, trust and love. This is what happens to the human person in whom Jesus Christ lives through grace and the Holy Spirit. They are not only transformed, they are set free. Being holy is ultimately about being free and the Christian moral life is the description of that freedom and transformation.
Is this how you see it? Or is the Christian moral life just a list of dos and don’ts? What if we saw it more as a description than merely a prescription, as freedom more than limits?
How free are you? Take a good look at this video. It is the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val. As you look at it your flesh may well object to some of the statements. But consider them carefully and behold the freedom each statement offers. Holiness is about freedom in the end, being free from so many of the deep egotistical drives that keep us in bondage to fear, jealousy, envy, retaliation and the like. It is only a two minute video. As you watch it, consider the freedom it describes and ask, “Am I this free?”