Monday, September 14, 2009

Behaviour modification and heart transformation

This tweet from @ChristineCaine has really got me thinking lately.

We must shift from an emphasis on behaviour modification to heart transformation. You cannot legislate the human heart.. Jesus transforms it
I think she is really onto something. A huge focus in Christian culture at the moment is the idea of "culture wars" in which we are meant to fight for the upholding of Christian morality in our culture. This often includes huge amounts of political and legal campaigning. Certainly we should uphold Christian ethics and morals to a very high standard within the church. I'm starting to wonder if we've missed the point in trying to mold an unbelieving culture into looking more Christian.

My first concern is that it is not reasonable to expect someone not in a right relationship with God to act like they are. People act in a way consistent with wherever their hearts are at and what their worldview consists of. We can't really be mad at non-Christians for not upholding Christian morality. Why would they? They are just acting on their own convictions. Not saying they are necessarily right, just consistent. We might be able to force some kind of behavior modification but without a genuine change of heart it is unlikely to stick very long. It is also likely to foster massive amounts of resentment and build resistance to the gospel.

More importantly, my second concern is that our morality campaigning misses the real need. Imagine if one day we got what many Christians are campaigning for. Abortion made illegal. Prayer in schools and the ten commandments in court rooms. Totally clean media. I'm sure many Christians would think this to be wonderful and some of these things may have some merit. The problem is we can achieve all of this and still have achieved nothing where it really matters. All this could happen and yet the whole society still be hostile towards God. People can be impeccably moral and yet still spiritually lost.If people's hearts are right with God their behavior will follow but no amount of good behavior will solve problems of the heart. No amount of good behavior will save, only Jesus can do that. If what people get from us is moralising rather than the gospel, we have failed. It is Jesus we must present to the world, not more moralising.