(Painting: "Christ Healing the Sick," by Washington Allston, 1813, oil on canvas)
44.) Ethical Instruction in Christ’s Preaching - Christ’s ministry of preaching also included ethical instruction, such as can be found in the Sermon on the Mount. These commands stand as the ideal toward which humanity must be striving: to be perfect as the Father is perfect; that is, to align ourselves as nearly as possible to his being. Christ’s commands are the final fulfillment of the universal Tao, the common moral law given to all humanity as part of our nature (see Thesis #26), and even within the Gospels they find easy summation within “the greatest commandments” (Love the Lord your God; Love your neighbor) and “the new command” (Love one another as I have loved you). This moral instruction, this knowledge, is part of our redemption (but, contra the Gnostics, not the only part): in order to fulfill God’s ideal for us, to grow toward him in relationship and nature, we needed knowledge of an ethic of moral growth that could lead us in that direction; and all human systems of ethics, for all their merits, had fallen short in not understanding the absolute supremacy of love. By granting us this knowledge as part of the Christ-event, our upward moral growth, aided by the Holy Spirit, was opened to new heights as never before, thus making possible the fulfillment of our
45.) Christ’s Life as an Ethical Model - The ethical dimension of Christ’s life was not limited to his preaching alone; it encompassed his whole being, his whole way of living. His life was characterized by deep compassion for people, especially for the broken, the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the sinful. It was, at the same time, characterized by a courageous attitude of standing up against injustice and hypocrisy. He broke down social barriers in his ministry, being present with women, children, Gentiles, Samaritans, and many others seen as socially undesirable. He related to people on their own level, giving his teachings in memorable parable form, eating at their dinner parties, and answering their calls to engage in debate—whoever came to him, he met them where they were at. He also cultivated a deep relationship with the Father—a natural thing, no doubt, since he was the incarnate Son, but also a testament to how human nature, including his own human nature, could draw close to God.