“Instead of relying on God’s Word, the measure used to evaluate sin or righteousness becomes a movable scale that assumes that lenience is enlightenment.”
Virtue is a word we typically use to describe what is good. Philosophers, such as Aristotle for example, viewed it as a habit of life that moves a person in the right direction. For Christians, however, only God can decide what is good or evil. Isaiah 5:20 warns: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”
Isaiah’s words describe the world in which we live. We live in a time where people hate what we should love and love what we should hate. Isaiah 5:21 explains how a culture can come to such a state. They become “wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”
Those who reject God’s wisdom also reject His standards. Like the foolish people of Isaiah 5:22–23, the morality of those who have cast off God’s standards turns deadly. The things they celebrate as “freedom” are actions for which they should feel ashamed. Romans 6:20 warns, “Those things result in death!”
This can be dangerous for the church. Some churches adopt the culture’s topsy-turvy values without questioning them. They begin to treat sin and righteousness as if they were merely matters of personal choice. Instead of relying on God’s Word, the measure used to evaluate sin or righteousness becomes a movable scale that assumes that lenience is enlightenment. Like the unbelieving society surrounding it, the church will begin not only to accept those things God considers evil but also eventually to label them as good.
Jesus said, “No one is good— except God alone” (Luke 18:19). God is the source of good. He not only tells us what righteousness looks like but also makes us righteous. We must receive goodness as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ before we can adopt it as a practice. There is more to this than simply knowing God’s standard. The grace of Christ transforms us. The goodness that comes through the gospel works from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit. We know that God alone is good, and only He can make us good.
This study and column are inspired by the book, Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good by John Koessler (Moody Publishers).