You can never be more morally upright and correct than I judge you to be relative to me. This appears to be the thinking of many of us. I am the standard by which I judge you- my thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, and worldview. If you mimic me appropriately then you are a good person; if not, you are evil, or at least very stupid.
If any, who believe this way, profess Christ, I wonder if they consider what Jesus said about moral equivalency in the Sermon on the Mount. I also ponder the meaning of Jesus’ description of the great judgment of Matthew 25 in which eternal punishment is meted out based on a lack of benevolence as opposed to committing the big sins (murder, rape, child molestation) as we might assume. I wonder what James’ declaration, that a violation of one aspect of the moral law was the same as violating all aspects, means to these moral relativists. By moral relativists I mean people who think that morality is measured relative to a standard which they can use to claim superiority over others.
If I conclude with Jesus and James that no measure of morality can differentiate between me and any other human being, therefore eliminating a basis for claiming superiority, can I then condemn others? Seemingly not! Of course, not being able to condemn those we view as evil, like Muslim terrorists, is wildly disconcerting to most of us. The prevailing idea that, if we stop condemning and opposing people we view as evil, we will just commit suicide is powerful, based on fear as it is.
Nothing is more challenging to a professed Christian than the idea of moral equality. If I become the moral equivalent of a murderer when I hate that murderer, then everything I want to believe is set aside. Instead of being able to assess another’s moral status relative to me, I am forced to conclude absolute moral equality between us. Now that stretches the human ego to the absolute limit.
Embracing this absolutist concept of morality is probably the biggest challenge mankind could ever face. What it would mean in terms of societal impacts is staggering and therefore very frightening. Our world would literally be turned upside down. There is little wonder then that this teaching has never been accepted and promoted. As troubling as considering moral equivalency is, can we just summarily dismiss it and still claim Jesus? It’s a valid question, perhaps one worthy of reconsideration, given our longstanding experience with the results of moral relativism.