The problems in the world are big ones, and they won’t go away with wishful thinking.  There is a great need for some serious life-and-death thinking about what we each need to do to resolve those problems.

We believe that Jesus came with the answers to all of the problems in the world.  But one of the biggest arguments against trying to obey Jesus is that he created an impossible ethic.  Some even say that he did this deliberately, so that we would stop trying to be good, and just trust in God's grace to save us.

I can appreciate just how close to impossible the ethic is.  Jesus made rules that would at least appear to be impossible to follow, and I think he did so deliberately.  But in this article, I am going to look at why we think the teachings are “impossible”, and I will relate this to our ideas about what constitutes "success", and about the role that death (or separation from all of the temporary props of this life) plays in drawing us closer to resolution of the problems and in drawing us closer to God Himself, whether that separation be death to our possessions, death to our reputations, or even death to life itself.

Each of us has been steeped in system thinking, including assumptions about what constitutes success.  When we encounter the teachings of Jesus, our natural inclination is to assess them in terms of whether or not they will help us to achieve at least some aspects of this "success".  The prosperity gospel tells us that we can use the teachings of Jesus to get rich, while religious organisations commonly assume that Jesus and/or the Bible will give us something that will grow into an organisation or religion, hopefully a very big one.  Others (we hope) will see it, and they will be drawn to it, and we will have successfully promoted the Christian message, the glory of God, and the kingdom of heaven.

However, all of this assumes that the kingdom of heaven is a visible organisation, which I think is a fundamental error in determining what Jesus was all about and in determining what life on this planet should be all about.

I think that Jesus’ so-called impossible ethic contains the solution to the world’s many impossible problems.  The title of this article relate’s to Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning movie about global warming.  For the discerning viewer, he presented a problem which is far more than inconvenient.  Today, ten years after the movie came out, the problem still looks unsolvable.

This so accurately reflects the human condition, where individuals feel overwhelmed by problems which seem to have no possible solution, or at least none within our own reach.  But it has been said that “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”  We just have to look beyond ourselves, to the Creator.

Even in developing our own individual lives as professing Christians, most of us want to find something in the Bible that will make us pillars of society, people whom others will respect and honour.  If we discover that trying to obey Jesus not only tears this down, but brings risk to our very existence on the planet, then we assume that what he said was "impossible".  What we find most difficult to accept, despite it being clearly included in the instructions, is that he may actually WANT us to be wiped out personally and corporately, so that something better, something invisible, something more spiritual might come out of the ashes.

There is a saying, that "No good deed ever goes unpunished."  That cynical saying is far more true than most of us laughingly believe when we say it.  

And we falsely believe it because we assume that so many things that are rewarded each day are "good deeds".

Jesus said that if we let anyone see our good deeds, and praise us for them, then there is no reward for us in heaven; we have already received our reward here on earth.  That is just one of the many difficult teachings of Jesus.  I have found that it is almost impossible for me to do something good without secretly wishing that someone would discover it.  Why?  Because I want them to think well of me for doing it.  And yet that “reward” (their high esteem for me) is exactly what makes my “good deed” into a “selfish deed”.

Only to the extent that we succeed in keeping our good deeds secret, between ourselves and God, do we actually build God's invisible kingdom.  And it is only this invisible kingdom that can save the Earth.

There are pockets of genuine good intent, like the widow who sneaked her last mite into the offering box while the Pharisees made a show of their generosity.  But how many of us are prepared to give our last cent to God and others?

To go further with this "impossible" ethic, consider what Jesus said about giving to everyone who asks.  What would happen if we did that?  We would more or less be asked for everything that we own, by the first person who picked up that we really were willing to give them anything they asked for.  I have not met anyone who was willing to do that... including myself.  

But is the rule really impossible?  No, of course not.  It's just that we are not prepared to let go of everything to that extent.  

Certainly if I were prepared to give it all away, and if I could plan for the day when I would do it, I would quickly sneak past those whom I felt were undeserving, and I would give it all to those whom I see as genuinely needy before the others could take it from me by invoking the "give to those who ask" clause.  Even Jesus seemed to recognise this when he said to first sell what we have, and then give to the poor.  But either way, he was talking about us losing everything in the end, and that is what blocks most of us from being able to acknowledge that what he taught was not impossible.

With regard to doing good works secretly, there appears to be a contradiction in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said to let our light shine so that others would see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.  

How does that fit with instructions about us hiding our good works?

Consistency between those two sayings of Jesus comes from people seeing the good work without ever knowing who did it.  When that happens, they cannot glorify us, because they don't know that we were the ones who did it.  They can only glorify our Father in heaven, who somehow allowed it to happen.  

In fact, the verse about letting our light shine came right after Jesus had spoken for four verses about the persecution that awaits true "prophets”.  As we are persecuted and misunderstood, God's invisible kingdom grows.  And this is the world’s only real hope.

It's something like death.  We are never closer to God than when we are staring death in the face.  Most of our lives are so far away from that, that "God" just becomes a word, even to those of us who would like it to be so much more.  Though we know that death is out there, facing us all, we spend our whole lives either ignoring it, or believing that we can do things which will delay it indefinitely.  

Yet Jesus seemed to be teaching things that would bring us closer to death, even if it is just the death of our good reputations.  Cast adrift from all the props of society, we find ourselves drawn closer to God.

Laying our lives down for the truth is far from convenient, but it is not impossible.  And real change will not happen until we are prepared to look death in the face and carry on regardless.  Someone has said that if we have not found anything worth dying for, then we don’t really have anything worth living for.  And this is exactly what it will take to save the world today, whether we are talking about the environment, or about the people on this great planet that God has given us.

Summary

The so-called "impossible" ethic is, in fact, quite possible, but only when one accepts that it is not going to "succeed" in any of the ways that we have been conditioned to think of success.  There are counterfeits of Christian ethics (e.g. charity given for show) which can be linked with worldly success, but we are also told that genuine goodness leads to persecution and failure in the eyes of the world.  The genuine and the counterfeit are often mixed together, whether it be within an organisation or within each of us as individuals.  Only God knows how much is genuine.  

I have compared this impossible ethic to death, where God is glorified best as we cease to exist.  He is ultimately glorified to the extent that we let go of all our hopes of success.

Consequently, what started out sounding impossible is really only improbable, and it is only improbable because so many of us are still unwilling to step out in faith.

Are you prepared to be the change that you want to see in the world?

*For more information related to this article, please check out the following videos: The Day The Earth Stood Still - Save the Planet, and The Best Channel on Bible Prophecy - 5 Reasons