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From One Level to the Next

Marcus was a zealous Christian who did his best to learn the ways of God and follow in the path of righteousness. If there was a task that needed to be completed regarding his local church you could count of Marcus to be the one to lend a hand. He was joyful, helpful and encouraging. It was known that Marcus had one main struggle; he fornicated with his girlfriend. After some time had passed without any repentance Marcus was disfellowshipped on the grounds of 1st Corinthians 5:9 which states: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators…”

Marcus was a young zealous Christian in a young zealous church. His story is dear to me because I was one of the ones who supported the decision for him to be disfellowshipped with the hopes of him ‘learning his lesson.’ Since then we have reconciled and it was not because of any change in him; it was because of a change in me. Too many precious souls have been wounded due to a dangerous misunderstanding of the application of the laws of God and I yearn to grow in this area as well as help others do the same. In Jesus’s day there were Jews who were so committed to preserving the integrity of the law that they were blind to the value of the lives the laws were established to protect; some of us continue to operate like this today.

Dr. Timothy Jennings in a valuable message titled “Seven Levels to moral development and decision making” (comeandreason.com):

Level 1 – Reward and Punishment

Right and wrong is determined by whoever holds the power to rule by threat of punishment and hope of reward. Mercy (failure to punish) is seen by others at this level as being weak, rather than being moral. This is the level ancient Israel operated at as slaves in Egypt. They did what the task masters said in order to avoid punishment. People at level one insist that God uses his power to torture and kill the unrepentant wicked, as evidenced when he first established his credentials to rule Israel by acts of punishment upon the Egyptian gods, and by mighty, spectacular miracles demonstrating the Egyptian gods were not gods at all.

Level 2 – Marketplace exchange

Right and wrong is determined by an equitable agreement between two parties, also known as quid pro quo – “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me.” At this level vengeance is a moral duty. People who do evil must be paid back with an equal amount of pain and suffering, in other words, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” To not return pain and suffering is considered immoral. This was ancient Israel saying at Sinai, when the law was first read, “All the Lord has said, we will do.”

Level 3 – Social Conformity

Right and wrong is determined by community consensus, for example, when a child says, “But everyone else is doing it.” Right is deemed right by the approval of peers. This was ancient Israel when they wanted kings. All the other nations had kings, so it must be right, thus Israel demanded to have kings.

Level 4 – Law and Order

Right and wrong is determined by a codified system of rules, impartial judges, imposed punishments, and respect for authority. Right is getting a proper pay or reward for good work, and proscribed and inflicted punishment for breaking the rules. Authority figures are rarely questioned, “He must be right, because he is the President, the Judge, the Pope, God, etc.”

Level 5 – Love for others

Right is determined by doing what is in the best interest of others, realizing people have value in who they are irrespective of the rules. Wrong is determined, not by a checklist of rules, but by not doing what is actually helpful and beneficial for another. Jesus demonstrated this when he touched lepers, spoke to women, socialized with tax collectors, and healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, operating at level four and below, wanted to stone Him for breaking the law.

Level 6 – Principle based living

Right is understanding the design protocols and principles upon which life is constructed to operate and intelligently choosing to live in harmony with them. Right is not doing something because a rule says to do so, but because it is understood to actually work this way. This was Jesus living out God’s character of love in all He did, and the Apostles after Pentecost. It is understood that God says what is right because it is right, because it is the way things actually are. It isn’t right simply because God said it.

Level 7 – Understanding friend of God

Those at this level not only have love for God and others (Level 5), not only understand God’s design protocols for life (Level 6), but also understand God’s purposes and intelligently choose to cooperate in fulfilling their role in His purposes. Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

People at this level understand the truth about God’s character of love, His nature and design for life, the origin of evil, the nature of sin, the weapons of Satan, the original purpose for the creation of humanity, the fall of humanity into sin, God’s working through human history, the purpose of the Cross, and the ultimate cleansing of the universe from sin. Jesus operated at this level, as will all those who are ready for translation when Jesus comes again.

Me along with majority of the other members of the church I was apart of were operating at level four and this caused us to seek to uphold the rules instead of upholding the law of love which would’ve led to nurturing Marcus more than we had done. God’s dealings with us is on level seven and it’s His desire to help us mature beyond level four so that we can be effective agents of reconciliation.

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