“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…”
In military service, one of the most serious charges that can be brought against you is Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. Within the realm of service, there are certain moral attributes common to the ideal officer and the perfect gentleman, a lack of which is indicated by acts of dishonesty, unfair dealing, indecency, indecorum, lawlessness, injustice, or cruelty. Not everyone is or can be expected to meet unrealistically high moral standards, but there is a limit of tolerance based on customs of the service and military necessity below which the personal standards of an officer, cadet, or midshipman cannot fall without seriously compromising the person’s standing as an officer, cadet, or midshipman or the person’s character as a gentleman.
Examples of behavior that can lead to such a charge include: making a false official statement; failure to pay a debt; cheating on an exam; being drunk and disorderly in a public place; public association with known prostitutes; committing or attempting to commit a crime involving moral turpitude; and failing without good cause to support the officer’s family.
Keep in mind, these are the military’s standards of moral behavior for officers. Officers have been called out, set aside for specific purposes, entrusted with authority and honor to lead others. Having been called to such a position, officers are also expected to set an example, not just in their service, but also in their manner of living. A failure to live up to these standards is a failure to lead, a failure to honor the call, a failure to honor the nation you serve. Those convicted of Conduct Unbecoming face dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay, and imprisonment.
It shouldn’t surprise you that all that was said above can also be said for the Christian.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
There are things that are unbecoming, inconsistent, unfitting in the Christian life.
Sexual immorality and impurity – and let’s be clear about this means: adultery, infidelity, promiscuity, pre-marital or extra-marital sexuality, homosexuality, pornography – immorality is an idolatry of the body, putting the desires of the flesh before the desire of the Spirit.
Covetousness – note that this is listed right alongside the “naughty parts” – a covetousness is an idolatry of the heart for the things of the world, not being satisfied with what God has given, with what you have, always longing for what your neighbor has.
Filthiness nor foolish talk, crude joking – bathroom humor, racy talk around the office, celebrating in foolishness, profane jokes – should these things come out of the same mouth that is supposed to be praising God?
Those who take part in these things, those who encourage these things in the lives of others, exhibit conduct unbecoming a follower of Christ, and have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” These are the things that characterize those who walk in darkness, those sons of disobedience, and have no place in the life of a believer.
Those who are in Christ have been called out of darkness and into the light, and are called to imitate God in their lives. A failure to live in the light is a failure to lead and bring light to the gospel life, a failure to honor the call of Christ, a failure to honor the Kingdom you serve.
Now, if I left this message there (where my cursor has sat for the last two days), what would we be left with? Were we to reduce the gospel to this “do this, don’t do this”, we would all fall under judgment and condemnation. For, in fact, we do all fall under judgment and condemnation. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
What’s missing here is the grace of the gospel. We have all fallen, and we all once walked in the ways of darkness. But now, those who are in Christ walk in the light as he is in the light. We are no longer under the domain of darkness, but are citizens with the saints in light.
The Christian life, while by necessity must demonstrate growth in holiness if faith is genuine and indeed the Holy Spirit is working in you, is not a moral system. Immorality has no place within the Christian life, but a heightened sense of morality is not what makes you a Christian. The offer of grace does not negate the call to holiness; the offer of grace is the only way true holiness is even possible. A Christian is one who places their hope, their trust, their faith, their life in the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ, and in Him and by His power is one who begins to grow in holiness and truth.
So walk worthy in a manner of the gospel of Christ. Do not fall back into the ways of darkness, but rest and live in His grace, and walk in the light as He is in the light.