In relation to personal convictions, an individual’s “values” generally refer to their principles or standards of behavior. The term “Christian values” has become a popular way to differentiate the ideals that followers of Jesus Christ embrace in contrast to those that non-Christians prioritize. So what are Christian values?
Christian values consist of what Jesus Christ referred to as the first and second greatest commandments. The first is to love God. The second is to love other people. Loving others means living according to the Golden Rule, including helping, providing, forgiving, caring for them, and being kind.
What Christian values are most important? What is the Golden Rule? Where do Christian values originate? What does the basic principle of Christian morality imply? Did Jesus invent the Golden Rule? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
What Christian values are most important?
Christian values come from the nature and attributes of God, making him the source of morality. People are made aware of what God considers right and wrong through a faith-based relationship with Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the moral truths that the Bible reveals.
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God. But how does a Christian do that? Love consists of genuine affection that expresses itself in faith, trust, and obedience.
- In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
- In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
The second greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love other people. But how does a Christian do that? Loving others consists of helping, forgiving, and practicing the Golden Rule (more below).
- In Matthew 22:39, Jesus said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- In Ephesians 4:32, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
What is the Golden Rule?
Matthew records Jesus’ teaching about the so-called “Golden Rule” in the section of his Gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. Ch. 5-9). In the specific passage (Matt. 7:1-12), Jesus teaches about how believers should treat each other (v. 1-6) and how God treats people (v. 7-11).
Verse 12, which records the Golden Rule, summarizes not only 7:1-12, but some commentators suggest it encapsulates the entire sermon.
|ESV||So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.|
|KJV||Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.|
|NASB||In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.|
|NIV||So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.|
|NLT||Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.|
The phrase “the Law and the Prophets” is synonymous with the entire Old Testament. So not only does the Golden Rule encapsulate Matthew 7:1-12 and the whole Sermon on the Mount, but Jesus teaches that it summarizes the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi, which amounts to two-thirds of the Bible.
Furthermore, he teaches the importance of the Golden Rule to his disciples, suggesting that it’s also for the New Testament era.
Where do Christian values originate?
The biblical categories of right and wrong come from the nature and character of God. Christian philosopher James Sire writes, “God is the source of the moral world and the physical world. God is good and expresses this in the laws and moral principles he has revealed in Scripture.” 
God isn’t required to meet another standard of morality outside himself, whatever the source. He alone defines right and wrong.
Sire continues, “Made in God’s image, we are essentially moral beings, and thus we cannot refuse to bring moral categories to bear on our actions. Of course, our sense of morality has been flawed by the Fall, and now we only brokenly reflect true good. Yet even in our moral relativity, we cannot get rid of the sense that some things are ‘right’ or ‘natural’ and other things are not.” 
Francis Schaeffer adds, “The moral absolutes rest upon God’s character. The moral commands He has given to men are an expression of His character. Men as created in His image are to live by choice on the basis of what God is. The standards of morality are determined by what conforms to His character, while those things which do not conform are immoral.”
What does the basic principle of Christian morality imply?
Bible scholars believe that Jesus is drawing from Leviticus 19:18, which reads, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (ESV). Some refer to instructions like this as a law of retribution.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “retribution” as “the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment especially in the hereafter.” The biblical principle is that a person should treat others in the way they want to be treated. For example, if a person wants others to speak kindly to them, they should speak kindly to others. If a person wants forgiveness, they should forgive others.
Matthew scholar Grant Osborne writes, “This simple principle would by itself revitalize human relationships if people everywhere were to begin to live by it. It not only summarizes the OT law but also provides a capstone for Jesus’ new covenant principles… note that the whole emphasis is on what we do for others; there is no expectation of getting something back in return.” 
Did Jesus invent the Golden Rule?
New Testament scholar D.A. Carson writes, “The Golden Rule was not invented by Jesus; it is found in many forms in highly diverse settings… Apparently only Jesus phrased the rule positively. Thus stated it is certainly more telling than its negative counterpart, for it speaks against sins of omission as well as sins of commission. The goats in [Matt.] 25:31-46 would be acquitted under the negative form of the rule, but not under the positive form attributed to Jesus.” 
Variations of the Golden Rule were common in the ancient world. Rather than thinking that Jesus is coining a phrase, Bible readers should understand that is using some conventional wisdom of his day, yet twisting it to fit his teachings about morality. Jesus doesn’t affirm the wisdom of the world but customizes it to suit his purposes and standards for how his followers should live.
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