What Are Christian Values?

I just read a quote from someone who said that Christian values should become a vital element in the overall moral and cultural discourse of the nation. I think that’s probably true, but what are Christian values?

Most of the time when we think of “Christian” values, frankly, our thinking is pretty lame. We limit ourselves to the avoidance ethic — what we don’t want to see people doing. Christian values have become reduced simply to safety, security, movies that don’t swear too much, and “good family time.”

I’m all about good family time. But the Christian ethic is not simply about avoiding evil, but proactively doing good. And being radical and energetic in it. The question is not what can I spare to serve others and reach the world, but what will it take? 

How about if we model for the world a more complete picture of Christian values, which would include things like this:

  • Radical generosity. Just like Jesus, who did not merely tithe but gave everything he had (2 Corinthians 8:9).
  • LoveDitching the self-protective mindset and putting others before ourselves, making their good our aim in all things.
  • RiskMaking the good of others a higher priority than our own safety, security, and comfort, and taking risks to bring benefit to them.
  • Creativity. Christians are to be creative! And to be a boring Christian is a sin (that’s an implication of the term “salt” in Colossians 4:6).
  • Excellence. Slack work is a form of vandalism (Proverbs 18:9). Christians are not to be clock-watchers in their work, but to do things well and with competence.
  • Initiative. Taking ownership for making things better, rather than sitting around watching and complaining.
  • Leadership. Instead of criticizing, leading and setting a good example.
  • Humble authenticity.
  • Global and multi-ethnic vision.
  • Ambition. Not for our own comfort, but for the good of others.

These are all Christian values. But would the world know to name even one of these as Christian? We have a lot of work to do.

  • http://www.centralchurch.com Randall Johnson

    Awesome article, Matt! Could you make a few emendations to make it perfect? I would like to share it and will whatever you do, but you did not consistently italicize each of the values and under risk I think you meant to say “higher priority” rather than “high”. Thanks for saying what we needed to hear.

  • Matt

    Thanks! And I updated “high” to “higher.” For the italics — I only italicized the ones I especially wanted to highlight, but obviously that was not clear! I may go in and bold the values so that they are consistent and clear.

  • staffaction

    Great list, Matt. I’m thinking through ‘what makes something qualified to be on the list?’ One thought is, “Would people be able to look at that list and say, ‘those are Christian/Bible based.’ Or would they think they’re the values of some corporation or other religion.”

    Here are some additional ideas:
    -Discipling / Disciple-making – intentionally spreading the good news and teaching others about God and Bible.

    -Forgiveness – bearing with others, not counting their wrongs against them.

    -Sacrifice – giving up our own desires to serve others and the Church. (maybe same as your risk def)

  • Matt

    I think those are good additions, and there are many others that would be important as well and more distinctively Christian.

    I think one important distinctive of a list like this is that it include values that are obviously biblical (and core to the Scriptures) and also values which are biblical but which people don’t often realize as biblical.

    For example, many might think of excellence simply as a value of a corporation. But it is a biblical value all its own, and Christians would (or should) value it even if no corporation ever did.

    The difference–what makes something like excellence distinctively Christian–is the motive. I see excellence as an implication of love. So also with creativity and initiative.

    In a real sense, Christian values can be boiled down to just two: Jesus Christ, and loving others.

    Which, of course, reflects the two Great Commandments.

    All other values are really just helping us get more specific on what it means to live for the glory of Christ and good of others.

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