Tolstoy, MLK, Gandhi & The Moral Effort

 width=In an earlier post, we quoted the progressive Christian Leo Tolstoy as saying that we all can wake up to a real, happy, and peaceful life, as it exists in our consciences (God’s Kingdom within), if we just make the moral effort. That was easy for him to say. While Tolstoy might have inspired Martin Luther King and Gandhi with such words, few of us think we are capable of the moral effort of a Gandhi or MLK. Can’t we all slide into Heaven by just accepting Jesus Christ as our savior?

Well, that would be nice. But as we talk about in The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life, Jesus never preached that kind lesson. He told us that we must carry our own crosses1 and seek to become as perfect as God in Heaven2. This, unfortunately, requires a little moral effort on our part.

But we don’t have to get all intimidated by the situation. Moral effort is a lot like will power in that once we break it down, and see it just as a small series of individual choices (the things we choose to do and not to do each day), it becomes a whole lot easier to master. The issue here is not becoming a saint, but summoning the moral courage to make one right choice at this one moment in time. As they say, a thousand mile journey begins with a single step.

Moral effort is also made easier when we begin to reduce the clutter—in other words, removing all those things that are often nothing more than background noise to the soundtrack of our lives. This is especially true today, when computers and smart phones serve up an endless stream of chatter to fill the empty spaces of our minutes and hours, but do little to bring clarity to our moral efforts: to those progressive Christian efforts which require both solitude and reflection, as well as the silence to ask the question, :In what way is what I am about do or say going to benefit others?”

  1. Calling the people and his disciples to him, Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to walk in my steps, let them renounce self, take up their cross, and follow me. Mark -8:34 []
  2. “You, then, must become perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5:48 []

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