Another mark of the moral-performance narrative is a constant need to find fault, win arguments, and prove that all opponents are not just mistaken but dishonest sellouts. However, when the gospel is deeply grasped, our need to win arguments is removed, and our language becomes gracious. We don’t have to ridicule our opponents, but instead we can engage them respectfully.
People who live in the moral-performance narrative use sarcastic, self-righteous putdown humor, or have no sense of humor at all. Lewis speaks of ‘the unsmiling concentration upon Self, which is the mark of hell.’ The gospel, however, creates a gentle sense of irony. We find a lot to laugh at, starting with our own weaknesses. They don’t threaten us anymore because our ultimate worth is not based on our record or performance.
Martin Luther had the basic insight that moralism is the default mode of the human heart. Even Christians who believe the gospel of grace on one level can continue to operate as if they have been saved by their works. In ‘The Great Sin’ in Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, ‘If we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the Devil.’
– Tim Keller