Who decides right from wrong?
Do you sometimes feel after watching the local and world news that you are standing right in the middle of a tornado? Your own world is relative calm but everything around you is spinning out of control.
Welcome to the end times. We do not know the day nor the hour when Jesus is coming again, we do know the conditions that will be present on earth and in society when he returns. I will be giving some lectures on the “End Times” beginning Sunday evening, May 1, from 6-7:30 p.m. They will focus specifically on the Middle East and Israel. Everyone is welcome.
In our Kairos prison ministry there is a talk given on “choices” and there are consequences. We assume, myself included, that everyone has or should have the same set of values to make choices by as we do. I am beginning to realize that a lot of the “wrong” choices according to our government are not necessarily wrong according to their own morals. Therefore, some of the choices they made were wrong choices according to society but were not wrong choices according to their own thinking. They have no regrets, other than they got caught. When they get out, they will go about doing the same thing again.
In our relativistic society, there are no absolutes anymore. Politicians pass laws but then don’t live by the laws themselves. Church people read the Bible but then interpret it according to their own set of morals. For example, some church people believe drinking a drop of alcohol is a sin (except when it is in NyQuil), others think drinking in moderation is OK, still others think that as long as they don’t hurt anyone else it is no one else’s business how much they drink. They all set their own standard just as the criminals do.
In my ethics class in college the following story was told. Some Germans put in false walls or floors to hide Jewish friends from the Gestapo. When the police arrived and asked them if they have any Jews in their house, what should they say. No, to save themselves and the Jews from being arrested, or Yes, knowing the Jews would be killed and they arrested? Is it OK to lie to save lives? Or should they just have forgotten altogether about helping their Jewish friends escape to safeguard their own lives?
Do you have to tell the whole truth at all times? There is an interesting account in the Bible where God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. Samuel feared for his own life believing if King Saul found out about his mission, he would kill Samuel. So God told Samuel to take a heifer along and tell Saul you have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Then invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice and anoint Jesse’s son David as the next king. See 1 Samuel 16. (David never met up with Saul which God knew beforehand he wouldn’t.)
What I remember about ethics class was they have all kinds of philosophical definitions for laws, morals and ethics. My simple definition of the differences is this:
Law — What is commanded to do or not to do.
Morals — What society expects its citizens to do or not to do.
Ethics/oughtness — What God says we ought to do or not do. This is the highest form of conduct.
These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone — Matthew 23:23; Men ought always to pray — Luke 18:1; We ought to obey God rather than man — Acts 5:29. (See also John 13:14; Romans 15:1; James 4:15; 1 John 3:16).
Years ago I was coming home from Hilliard, Ohio, at 2 in the morning after doing a service call. It was zero degrees. I saw a man walking along the road. As I passed him I thought to myself, should I stop and pick him up or not. Legally I would not have to. Morally — some would say I should have, others would say not to — he may rob you. What would Jesus have done? What ought I have done? That’s what I did.
In Hebrews 5:13-14 (New Living Testament) we read, “For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” Many today are never taught and trained in the biblical standard of right and wrong.
What is the criterion/standard for judging what is right and what is wrong. I believe it is the word of God. It is the criterion we all will be judged by when we appear before him. Therefore it is the criterion we ought to live by. In it he commands us things we are to do and not to do. In it he also tells us things we ought to do and ought not to do.
Sadly today the Bible is not the criterion anymore for people to live by, even many who call themselves Christians. We Christians ought to seek to be like Christ and keep his commandments. It will be to our eternal good if we do; to our eternal shame and loss if we don’t.
Let all men know this: God’s moral laws will never be altered or weakened for anyone, from the noblest to the weakest. They are forever settled in heaven (Psalms 119:89) and will be the criterion to judge all men. It behooves us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. The ability to discern good and evil is a vital part of Christian maturity.
May you have a good week unless you have other plans.
Maranatha. (Maranatha means, “Our Lord Cometh.”)
The Rev. Elton Yutzy is the associate pastor of the Maranatha Community Fellowship Church in Plain City. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.