Christian ethics


Ethics are defined in the dictionary as moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity. They are a set of beliefs over what is right and what is wrong, what can be done and what cannot be done. In many cases, they are inherent, and people tend to go by “gut feel”. Many people believe that they have a “moral compass”, which tells them the right from wrong.

However, the debates over issues of the world show that there is no one set of ethics everyone subscribes to. The disputes over issues such as homosexuality, and punishment and laws in different countries indeed reflect these different views of right and wrong. What is right to someone may not seem right to another, and vice versa. Many times, these views are shaped by culture or upbringing, but these differences do not tell us what is ultimately truly right or wrong. God has given us free will over our actions, and the ability to choose for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that we do have the “right” to do anything but is having the “right” the same thing as doing what is right?

As Christians, we know that we have been instructed to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Only looking to the Lord Jesus will show us what is truly right and truly wrong. Being perfect, the Lord would have done what was truly right, and known what was truly wrong.

There are many sets of dos and don’ts which existed in Jesus’ time on earth which He seemed to be going against. Indeed, He was shunned by the Pharisees for doing what was “wrong”, eating with tax collectors and working (healing) on the Sabbath. In Mark 3:4 He challenged the ethics of the Jewish leaders and asked, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they were dumbfounded, taken aback and remained silent. What He did was not “right” by the ethics of the Jewish world, but was absolutely correct by God’s ethical standard.

In following Jesus’ example, we need to be wary of what the world deems right and wrong, even if such ethics have been determined correct by another Christian. No man can ever be more right than God – He is absolute. Instead, we must always follow the true “moral compass” that is the Holy Spirit who lives in us. In looking to God, and doing all things for God, we will be guided to find the true Christian ethic we must follow in our daily living.

Paul challenged the Corinthians with this guiding ethical principle in 1 Corinthians 10:30 -31, “If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”