God loves us. One way He showed that love to us is He gave us His Son Jesus (John 3:16) as a propitiation for sins, a mediator of grace and power and a soon coming ruler. What a relief and great gift we can receive!!!
And, God and the Son kept giving us other gifts . They gave us the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 16:7) as a comfort, guide, source of corrective feedback, and a unifier within our diversity.
One of the many gifts graciously provided humans is morality and ethics, an ability and knowledge to know and do right instead of wrong.
It is a sophisticated gift built into the basic fabric of the natural order and human systems (Proverbs 3; 8:22-36).
Yes, sin has distorted our understanding of ethics and our ability to follow what we know is right.
But it is still a gift, a loving gift from a loving Father which wants the best for His children. It is the Captain’s First Mate for helping us keep our boats on course in the raging winds of life.
But ethics as a gift of love has been hard for some to accept, believe and appropriate into their lives.
To some, ethics seems only like a compliance officer policing minutia. This legalizes their lives and they resist the pressure toward compliance. These reject correction, guidance, and direction by running from discipline, patience, natural and social law. They never come under the tutelage of this wise counselor that ethics can become and never secure its life advantages. Without a God and without good, they wander in moral darkness.
There are others, who try to follow the moral order, and see it as a good, but as they interact with morality, soon every detail of the moral order becomes a hammering pressure on their moral conscience. Everything is demanding. Gone is the guiding love of God. All they see is the call of right and wrong. This also drains joy and love and peace out of their lives. The demand of doing good overshadows the good God is doing FOR and IN them. The moral order lacks a Creator God, a creative being that encourages and counsels and comforts through our moral failures. Gone is the Father of Love.
Morality takes the place of a loving God and we know no end to its demands. Morality becomes an exacting God. The moral conscience on steroids is so exacting these individuals become slaves instead of sons and daughters. They don’t embrace their sonship or daughtership with God and see the moral order as something they can co-create with God USING wisdom to improve their lives and the lives of others.
Thus moral guidance, a gift of a loving father, soon becomes intolerable such that they are forced to abandon it and stumble into the first came of those who reject discipline.
Wisdom and ethics make a bad god but a great guide, and what keeps ethics a good guide and not a god is the presence of a Good God. Our relationship with God becomes primary, foundational, and a safety against either extreme in morality.
This is my view and experience.
We can use ethics for good but only as it has a reverse point of grace, which is God’s relational approach to humans.
Knowing and following the moral order can improve our lives and the lives of others but only as that gift is framed as a gift and not a works. This is where I part ways with much of what I read about Catholic views of morality (often framed as a gift we give back to God. That thinking will make legalism or licentiousness better than anything else).
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.” (Proverbs 3:13).
The challenge of this gift, of moral wisdom, as these Proverbs note, is that it has to be sought after, wanted, and chosen. The evidence of its existence is there-in our natural and social systems, in our relationships and evident in our experiences. It cries out everywhere. But how do we come to experience without a guiding father to soften its demands at times and increase its demands at other times.
This is the role of the mentoring Godhead. They are the Creators of morality and they can make us co-inventors of the application of that order. They have raised us up to heavenly places, seating us with them. We can misunderstand morality’s cry and often its advice can go unheard, unheeded, and at times dismissed as old-fashioned, legalistic, and liberty killing. We can also overstrains a point and distort our joy and the joy of those around us.
These distortions are part of the curse of Satan–the shadow of deception cast on the path of law and ethics for the believer.
Satan wants to distort our experiences of ethics–either by foisting on people a nasty legalism or dismissing the whole contribution of ethics. He does not want us to be parented by God’s love into a life guided by wisdom.
Ethics is not something we do for God, it is something He does in us and for which we need his continual parenting least we push to hard on the gas or to hard on the break.
How can this gift be more realized in our communities for what it is?
How can Adventists lose their legalism and licentiousness and experience ethics as a part of the gift of grace, an infusion of wisdom, and a lifestyle that promotes life not destroys it? How does God’s judgment hour help us experience this gift in a better way?
Prayer: God help us to see your wisdom and grace and gift in ethics by valuing YOU as OUR FATHER who will guide us through to better results.