What Do I Do? – The Challenge of Christian Ethics

The question “What do I do?” involves Christian Ethics.

As shared in a past blog, according to the Holman Bible Dictionary, Christian Ethics is “The study of good behavior, motivation, and attitude in light of Jesus Christ and biblical revelation. The discipline of ethics deals with such questions as: ‘What ought I do?’ ‘How should I act so as to do what is good and right?’ ‘What is meant by good?’ ‘Who is the good person?’”

Christian Ethics, therefore, defines concepts of right (virtuous) and wrong (sinful) behavior from a Christian perspective. It is really where we live our daily lives. We have to make ethical decisions all of the time in our lives.

To continue the thought, there are at least four contributing factors when it comes to making ethical decisions.

First, we have our convictions. For Christians, convictions are firmly held beliefs based on the inerrant Word of God. We believe that the Bible is from God and contains absolute truth about life. The Word should always influence our decisions about life.

Secondly, there is our conscience. Conscience is the part of the mind that makes us aware of our actions as being either morally right or wrong. It is that inner voice that lets us know when our convictions are being somehow violated.

Thirdly, there is our comfort level. Comfort is a state or feeling of being less worried or stressed in the midst of trouble or emotional upheaval. Most of us strive to feel comfortable with our surroundings and do our best to avoid things that make us uncomfortable.

Finally, there is compassion. Compassion is a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering and pain, which is accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the situation whenever and wherever possible. The Good Samaritan had compassion on the injured wayfarer and did what he could to alleviate his sufferings.

Whenever we are confronted with an ethical dilemma, our convictions, our conscience, our comfort and our compassion come into play and normally guide us into action or inaction.

Here’s the example of how it would work.

I have a conviction that drunkenness is a sin based on the Word of God (Ephesians 5:18). If my adult child got habitually drunk on Saturday nights and asked me to join them drinking, my conscience would tell me that it would be an unwise thing to do.

However, I would be willing to provide designated driving for my child if they called me for a ride home. Going to the bar and seeing my child inebriated would cause me discomfort, but the act would not violate my conviction or conscience.

If my child eventually needed a liver transplant because of their drinking, I would be there for them and help care for them based on my compassion for them. No matter what, I will always love my child whether I approve of their behavior or not.

Relative to the SCOTUS Decision, replace the sin of drunkenness with the sin of homosexuality and the future potential dilemma of whether or not to celebrate a gay marriage even if it involves your own family member.

Based on conviction, conscience, comfort and compassion, we would decide what would be the God-honoring thing to do… not a easy choice.

Remember that as Christ followers, we need to be a people of conviction who live out the truth of the Word of God and yet, be as compassionate and loving as Jesus.

Something to think about…