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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Be Vs. Do

Or as Frank Sinatra says, "Do be, do be, do!"

One of the big emphasises in this class has been on the difference between rule-keeping ethics, and character-based ethics. In other words, most ethical systems in the world today focus on doing the right thing at the right time. In this class, we've been encouraged to consider how God has invited us first to become the right kind of people through a reconciled relationship with Him. We're in such a hurry to do the right thing that we rush past our call to be the right kind of person. If we continually ground our life in relationship with God, our behavior will be life-giving, as opposed to straight rule-keeping, which can often ignore the greater life intended behind the rules.

A great example of this is the movie Les Miserables, which we watched in class today. (Yes, this is a GREAT CLASS!) In this movie, the detective Javert is a classic example of someone who always does the "right thing" by keeping the law and obeying every rule. On the other hand, Jean Valjean is a convict who has a life-changing experience when an old priest gives him a second shot at life. Being changed, he devotes his life to doing good for others by being the right kind of person. Throughout the movie, Jean Valjean violates many of his cultures "rules", but it becomes obvious that he lives a moral life filled with goodness. Javert, on the other hand, who never breaks the law, has a life-less, joy-less existance. In the end, he is so confronted and confused by the behavior of Jean Valjean that he...well, I won't tell you the end!

I guess what I am truly reflecting on tonight is that we, if you consider yourself a Christ-follower, maybe think that the world needs to see us doing all the right things- keeping laws, etc. But the kind of behavior that always catches people off guard is that which comes from a new heart and a new spirit. We "be" in order that we may "do". Getting these out of order is a crucial mistake.

ETHICAL QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Are there moral "absolutes"? Meaning, are there ethical principles that are true in every setting and circumstance because they are a natural part of God's created order? More on this tomorrow...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If we don't believe in moral absolutes, aren't we forced into believeing in situational ethics? ~Ann.

Pastor Nick said...

Perhaps. Are you assuming that situational ethics is bad?

Anonymous said...

Yes. How can it be ethical if it changes depending on the situation? That lowers "ethics" to "convenience" doesn't it? ~Ann

Pastor Nick said...

Don't you think, though, that in many ways a different situation makes all the difference? I still think we need to have a basis for our ethics, but I'm not sure it's in moral absolutes. Take for instance lying, which is generally believed to be a moral absolute. And yet in the Bible, Rahab is commended as a woman of faith because she hid Israel's spie. How did she hide the spies? By lying. In other words, her lying is a big part of what the Bible commends (not condemns) her for. So in this case, the situation made the moral absolute irrelevant.

Like I said, more on this topic coming today...

Anonymous said...

Maybe Old Testament harlots get a special dispensation for this kind of thing! It is interesting to note that her choice was not between lying and not lying, but between not lying and saving lives. Hmmm. I would totally lie to protect my child, or your child. I'm afraid my ethics are getting a little squishy. ~Ann.

Britt said...

What about killing or assaulting someone purely for the pleasure you derive from doing so? Not because you are protecting yourself or a loved one, but because you enjoy watching others suffer. Same thing with stealing -- not because you need the food or items to survive, but because you get a rush from doing it. What about lying to make yourself look better? In other words...doing things that are generally accepted as "wrong" when the ONLY benefit is all about you and not about doing it for God or others.

Pastor Nick said...

So, what you're saying is that in this case, it would always (therefore an absolute) be wrong. I agree with you. What I was getting at with the absolute question applies to the more broad statement we make. "Lying is wrong" is a general absolute that doesn't acutually hold at all times for most of us. On the other hand, "It is always wrong to kill for the purpose of my own pleasure" is an 'absolute' in a sense and certainly something we agree on as evil.

Britt said...

Ah, I see. So in other words the statement "Murder is wrong" would be the statement you were looking for, rather than "murder for pleasure". Gotcha :) Now I have to read your next blog that I see is up :)