A Consistent Ethic
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
The way in which people conduct their lives is often framed by their ethical standards — whether in business, medicine, the justice system, and even their Christian living. The problem is people tend to compartmentalize, rather than apply, their ethics in all aspects of their daily lives. In other words, a good business ethic may not necessarily involve the practice of good Christian ethics. And many Christians presume that although they feel they practice good Christian ethics, they are rather fuzzy in their day-to-day ethical living practices.
When this agency was formed in the late 1970s one specific, focused issue bonded us, namely, abortion. We wanted (and still want) to advocate an ethic that clearly and compellingly articulated the case against abortion. This anti-abortion ethic was fortified with images of aborted babies in buckets rather than with cuddly babies in their mother’s arms.
It didn’t take long to recognize something more was needed. In the early 1980s Pastor Paul Kelm wrote an article in which he said (and I paraphrase), We accomplish little to save an unborn child’s life from an abortionist’s knife but neglect her soul to spiritual oblivion. Though somewhat philosophical, the point was clear — there is more to solving the abortion issue than ending abortions.
In time we looked deeper into the abortion psyche. What makes people want to kill their unborn child? What is their world view on such issues as family, God, the role of religious values, relationships? In order to answer those questions, one must first examine whether a consistent ethic is being practiced in a person’s daily life before the issue of ending the deaths of unborn children can be addressed.
Superficial agencies like Planned Parenthood suggest that abortion is nothing more than a decision, not something rooted in an attitude or ethic. Yes, there are all sorts of decisions that must be made in life, but they involve an all-encompassing ethic.
For example, remember how Jesus talked about the value of helping others (ref. Matthew 25)? We should be feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, etc. It sounds great and is a lifestyle practiced by many Christians and non-Christians. But Jesus also said that there is no profit in gaining the world, in accumulating riches, in finding worldly pleasure, yet losing one’s soul. He suggested a broader ethic rooted first in a relationship with God.
The same message can be found in the Epistles. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that without faith we cannot please God. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah observed that all of our righteous acts (such as feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, etc.) are like filthy rags. The value of the consistent ethic is not found in the actions but in the relationship with God from which the actions radiate. In other words, what comes first is building a strong foundation with God. From that foundation, we then do the things of God.
For these reasons, Christian Life Resources is not content to simply point out what is wrong with our society. Rather, we choose to be more of a force of goodness than just a source of judgment in the world. Consider these examples:
- One of the first things we promoted when we first addressed the abortion issue was the positive attitude of chastity rooted in a relationship with God. While many modern chastity programs encourage it for the sake of health (If you don’t play around, you won’t catch a disease or get pregnant), for the sake of your love interest (Why cheapen the relationship?), or for the sake of a time-honored institution (i.e., marriage is honored by chastity before marriage) but rather for the sake of our Creator. Society advocates methods of safe-sinning by distributing birth control. Society suggests that although sex should not be forced, it is still acceptable if both sides are mature and agree to it. And society is working hard to make marriage obsolete. But when chastity is rooted in a relationship with God who condemns sin and blesses obedience, a consistent ethic is put in place — one that cannot be altered by the whims of wishy-washy society.
- In the early years, when clients came to our pregnancy care centers and spoke of having to abort rather than being thrown out of their home, we opened the doors to New Beginnings A Home for Mothers. In this place an expectant woman finds a home not just to solve a housing problem but to be built up in her knowledge of God, his love, his salvation, and an ethic that addresses all challenges in life.
- As in the past, our writings and presentations around the country almost always begin with a discussion of our relationship with God rather than an explanation of a specific topic. When I speak I always explain how people tend to think horizontally (our relationship with others, what this will mean for us later on, what this will mean for us now, etc.) when we should be thinking vertically (what would God have us to do). A consistent ethic is one that is timeless and unchanging regardless of changing circumstances.
As mentioned previously, it involves a foundation that is nurtured and built upon carefully and with some discipline over time. We go to church to hear the familiar message of sin and grace. What is happening is that our foundation is being strengthened. Slowly over time, the Holy Spirit nudges our reluctant hearts to see things through spiritual eyes and to make our judgments thinking vertically and not horizontally.
In the early years of our national conventions, we surprised a few people when we invited Northwestern Publishing House to sell Christian educational material. Some questioned whether it correlated with life issues topics such as abortion and euthanasia. What we were doing, however, was looking at the consistent ethic.
Issues like abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research and a host of other challenging life issues find their context for consideration within a consistent ethic that includes spiritual growth through family devotions, private Bible study, corporate worship, and all things God-centered.
Christian Life Resources is proud of its relationship with Northwestern Publishing House and the materials it provides for building that consistent ethic in the home. Check out what is offered by going to the NPH website at www.nph.net.
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