How can we uphold Christian ethics in today's society?

Hi Alex, thanks for joining us this week to help answer our questions.

How can one uphold christian ethics in the face of the high level of moral decadence in our life space particularly in the workplace?

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Hi Charmawee! I hope I can do the opportunity justice.

I love your question. I just want to affirm your desire to aim at being a better witness to God in your workplace. Like Paul, you know that Christian faith isn’t private, but public - and it’s God’s great commission to us to take our faith into the marketplace of ideas. This is exactly what Paul did in Acts 17, within the Areopagus Council. So, that’s awesome! :slight_smile:

I’d love to say four things on this topi:

First , please do feel free to respond and be more specific about the particular Christian ethic you might be talking about. I don’t think that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to talking about Christian ethics with those who aren’t Christians, because there is a huge difference between “loving your enemy,” and “pursuing singleness and celibacy as a same-sex-attracted male.” So, depending on the ethic, there will be different things that are more helpful to talk about, especially if our goal isn’t just to inform our non-Christian friends, but specifically to witness to them the goodness of the gospel!

Second , aim at living all the Christian virtues more than, or at least as much as, you try and figure out how to talk about them. It’s tempting to think that this question is particularly focused on questions of sexuality, which seem outdated to the progressive west. But, so much about the life God invites us to is actually just attractive to the on-looker. For example, how striking it would be if all Christians everywhere loved their enemies. Or, imagine if all Christians took seriously the injunction from Jesus to be salt and light in the world. Salt prevents decay and enhances flavour. Imagine a global body of diverse people acting to prevent our world from decay (justice, ecology, etc) and to bring out the flavours of culture (architecture, poetry, music, beauty!). That’s a cool thing. I say all this to challenge the idea - which it is so easy to assume - that Christianity is an outdated list of morals. It’s not. Christianity is apprenticeship unto the most amazing person in all of history - Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a full life, a costly life, a beautiful life. Whenever we’re thinking about the challenge of upholding Christian ethics, we should be quick to remind ourselves that even though following Jesus is costly, it is also incredibly compelling - and there’s more to Christian morality and ethics than the particular ethics which culture zooms in on!

Third , and somewhat related, the best defence of Christian ethics is not an argument (though, that is necessary). The best defence is a life steeped in Christ-likeness. Take, for example, the famous passage in the New Testament, which urges Christians to defend their faith:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet 3:15)

One thing we often fail to notice is that this injunction to give a defence for the faith is sandwiched in a book which is dedicated to the imperative to pursue holiness. Chapter one is about pursuing holiness, chapter two is about the treatment of slaves and family members. And chapter three is about suffering with perseverance for the glory of God. And then the injunction comes. The lesson we can take from this is incredible. It’s this: that the New Testament assumes that people will ask you questions about your faith when they see it working. And there’s our goal: live such a life that people ask you questions to which only the gospel is the answer. And this is why, I think, the best apologetic – the best defence of the Christian gospel – is a local body of believers passionately loving God and actively serving their community. Why? For one, it’s the embodiment of the message. Two, it’s the thing which actually prompts questioning. And three, everyone can do it . If you want somebody to ask you about the hope you have - or the reason you hold to a particular Christian ethic - you need to embody that hope and the ethic by living a life of such holiness that people literally think you’re from another world. God’s continually patient invitation to each of us is to surrender our hearts to him, that he might transform us from the inside out. Because the most powerful apologetic is the transformed Christian life.

Fourth , when trying to talk about particular ethics, try and figure out ways to talk about its goodness. And there’s different levels to this. For example, somebody might despise the idea that there is a God who holds them to account for the life that they live. It might be bad news to them that God holds them morally responsible. But, here’s why it’s actually good news for humans. It’s good news because it means we’re not cosmic accidents; it’s good news because it means we have a purpose. Being held morally responsible is actually quite dignifying, and if the maker of the universe is happy to give me moral responsibility, then that’s quite a noble calling! I always say that it’s simultaneously daunting and liberating: it’s liberating because it makes sense of the fact that I feel within me that the way I live my life has meaning; it’s daunting because, if it’s true that I am held morally accountable before God, then the question which remains is, “Have I been morally faithful?”

The deeper level comes when you might be talking about a particular ethic. Take, for example, sexuality - a huge topic in our contemporary culture. Somebody who has been told their whole life that the height of being human is sexual pleasure will consider it bad news that homosexual practice is outside the bounds of God’s intention for sexual expression in his world. But, how could that be good news? Well, it’d be good news if we point out the liberating truth that the height of human experience is not sexual pleasure nor sexual expression, but is actually intimate relationship with the living God. It might be liberating for people to know that they don’t need to centre their lives around their sexual identity, and that God has another identity for them - in Christ - around which they can centre their lives. That’s a pretty awesome invitation because, for some people, their sexual identity is everything. Yet one thing culture is never told is that sex often doesn’t satisfy. So, if you’re speaking with someone who believes that sexual identity is the primary source of their value and worth, then they’re only ever going to feel as stable as their last sexual interaction. But, if you are given the invitation to centre your life around Jesus, he will never fail you. That’s good news right there!

One of my friends, and a speaker on our team, David Bennet, tells his story of coming to know Jesus as a gay-activist in his book A War of Loves . You should read the book, if you get a chance. In the book, David essentially shares how an encounter with the living God changed his life. As a same-sex attracted male, those temptations didn’t disappear. But, as someone who met the living God, he knows it’d be wrong to act on those desires. So, as a committed follower of Jesus, he has chosen to remain single and celibate by the grace of God for the rest of his life. In other words, he has chosen to deny his temptations as a same-sex attracted male and embrace his identity as a disciple of Jesus. One of my favourite lines in the book goes like this:

“I have given up a portion of myself. But in return, I found my whole humanity.”

That’s good news for our world right now!

Anyway, feel free to come back to me on this stuff. This post was longer than I intended!

Blessings to you, friend.

Alex :slight_smile:

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