Friday, December 02, 2005
The Christian Life: Not Just Ethics
In the last few years the term "ethics" has become very popular. The concern however, is not for the philosophical study of right versus wrong; no, that dear friends is not the focus of our current societal emphasis. To the contrary, ethical conduct has become the popular focus precisely because it proscribes how people should behave. In a very real sense, the concept of ethical conduct has arisen from our societal attempt to rid ourselves from the very idea of right and wrong. So instead of viewing an official as a wrong doer because he utilized his position for personal gain, we refer to what he did as unethical. As a consequence, there has been an outcry from the masses, with a clear, clarion call for a code of ethics consisting of a list of rules and regulations for ethical conduct. Furthermore, "the masses" want this code to be instituted now, with grave legal penalties for those who abuse it. How sad that fallen human beings usually insist on an external list of do's and don'ts to control behavior. How much better it would be, if we were controlled by the principle of love dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit.
The selfish grasping mentality of those in leadership positions should not surprise us. For we all bear the same human nature which yields the same fruit -- and without a vital abiding union with God, we will do no less. According to Sister White, the nature of the Pharisee --which is self-righteous and self-exalting, is the nature of all human beings. The Pharisee like the Romans utilized external means of force or coercion to maintain control of self, as well as control of the masses. Unfortunately, when we are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit, even though we are Christians --we too tend to rely on external means of self-control. In this state as we read Ephesians 5, we are likely to think that Paul has written a sort of Christian code of ethics. And while Paul did write a list of behaviors that we should not engage in as Christians, that was not his primary purpose in drafting this letter to the Ephesians. On the contrary, Ephesians 5 is a word picture of how the life of Christ would look, if we allowed the Holy Spirit to make the mind of Christ, a reality in us. Ephesians 5 portrays in a written manner the final product of restoration and renewal of our hearts by the Indwelling Spirit of God (Titus 3:5).
Unfortunately, many of us are still tempted to believe that by striving to follow Paul's list to the best of our ability, we avoid eternal death, and gain life forever. This assumption is not only incorrect, but if followed, will lead to boasting and self-exaltation (Romans 3:27). Even the idea of "with the Holy Spirit's help, I can do it," is a fallacy. Because the focus is not about you doing something -- for instance, behaving ethically, rather, the heavenly focus is on you having the mind of Christ-- the mind of unconditional love, through union or oneness with Him.
Apostle Paul encourages us to walk in the Spirit. But what does this mean? Well, when the Spirit dwells within, He prompts us to listen and yield to His leading. As we hear and follow, moving at His prompting, we are enabled to walk in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit, we walk in Love, for the scripture says, that God is love. Not that one of His characteristics is love, but that He is love. An hereby we know that we have the love of God, we keep His commandments, and they are not grievous, we bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of love; and we love our neighbors as He has loved us. Folks, to walk in the Spirit, is to walk in Love (John 13:35), and to be prompted from within as to Christ like-behavior. Ethics does not conquer greed, it merely sets outward limits as to it's _expression. Only the love of Christ, abiding in the soul vanquishes greed and desire for personal gain at the expense of others.
Good behavior only comes from a heart that is good. Jesus Himself stated this point when He said to the young ruler, "why callest Me Good, knowest thou not that only God is good?" Ultimately, only those persons in whom the Spirit dwells will manifest Good behavior. Motivated through Agape, these persons will follow the Spirit's leading that the character of Christ and His Father may be vindicated in the controversy. For such persons, a Christian code of ethics would merely be a prescription to alleviate the symptoms of Sinful desires manifested in greed, selfishness, lustful satisfaction, and self-exaltation. Actually, the only thing a code of ethics could be 'good' for, would be to let its adherents know the way in which society finds it acceptable to quench the thirst and satisfy the need to glorify self. Walking in the Spirit is so much more satisfying to that for which your soul yearn. Which one would you rather be, satiated, controlled and walking in the Spirit, or hungry, lustful and lean, walking in the flesh controlled by the changing standards of human ethics?
Maria Geaves-Barnes & Raúl Díaz
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