“In those days there was no king in Israel;
EVERY MAN DID WHAT WAS RIGHT
IN HIS OWN EYES”
-JUDGES 17:6 and 21:25-
As everyone probably knows by now–I’ve been ‘jogging’ through the book of Judges for sometime and Holy Spirit direct me to the verse I quoted above. And in my detective work this week, I ran across a book entitled, “What Is the Moral Crisis of Our Time” by Will Herberg; that was written in 1968. It kind of brought my thoughts together. Let me start this blog out by quoting from a section in the book: REMEMBER, THIS WAS 1968:
“The moral crisis of our time cannot it seems to me, be identical merely with the widespread violation of accepted moral standards, for which our time is held to be notorious. There has never been any lack of that at any time;…this, indeed, is our time’s challenge to morality; not so much the all-to-frequent breakdown of a moral code, but the fact that today there seems to be no moral code to break down…To violate moral standards while at the same time acknowledging their authority is one thing; to lose all sense of the moral claim, to repudiate all moral authority and every moral standard as such, is something far more serious.”
In other words, the threat to the times 44 years ago isn’t that people were breaking rules; isn’t that people were saying RULES don’t matter at all; that there are NO RULES and NO RIGHTS for anyone to make them. Where has that taken us today do you think?
FINDING A STANDARD–
Have you ever attended a Junior High School [they call them “middle schools” now days] musical program and waited with anticipation to hear your son play first trumpet in the school band concert? Now not ALL school bands sound out of tune…but that one night…it sounded horrible! Most were out of tune [except MY son] and they sounded like they were in CHAOS!
MUSIC shows us pretty quickly how important it is in having a STANDARD set in place. In fact, MUSIC is all about STANDARDS. Why do you think some churches put words of the praise songs up on a large screen above the platform when the congregation is singing together on Sunday mornings? It wouldn’t make sense if we each made up our own tunes and words to sing. You’ve heard musicians tuning up before they play and that’s because there is a STANDARD. When every instrument is in-tuned to a STANDARD, it sounds like they go together. But if they’re out of tune they sound TERRIBLE.
IMAGING FOR A MOMENT a world that denies standards:
–A world without ABSOLUTES; where everyone makes up their own rules. Where no one accepts something to be true unless THEY DECIDE it’s true on their own.
–A world where there is no one in charge–where everyone just does as he or she sees fit–what’s right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6 and 21:5).
I would imagine it would be pretty chaotic. You’d get stories about treachery, rashness and espionage. You’d hear about people who at times seem godly; then others turn around and mess up terribly. You’d have the period in Israel’s history recorded in the book of Judges where they have no king and everyone did as they saw fit.
TRY TO PICTURE A WORLD that doesn’t accept ABSOLUTES; a world where someone might say, “What’s RIGHT for you isn’t necessarily RIGHT for me or for another group or type of people.” Picture a society where everyone becomes afraid to speak up because they feel they have NO RIGHT to impose a STANDARD on anyone else. Envision a CULTURE where rather than teach what’s right and wrong, teachers tell their students that the important thing is to decide for themselves; what is right and wrong because everyone’s situation is different in today’s culture. IMAGINE a world where telling the TRUTH is a good thing to do sometimes too.
If you have a hard time picturing all of this, then, tonight watch TV for one hour; tomorrow visit your kid’s school; read a newspaper; get out more. WE’RE IN IT!
Joseph Fletcher, a professor of ethics at an Episcopal seminary wrote a thesis called, “Situation Ethics: The New Morality.” In reading some exerts, I discovered that Fletcher had rejected the idea that there is NO ABSOLUTE. He didn’t accept the notion that people should approach life without any STANDARDS at all.
At the same time, he rejected the idea of what he called LEGALISM. He believed a LEGALIST was someone who, “Enters into every decision making–making a situation encumbered with a whole apparatus of prefabricated rules and regulations. Not just the spirit but the letter of the law reigns…Solutions are preset, and you can ‘look them up’ in a book-a Bible or confessor’s manual.”
Fletcher taught, instead of a LIST OF RULES only ONE RULE: LOVE! LOVE outlines all other rules because LOVE puts people first. That sounds good to me and as our pastor is currently teaching in a series right now, “LIVE – LOVE” [It’s on podcast at citybiblechurchns.org].
“The ruling norm of Christian decision is LOVE.”
“LOVE wills the neighbor’s good whether we like him or not.”
“LOVE is an attitude and not just a feeling.”
Those are all Bible concepts…sorta–
“For the whole Law is complied with in one precept, You shall LOVE your neighbor as [you do] yourself” (Galatians 5:14).
“Beloved, let us LOVE one another, for LOVE is (springs) from God; and he who LOVES is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God” (1 John 4:7).
“Above all things have intense and unfailing LOVE for one another, for LOVE covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others}” (1 Peter 4:8).
“RELATIVISM” As A Basis For Morality–
In my studies this week, I had to look up the definition of that ‘big’ word, relativism. It is.. “the doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exists in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are NOT absolute.”
So, Mr. Fletcher’s uses his definition as a basis for morality and believes that lying, stealing, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, killing, can all be JUSTIFIED as long as it’s the LOVING thing to do in any given situation. I found a quote by Ernest Hemingway, quoted in Newsweek Magazine:
“What is moral is what I feel good after, and
what is immoral is what I feel bad after.”
Most people I know, wouldn’t admit that’s the way they made their decisions and choices. But there ARE plenty whose approach is exactly that! If something turns out well, I feel pretty good about it, a good choice. If I feel later–it doesn’t turn out making me feel good, it’s a bad choice. IT ALL DEPENDS…
Come on Church. Are we all really just too high strung? Too legislative? Too caught up in do’ s and don’t s? The apostle Paul said in these “last days” these things would happen (2 Timothy 3:1-7). Is that what “situation ethics” is, or is it really a good thing? After all, it does sound “Christian”, doesn’t it? Place people ABOVE RULES and do the LOVING THING! Doesn’t the Bible say, “God is LOVE”? It sure does. It also says the God is MORE…
GOD IS LOVE, and MORE!–
Fletcher took 1 John 4:8 and went on to say that ‘only LOVE is good’. Does that mean that everything else about God is bad? Of course not. But to REDUCE God to just love, trims away a whole lot of other attributes of God:
1. God is TRUTHFUL–John 3:33.
2. God is LIGHT; in Him there is no darkness–1 John 1:5.
3. He is the FAITHFUL God–Deuteronomy 7:9.
4. The Father…DOES NOT CHANGE like shifting shadows–James 1:17.
5. Your heavenly Father is PERFECT–Matthew 5:48.
6. …the LORD our God is HOLY–Psalm 99:9.
7. God is JUST: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you–2 Thessalonians 1:6.
8. For the LORD your God is a CONSUMING FIRE, a JEALOUS God–Deuteronomy 4:24.
9. God is a RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, a god who expresses His wrath every day–Psalm 7:11.
Yes, GOD IS LOVE, just and righteous and merciful and much more! God never acted as if LOVE was the only attribute He has and He didn’t tell us to do that either! He didn’t tell us all of those attributes of Himself so we would LIVE as if we never knew them. GOD is LOVE, and MORE!
LOVE HAS BEEN DEFINED…You should ALWAYS do the most LOVING THING.
But how are we to know what that THING is?
Have you ever noticed, what we might consider to be the most LOVING THING to do in any given situation? It might NOT be the same as what someone else thinks as right. Someone may think that the most loving thing to do to a child with defects is to have him destroyed before he’s born. I DISAGREE.
So what IS right? Who is right? According to “situation ethics”, it all depends on the situation. In fact, it all comes down to ME. I’m the one who decides on the most loving thing to do. I’m dictating my own MORALITY–regardless of what I know, what I’ve experienced, or how spiritually mature I am.
The Bible defines for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 what LOVE IS. The GREATEST LOVE is where a person lays down his/her life for their friends. PERFECT LOVE cast out FEAR. We learn what LOVE IS according to 1 John 3:16, in that Jesus laid down HIS life for us. This tells me what LOVE is and what it does. This answers the question about “WHAT IS THE LOVING THING TO DO?”; before it ever arises.
GOD’S WORD ASSUMES THERE ARE “ABSOLUTES”:
The UNCHANGING God has given us an UNCHANGING WORD; with UNCHANGING PRINCIPLES; and it has been given in ABSOLUTE TERMS!
Words like: “always”; “never”; “all”; “none”; “forever”; “whoever”; and “everyone”. It doesn’t leave us any room for “SUBJECTIVISM”.; “RELATIVISM”.
There are ABSOLUTES in God’s Word. It doesn’t say, “In SOME situations, liars will be cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 21:20). It says, “all of these shall have…” Scripture doesn’t tell us, “Depending on the situation, homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Or, “In MOST situations I will never leave you or forsake you.” God speaks in ABSOLUTES about Himself and what he wants you and I to do.
ANOTHER …ism: “SITUATIONISM”:
SITUATIONISM makes US the focus of MORAL CHOICES in society and NOT God.
God has told ME to do what’s LOVING, but “I” have decided what the most loving thing to do. I can’t go to some outside source; take an opinion poll. It’s up to ME to figure it out. Doesn’t matter if I’m SELFISH. Doesn’t matter that I DON’T KNOW the circumstances surrounding the issue. “I” become the deciding factor on what is right and wrong.
Honestly, when it comes to decisions of life and death and eternity, I don’t want to be the one whose judgement is the most important. I don’t even like being around people who think their opinion is about RIGHT and WRONG. More important is what God has already said about the circumstance in His Word–your Bible.
“SITUATIONISM” ignores God’s absolutes. It assumes that God didn’t intend for me to take the Bible and apply its principles. But the New Testament is PRESCRIPTIVE. It tells us what we ought to do in order to please God. When your doctor writes out a prescription for you to fill at the local drug store, the label gives you the instructions for in-taking the medicine; “Once in the morning until the entire medicine has been exhausted.” It tells me what I NEED to do. The PRESCRIPTIVE Word enables me to have a right relationship with God. JESUS said, “If you LOVE Me, you will do what I command.”
There IS Such A Thing As ABSOLUTE TRUTH:
–There IS a STANDARD.
–There IS a RIGHT and WRONG.
–There IS a PERFECT measure for us to read.
“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of God. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking in TRUTH IN LOVE, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15 NIV).
Take away the STANDARD and there will be nothing left but chaos. But when we learn to recognize them for what they are, live them out together, that is what God has intended for us all the time.