I BORROWED the title of this editorial from a little booklet entitled Christian Morals Today by John A. T. Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich. Discussions centering on society's behavior under certain situations are consuming the valuable time and attention of too many ministers and members. As far as thought content is concerned there is nothing new in these discussions —nothing that most of us haven't already heard. During my college days a sundry assortment of chapel speakers dealt with the bearing-of-arms problem. We young theological students took great delight in attempting to corner these men with hypothetical situations and questions. One hoary illustration referred to the idea of someone breaking into my house and attempting to attack my wife and children. Would I, as a Christian, simply fold my hands and look heavenward pleading for special protection from God while refusing to pick up a baseball bat to aid the Lord to answer my prayer? The second world war was in progress, and these illustrations and questions were abundant.
Today the increasing perplexities encountered in the battle of life have caused minds to reach out into other areas of Christian behavior. Are the Ten Commandments applicable at all times under all conditions? is a question often asked. For instance, some delight in wondering whether lying is forbidden under all circumstances. If the answer is Yes, somebody will be sure to come along and use Rahab as exhibit A, calling this a time when lying was approved and even rewarded. A similar question in regard to stealing is set forth. The example of the children of Israel borrowing jewelry from the Egyptians with the purposeful intention of taking it with them to the Promised Land and never returning it is used to prove the case for situational ethics. The question of sex always captures a large segment of those involved in this type of mental chess.
"De-nzileaging" the Speedometer
It has been my observation that the main reason we take such delight in confusing ourselves and others with this pattern of thinking is that we seek justification for our own actions that the Bible and conscience clearly condemn. Take the pastor who disconnects or turns back his car speedometer, hoping for a larger resale price. Greed of gain drives a man, especially one with a religious background or position, to find an avenue of escape from an aching conscience. Condemnation of "de-mileaging" the speedometer is blurred and offset by a quest for some catechetical scriptural excuse passage for our out-and-out deception.
Then, there is the man whose strong feelings run in offensive and defensive avenues who delights to tell his youthful congregation how it is his duty and right to brutally beat up any assailant of the home precincts. I well recall a certain Week of Prayer speaker whose influence on me was nil when I heard the story of his pugilistic activities in beating up a drunk who offended him. By the way, this man no longer walks with us, because of his failure to conquer a greater menace in his life than a mere drunkard.
Gibraltar, Not a Chameleon
Multiplication of similar illustrations are needless. Our preface to the solution of this problem must begin with the point that the God of our Bible and our lives is a Gibraltar, not a chameleon. The principles of His character are changeless and proven this way by His Son in a world of flux and change. At no time and under no circumstances did the Lord Jesus Christ's actions make accommodation for environment or circumstances. None could possibly point their finger at Him and claim that His words or actions deceived even the slightest bit. Never! He was the complete embodiment of honesty and every other virtue at all times and on all occasions. He who said, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned," held that statement as a rule of action. It was permanently a part of His character and He was unalterably inflexible on this and every other point involving principle.
How Can We Relate to Today's World?
Using this as a starting point, we ask how it is possible to relate ourselves to today's world. First of all, make it a rule no longer to consider these hypothetical situations, such as what we would do if we were on the battlefield and the enemy were approaching us seeking our life and beside us lay our wounded companion's gun. Certainly this situation is an actuality, but not with us at the moment! Why attempt to plan our actions under circumstances we don't face? But, someone says, how do you advise people who do or may face these circumstances? This is a good question and needs a good answer. Personally, I have settled it in this fashion. My advice to anyone, young or old, is to so relate himself to the Lord Jesus Christ today, this moment, that he, by God's grace, is obeying Him and doing His will right now. Aren't the words of Christ, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34), applicable in all these situations? I readily admit that I don't know what my reaction would be if these hypothetical situations became a reality in my own experience. But my main concern is not over future situations, but present realities. If the law of God is the basis of my morals today, I have no fear for tomorrow. If God's rule against stealing is such an integral part of my character and personality this moment that it keens me from turning the speedometer back, from exaggerating my labor report, from failing to acknowledge the dent in the car next to mine in the parking lot that I put in and am aware of, from keeping that seventy-five cents of excessive change mistakenly given me by the cashier, et cetera, et cetera, then I am quite sure my God can keep me from reacting wrongly when some big hypothetical situation becomes factual.
Fornication and Love
Satan hideously tricks us into solving theoretical situations while simultaneously stumbling into authentic traps of evil. There is one thing certain, no Christian can survive Satan's onslaught of temptation unless he is daily concerned with the ethics and morality of the man Christ Jesus. As we survey His life, concentrate on His love, follow His footsteps as a man on earth today, we then have confidence to let tomorrow and its situations rest with Him. No longer need we worry about what the good Samaritan would have done had he arrived on the scene while the robbers were still at work. No longer need we concern ourselves with the thought that there may be more love involved in some cases of fornication than in certain marriage unions. While on this latter point, may I state that those who attempt to make an issue of this, whether from the standpoint of promulgating truth or building evil, are making a serious mistake. Let us say that the statement is true. It does not justify either position. The point is that lust within the marriage bond and illicit relations between the unmarried is equally condemned by God. Why attempt to justify some cases of fornication on the basis of lust found in the marriage union? Both situations are already under condemnation!
Sharp, But Not Smart
To involve ourselves in leading men and women to God is our business. To elevate the cross of Christ, showing how Christ bought the human race with the silver of His tears and the gold of His blood, is our privilege. To teach a man the necessity of prayer, surrender, and other eaually important steps in the Christian life is our main work. To teach a man how to love his enemy as well as his neighbor should involve our time and attention. Dwelling in the hypothetical-problem areas leads not only to confusion but to a breakdown of all morals and standards. What a waste of time and energy in the face of a world shattered with earthquakes of human agony and flooded with rivers of tears pouring forth from those who have never caught sight of the love of God. This intriguing mental play may be sharp, but it's not smart! Our freedom is within the framework of His law and love at this moment today. Live it and teach it.
J. R. S.