There was a time not very far back when there was an accepted standard for right and wrong.  For many centuries the standard was Jesus Christ and His words as recorded in the Bible.  It has been called the Judeo-Christian ethic.  Many statements from Jesus made up the moral stand for doing right and were often quoted by people in all kinds of situations.  If you were studying business ethics the primary standards were things Jesus said, such at “As you wish others would treat you treat them the same way.  For this is the law and the prophets.”  Statements like “Love your neighbor as yourself” were seen by people generally as the real standard.  But times have changed.  It seems to me that we’ve reached the time when we aren’t sure if there is a standard and if there is one how we should use it. 

If what is right or wrong is just anyone’s decision then we have no basis to really hold anyone responsible for any action.  How do you know that murder or lying is wrong?  How are you to be sure that it isn’t right to look after your selfish needs no matter how it may affect other people?  Some say you judge right from wrong based on how it makes you feel.  If it makes you feel bad then you ought not to do it.  If it makes you feel good then it is right and you should enjoy it.  Solomon commented on this thinking when he said that “every way of man is right in his own eyes.”  He also said, “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof are the ways of death.”  If our own conscience is the guide or determinate of what is right or wrong then it is an individual matter and no one has the right to say to anyone else that what they are doing is wrong.  Think about the implications of such an attitude.  If you met Hitler and started talking to him about all the crimes he committed against the human race, he might respond by saying, “they may be wrong in your eyes but they weren’t in my eyes and we will just have to agree to disagree.”  He might say he felt right with God durinng the time he was murdering the Jews.  He could point to his belief that the German race was superior to all other races and that he was simply trying to rid the world of this group of evil people.  If there is no set standard of right and wrong, how would you respond?  If we try making the national laws the standard by which everything is judged we have a problem when the nation makes laws that sanction all kinds of evil among them.  For example, if their law says that killing Jews is a noble task and to be rewarded by the government, how would you go about looking for ways to show their laws were mistaken?  When laws protect those who kill babies or who are ready to hasten the death of the elderly, does that mean it isn’t wrong to kill babies or older people?  Right and wrong changes as one crosses the border into another country on this basis.

What if we use the standard of our own conscience?  Most everyone has a conscience that convicts them of wrong when they violate it.  But there are people who don’t have a conscience at all and don’t feel any guilt no matter what horrible thing they may do.  If such an individual murders your sister or best friend, is there no recourse against them?  We all have a way of defending ourselves when we have done something that seems wrong and on this basis I’m not sure you will ever know whether a thing is right or wrong.  Also there are people who have an overly sensitive conscience and feel guilty about almost everything they do.  Does that mean they are wrong in their actions when doing the very same thing someone else does and doesn’t feel guilty about it?  Under this standard everyone becomes a law unto himself and can do whatever and no one has the right to condemn their actions since they don’t feel guilty about it.

Some in our time take the notion that right and wrong is based on a universal conscience.  There are things that people see as right or wrong in all parts of the world.  This then becomes the real standard for right and wrong.  Think about how few things there really are that are universally seen as right or wrong.  If murder is done in the name of my religion it isn’t seen as wrong in many cultures.  Some cultures see nothing wrong with adults having sex with children even if the child is forced into it.  Should all cultures then take that as their standard?

Truthfully the further we move from a standard of right and wrong outside ourselves the more brutality, selfishness and horrible crimes are committed against those who are weaker and unable to defend themselves and might becomes right.  When we want to remove all that relates to God from any standard of right and wrong we move in the direction of anarchy.  More and more it has been the case over the world that countries which come under the rule of muslim rulers are forced to give up the faith they have in God and to convert to the muslim religion to save their lives.  Just imagine what becomes the standard of right and wrong if the muslim world continues to take over more and more countries.  Women will be abused around the world.  Little girls will lose their rights and society will go back toward the dark ages.

The only legitimate standard of right and wrong is the teaching of the Bible, rightly unnderstood and rightly applied.  When Jesus gave us the standard by saying, “The first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God will all your soul, mind and strenght.”  The second was close behind, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  When we do what God says not do we sin.  When we fail to do what God says to do we sin.  Our place is to find the will of God and follow it.  When we do trust God we are ready to make his word the universal standard of right and wrong and follow it daily in life.  We must not move quickly away from the long held standards of right and wrong when there is nothing to put in it’s place that will be accepted or followed by people.

Like Paul we should say, “I bellieve God that it will be just as he told me.”

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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