As a follower of Jesus Christ I want to follow his plan for my life and do not want to displease God in any way by my actions, speech or thoughts. I may judge for myself what is right for and what is wrong for me, but I have no right to judge other people or to impose my standards or my morality on another human being.
- How can I judge whether my actions are right or wrong?
- Do I have the right to judge what is right or wrong for other people?
- Should I be just concerned with justifying my own thoughts and actions?
- To what extent should the state make laws which punish those who carry out certain anti-social acts?
- Should Christianity attempt to impose its own standards on society?
Guidelines from Jesus Christ
There are two things that Jesus said that override all matters of interpretation and all cultural issues in determining whether an action is right or wrong.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV)
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
Hurting a fellow human being
What does it mean to love our fellow human beings? It must mean considering and treating every single person in the way we want to be treated. So in discerning what is right and what is wrong we must ask the question.
- Does my action hurt another person?
- Does what I say hurt somebody else?
- Is what I think hurtful to the person who I think negatively about?
- Would I like anyone to treat me like that?
- Would I like another person to say, (or even think,) something negative about me?
So what does all this mean?
- If I insult someone because of their race or religion (etc.), I am hurting them (and myself) and this cannot be right.
- If I steal another’s belongings, reputation or wife, I am hurting them.
- If I return violence with violence I am hurting them, and society as a whole.
What if no-one is hurt?
Consider this question. If, for example, I were to be attracted to another person of the same sex, and we were to live together in a loving and committed relationship, who could I possibly be hurting and therefore is my lifestyle right or wrong? Ok, although the bible doesn’t have much to say about this example, there are passages of scripture which appear to condemn same-sex relationships. I will address this further in another blog. But I must ask the question: “Who is hurt, and dare I judge?”
What about God?
We are also to love God with all our hearts. So in deciding what is wrong I must ask, “Does a particular action hurt God?” That is not easy to answer. I am in danger or being presumptuous if I claim to understand God.
But I do know that God, as our creator, loves us all and wants to be in relationship with us. When our children were young we would occasionally feel hurt when our kids argued and hurt one another. I think we can say the same about God. He is hurt when we, his created beings, hurt one another. So to love God must mean that we love anyone who can be described as our neighbour. To love God is to love those he loves.
Judging ourselves but not judging others
I have stated above that I must ask myself, “Does what I do, speak or think hurt anybody else and are my actions compatible with loving my neighbour?”. Society, as a whole, needs laws based on the principle of not hurting other people. But I, as an individual, have no right to judge others, deciding what is right or wrong for them. In the same way, religion should not attempt to impose its standards on society.
In the end it is about more than what is right and what is wrong. Imagine a world where everybody genuinely loved everyone else and stood up for them and treated them as equals. A world without poverty, without injustice and where everyone lived the kind of life that God intended for us. I think that is whatJesus meant when he urged us to pray, “God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.
You cannot legislate for love. Love needs no laws. You cannot measure love. Love knows no limits. As Paul said:
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)