You may or may not realize it, but you participate in ethics every day.
Any time you make a decision based on what you think is right, wrong or best, you are participating in ethics. And for Christ—followers, reading scripture and interpreting the Bible are inescapably ethical.
I know, I know. Reading about ethics may sound about as exciting as watching grass grow. But hear me out—part of living the Christian life is determining how to apply what scripture teaches to our lives practically. This is ethics.
Developing a Christian ethic is increasingly important in a complex world. How are we to think about topics like maleness and femaleness, reproductive technologies, and artificial intelligence? These may not be topics you discuss every day, but they inevitably come up—when your friend is asking about how to think about technology access for her child, when you are processing whether IVF is or isn’t an option for you, or a myriad of other complex situations that come up throughout life. We live in a complicated time.
A Christian ethic is not going to show up in a handbook that explains how to deal with every possible situation and gives all the immediate answers. As easy as that would be, developing a thoughtful Christian ethic is for everyone, because simply put, it means knowing scripture and using wisdom and prayer to interpret and apply God’s teachings.
In all of this is ultimately the need to know about Jesus Christ—what the New Testament and the Old Testament say about Jesus and, in light of who Jesus is, then determining how we should live our lives in light of the truth of His gospel. This is the heart of a Christian ethic. Knowing Jesus and following Him with obedience—even when that may mean sacrificial obedience.
Even as we each develop our own understanding of applied theology (ethics), one important aspect of the gospel is key: we are all fallen and affected by sin. Though Christ’s righteousness is bestowed on us when we accept the gospel, we still live in a reality where both our own sin and sin outside of us in the world will affect us. We have a way of replacing God with other objects of worship, deceiving ourselves and justifying our own ways of living as the right way of life.
Simply having a cognitive Christian ethic does not guarantee an ethical life. People convince themselves all the time that what they are doing is actually pleasing to God. This serves as a reminder of our constant need for dependence on God and the help of His Holy Spirit to convict and lead us. Developing a Christian ethic is as much about keeping our heart in a humble posture before God that He may mold and shape us, as it is about growing in understanding of applied theology. As we order our conscience by the Word of God, we don’t just gain knowledge of the Bible, but we are shaped by the Bible.
If you are interested in Christian ethics resources, here are a few of my favorite references:
Although culture changes, God's Word is timeless. Since we do participate in ethics daily, let’s strive to let His Word and ways become the pure lens through which we respond to the increasingly complex world we live in. That is a Christian ethic that will stand the test of time.
Meet the author!
Lauren McAfee is a PhD student in ethics and public policy from Southern Seminary. Lauren is author of Not What You Think, Only One Life, and Legacy Study. She also works at the Hobby Lobby corporate office as a project coordinator. She grew up in Oklahoma City and loves her church community at CRBC. Lauren and her high school sweetheart, Michael McAfee, have been married for over eight years. Connect with Lauren at www.laurenamcafee.com or on Instagram @laurenamcafee.