We can define ‘morality’ as a set of standards which we use to define good or bad behaviour and character personally, and for the society we are living in. If the members of the society accept these standards then we expect a harmonious state, but when individuals or groups act contrary to the standards set, then we have discord. So how do we attempt to have everyone conform to the same standards – rules and laws? And can everything be confined to a set of rules, can we legislate love?
In order to define these standards we need to be able to know what we accept as good or bad, and this understanding is subject to our core beliefs. Broadly we can define ‘good’ as basically that which is beneficial and ‘bad’ as that which is harmful, but even these are subject to interpretation. For example, the generally accepted ‘do not kill’ can be circumvented euphemistically with ‘abortion’, or ‘euthanasia’, or ‘war casualty’.
The issue of harm or even death has become a concern for society and the innocent have to be protected, therefore the right to legislate harmful practices and label them as wrong becomes a moral obligation. Example: a child molester who harms a child, others who murder their neighbour, we can say is harmful. This is not for the betterment of others. Therefore, legislation is warranted. But where no harm is done to the innocent, for example where homosexuality is being practiced by two consenting adults, there should not be any legislation against it. Homosexuality was deemed illegal in the past, with the consequence that people were unduly hurt or even killed for their practises, with the legislation in this case causing harm, and could therefore be said to be ‘immoral’.
When we take a step back and start with the statement, ‘Humanity is the offspring of God’, our morals should be based on the morals God instructed us to understand. In His love as our Eternal Father he gave his little children what we call the 10 Commandments to guide us in our actions towards each other till we grow into the full maturity of ‘Love’. As parents we set rules for our little ones, with what we feel may be appropriate corrective actions if necessary, until they are old enough to act with their own self-judgement. But, can the ‘state’ act as our parent and legislate morality for a society or the world at large?
In a society whose morality is based on the Love of God, the Love for all humanity will be displayed. A society in which the delegated authority given by God for the wellbeing of its citizens, including the innocent, will be upheld and they will be protected from harm. In a society where God is not acknowledged, not believed in; morality could just be a set of rules to live by according to popular vote, or by force. This can change with the whims of society, a ‘today this is the best way, tomorrow we can change’ concept. This leaves a society without real direction or norms.
From The Passion Translation,Proverbs 30:11-14 says, “There is a generation rising that curses their fathers and speaks evil of their mothers. There is a generation rising that considers themselves to be pure in their own eyes, yet they are morally filthy, unwashed, and unclean. There is a generation rising that is so filled with pride they think they are superior and look down on others. There is a generation rising that uses their words like swords to cut and slash those that are different. They would devour the poor, the needy and the afflicted from the face of the earth!” Does this sound familiar? Every generation thought this to be part of their own generation.
A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children”. Hopefully we make the right choices before our descendants cast their vote! Hopefully our choices allow for further generations. Thus we declare that our morality, based on the guides given by our Heavenly Father of Love, freely promotes the well-being and protection of others.
Ethics is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’, meaning ‘of moral character’ and describes a person or behaviour as being of right moral sense, truthful, fair and honest (vocabulary.com/ dictionary); in other words, the outworking of morality. It is not ethical to declare “thou shall not bear false witness”and then tell a lie. Or as we read in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” We all need to make certain our actions truly reflect our words!