Situational Ethics and Being Like Christ

Back in seminary I took a class on Postmodernism. The basic tenet of “postmodern thought” is that truth is relative, your truth isn’t my truth, so who are you to tell me what to do?

The big, evil, nasty idea from this was “situational ethics.” Situational ethics, to most observers, said that right and wrong change based on what situation you are in.

Christianity viewed this as big time trouble.

However, let me just say, there is some truth to it. Not always, but some times. That’s right, there are certain situations where situational ethics are correct!

Rahab lying to protect the spies is a classic example. The midwives lying and hiding the Jewish baby boys is another.

Jesus Himself shows a tremendous ability to shift what He does based on the situation. The woman caught in adultery is told to go, I won’t condemn you. The Canaanite woman who begs for a miracle is called a dog by Jesus.

Is there really a situation where someone should be called a dog? Apparently so, unless you think Jesus made a mistake.

The Gospels are filled with examples of treating people as individuals, there is no cookie-cutter approach that fit all situations.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” It’s up to us to, by faith, figure out what fits the season we and others are in. Discern the times and speak a well-fitted word.

If your response to people is always the same, no variation, you know exactly what to do all the time and it’s always __________(fill in the blank with your go-to thing), faith has probably left your life.

Shake it up a bit. Think things through, don’t just whip out the old routinized habit. Something tells me your old life being replaced by a new life is going to result in some new actions in old situations!

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1 thought on “Situational Ethics and Being Like Christ”

  1. I’m guessing that the reason “Christianity viewed this as big time trouble” is that situational ethics can be used to set aside the law of God. For example,

    “It’s okay for me to steal from my neighbor, because God knows I’m hungry and He’s actually directing me to go to my neighbor’s tree and take the fruit. After all, God is the real owner of all things, and if He tells me to eat, I do it!”

    Or how about this:

    A man finds a wallet while walking down the street. Instead of returning it to the owner, he decides that God providentially put it in his path because he needed the money to make his monthly mortgage payment. “It’s not stealing,” he declares, “because God gave it to me!”

    Let’s look at a few examples where people thought they could serve God by breaking His law:

    1. Eve wants to “be like God” by eating the fruit He forbade. God did not accept this.
    2. Abraham tries to fulfil God’s promise of an heir by taking another woman than his wife. God did not accept this.
    3. Jacob tries to gain the birth-right blessing by lying and deception. God did not accept this.
    4. Moses tries to deliver the Israelites by slaying the Egyptian. God does not accept this.

    All these people could have argued that the situation demanded unusual actions. But they were wrong. They could and should have known better, therefore God did not accept their offering.

    Satan is called “the father of all lies”, therefore lies are not inspired by God. He may overlook them if people are serving Him to the best of their knowledge, but in the end, only by righteousness (law-keeping) will a righteous kingdom be established. “All who take the sword will perish with the sword.” Christ did not “take the sword”, therefore His kingdom will endure forever.

    1 John 3:7 – Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.

    Jesus is the great example, and He never established His kingdom by lying, stealing, or killing. If His methods were so successful, why should we even consider any others?

    What you seem to be referring to is the fact that the Law must be applied in love, and that must be the love of God. This is the true interpretation of the Law. The Pharisees thought it was law-breaking for Christ to heal on the Sabbath, or for the disciples to pick some grain in the field as they were walking through it. But their interpretation of the Law was wrong. They interpreted it in such a way as to hide the real sin in the heart, yet put on the appearance of good on the outside. They called it the law of God, but it was not. It was only their narrow interpretation and twisting of the Law to suit their carnal minds.

    Jesus’ comparison of the Sidonian woman with a dog was not intended to be an insult to her. He was trying to show his disciples how narrow they were in not seeing these Gentiles as part of the true Israel. It was his disciples who first said, “Send her away.” It is also clear that she perfectly understood what Christ was saying in the parable, and was not discouraged by His words. There was obviously a love in Christ’s tone that she picked up on, which is not conveyed in the text alone. We might not see the love in it, but she understood it, and grasped it. Instead of using such a story to justify sin, we should be using it to encourage the same kind of unrelenting faith, because in God’s sight, we are practically dogs (unclean).

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