Inspired by the Africa Study Bible Article titled, “Christian Ethics in Africa”
Some common phrases circulating in the modern world are, “just be kind”, “love everyone”, and “radiate positive vibes”. Where do these “moral” ideas come from? If the world is full of evil darkness, then how do those who are lost know the difference between right and wrong? God created right and wrong. He instilled moral and ethical ideas of right and wrong within every human being.
Some may respond to this truth by saying, “my parents taught me right and wrong.” Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents had to learn as well. God, the gospel, and the Bible are the basis of right and wrong. No being or thing on earth created our moral compass. You can go up to any person and ask them “is it wrong to kill someone”? or “is racism, sexism, classism wrong”? and each one would say yes. Where did the idea that human lives are valuable and should be treated with utmost care come from? God. Who gave us the desire to fight for justice and peace? God. No person created that idea. It has been a part of the human experience since day one of creation onward.
As the Africa Study Bible differentiates:
“Modern society tends to use the words ethics and morality interchangeably. There is, however, a subtle difference between the two. Ethics refers to the reason behind making a moral decision, while morality refers to the results of the moral decision.”
Christian ethics comes with practicing the Christian faith as depicted by Jesus in the Bible. Ethics is NOT an option for those who are in Christ. The Bible says in Matthew 7:16 that the world will recognize that we are Christians by the fruit we produce. The way that we practice ethics is what the world will know about us, so we must proceed with wisdom, discernment, and caution.
Christian ethics differs from African ethics in that Christians ethics is centered around God, and African ethics is centered around others. The goal of Christian ethics is to promote holiness, and the goal of any other ethical system is to promote acceptance. Jesus is our ethical basis. We can look to his life on earth for our foundation. He is the perfect example.
1 Samuel 16:7 says that God looks at the heart rather than the outward appearance. Christian ethics is about our heart, dedication to God’s mission, and relationship with the Son. Many unbelievers are turned away from the idea of Christianity because they think that “it’s just a bunch of rules” and that “Christians are judgmental and have no fun”. This is a sad misconception. Ethics become a “want to” and not a “have to” for a true Christ-follower. When Christian ethics are practiced correctly, pushback should be expected (1 Peter 2:21). However, how that pushback is handled plays a role in ethics as well.
Ethics is a complicated subject for some because there are many different opinions about how certain situations should or should not be handled. In Christian ethics, there is no room for opinion. It is founded on Jesus Christ and love. As the book of Matthew states, we have been commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and to treat others as we would want to be treated. The Africa Study Bible claims, in the “Christian Ethics in Africa” article, “Practically every ethical demand in society would be fulfilled if people lived by these simple commands.” When we allow room for opinion to creep in, then evil makes its way on the scene. It seems as if the world is gradually getting worse and worse in terms of ethics, and that is because people have abandoned the idea of Christian ethics and have turned to worldly ideas instead.
Many African ethical ideas align perfectly with Christian ethics, such as respecting authority, the importance of family, and the maintenance of integrity, as the Africa Study Bible explains. Our traditional ideas should be kept and celebrated for the sake of building upon what we already have to grow closer to God. Africans have a sort of “advantage” in that our ancestors gave us a strong base to build upon. We must remain on the lookout for other “ethical” (selfish) concepts like individualism, manifestation, and energy to attempt to take over what we know is right by the Lord. The purpose of Christian ethics is to lead us to live holy lives that share God’s infinite, matchless love to a hurting, lost world in need. Christian ethics is much simpler than it seems when we break to down to its core purpose – love, unity, and holiness.
This excerpt is inspired by an Article of the Africa Study Bible titled, “Christian Ethics in Africa”. Africa Study Bible Articles are about the Christian life and critical concerns that face the church in Africa and its people. The articles help you understand how to apply the bible to a specific area of life where God’s wisdom is needed.
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