Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ethics and Authenticity

I’ve been thinking about the concept of Ethics and Authenticity. Too often, in our Christian life we've been taught to live out our lives through ethics – “In this situation do that.” We have learned to study principles in the Bible and systematically apply them to various situations in our lives. If this situation comes up, look to this Scripture to find this principle and apply it to your life. Much of our preaching and teaching has followed that pattern. So our preaching becomes “how-to” sermons or lessons in application and we read less and less of actual Scripture in our gatherings.

The danger of this type of living is that you don’t actually have to be a Christian to live ethically. Often many non-Christians live more ethically than many in the church. To live ethically one need only to study the Bible and learn it’s key principles and begin to create a behavioural system out of it. This is what is happening in most of our workplaces – both Christian organizations and secular businesses (I will not go on a tangent about how we split the sacred and secular here). We are establishing mission statements, vision and values documents and codes of conduct. These are our ways of directing and controlling people.

The problem is that we get to know the Bible and its principles but not the One who gave it to us. We know the words but not the Word. Authenticity is about being the same on the outside as you are on the inside. That doesn’t mean that every thought and feeling and desire is expressed to the world but that the things that are being lived out in your life are the things going on in your heart. It doesn’t mean we stop doing something bad because others are watching us. Rather our desires begin to be transformed along the lines of Jesus’ character. It means living without a mask. As Christians it means actually knowing Jesus and his voice and living out our relationship with the Father through Jesus. The difficulty with this way of life is that it is sometimes messy, complicated and not easily controllable by an external authority.

Jesus said in John 5: 19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
He said this in response to those who accused him of breaking the Sabbath and blaspheming. This was Jesus’ ethic – do what he sees the Father doing. This is dangerous and can get you in trouble – or even killed.

I think ethics are good for many things. It helps people act better. But as Christians I think living our lives according to ethics only leads us to be “nice.” Living our lives by listening to what the Father is saying and doing only what you see the Father doing will cause us to lead dangerous lives. It is messy and complicated. Sometimes there will be those who justify their silly or sinful actions by saying “God told me to do it!” That is where Scripture and the Law come in – they reveal sin and give us a foundation upon which to build and measure and judge. But if we live our entire lives by only living by ethics we are destined to live as nice bland citizens. However if we continue to learn how to live authentically, with eyes to see what the Father is doing and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church, we will see more Martin Luthers and Martin Luther Kings; George Muellers and George Whitefields; Madame Guyons and Mother Theresas; men and women who listen and obey.

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