Christian Ethics: “Why?”


According to Wikipedia, Christian ethics “is a branch of Christian theology that defines concepts of right (virtue) and wrong (sinful) behavior from a Christian perspective.” To be honest, it really should just be called “ethics, with a theological bent.” Whatever you call it, it’s what I am going to be studying it at seminary and I would like to tell you why.

I feel as though my life was the epitome of middle class America. It’s more than just being white and in suburbia, though. It’s a way of thinking.

It’s being embarrassed for other people when they loudly voice their disapproval of “the system.”
It’s reasoning that we should stop conversations about race and gender biases because they only lead to more discrimination.
It’s telling others not to be offended because you’ll only cause trouble.
It’s about never wanting for anything because you don’t understand what it is to “need” something.
It’s being entitled to happiness at all times; and complaining when things don’t go your way.

To be clear, this is not about the way I was raised. My family taught me better; and I’m especially grateful to my sister for never letting get away with such lazy thinking (though you could have been nicer about it. Love you! 😛 ).

There’s lots of things (nature, nurture, etc.) that caused my thinking to become so insulated. And I can only look back in embarrassment at some of the ridiculous things I consistently said, or did, just a few years ago.

Like announcing my friend’s name in a stereotypical Japanese announcer voice, because he was Japanese, and I was entertained by it.
Recycling stupid jokes; particularly of the Helen Keller and women, variety.
Recycling stupid Jewish jokes with the excuse of “it’s OK, I’m Jewish.”
Watch hours of porn because I was single and “didn’t want to hurt ‘actual women.”

So what changed? During my time in Bible College I had already felt something turning inside of me. By the end of it all, I didn’t feel as though I recognized myself. Events were happening in my life that forced me to re-examine the things I held deeply. It turned out that it wasn’t my convictions that needed changing: it was my heart. My life and words simply weren’t reflected in the things that mattered most to me.

I didn’t know where to start, so I just started reading people I knew I would disagree with. I didn’t think women should be senior pastors, so I read Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey. I didn’t think that racial disparity was a big deal, so I read Eugene Cho and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I didn’t think being Jewish, or Jewish studies in particular, was even relevant so I began to read Krista Dalton.

And the more I read them the more I found myself asking more questions of, not just myself, but the world. The point of reading authors who I inherently had biases against wasn’t to suddenly change my mind, or even challenge their views. I needed to hear what they saw. To feel what they felt.

I changed because of it; and I am a better man for it.

My newfound passion for ethics comes from understanding that there are so many who are like me. People struggling to see why the world suffers the way it does and invent reasons to do nothing about it because it’s just easier that way. For the sake of the Kingdom of God I simply can’t live like that, anymore. I want to find a new way by discovering the ancient one.

So please pray for me as I move ahead in Seminary. God knows I need every bit of it. And equally as important is the need for others to come along side me. Real discipleship doesn’t happen in a vacuum and while I am sure my professors and fellow students will be able to help me here; I will need to rely on other voices I’ve grown to trust over the years.

Theological ethics might not sound like the most ground breaking of disciplines; but as we move forward it may turn out to be one of the most foundational for future generations.


Self-Love, Fear, Justice, and Bob Jones University


When we love ourselves, fear rules.
When fear consumes us, secrets loom.
When secrets exist, justice is withheld.
Where has justice gone?

It’s been reported that Bob Jones University, a heavily insulated university in South Carolina, fired an organization that was hired to investigate claims of sexual abuse at the school on the eve of a public report being filed, after 13 months of study. According to the school, they grew concerned about how the organization was pursuing their objectives.

The bolded expression is indicative that the school was probably more uncomfortable with the organizations findings then the actual method they were using. The organization, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), released a statement about their unexpected termination, “At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect. All such ‘fears’ are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may ‘damage the reputation of Christ.’”

We all feel the pressure to hide and/or lie, when confronted with wrongdoing. Seized by the possible consequences, we do what we can to protect ourselves, and sometimes others we love, from our (or their) actions. In this case, it would seem BJU believes its mission is so closely aligned with Christ that, were any damage done to its reputation, the name of Christ would be damaged with it.

The truth is that, this line of reasoning, is what allows injustice to persist; causing the name of God to be mocked.

It is entirely unacceptable.

Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

When we consider ourselves above God, and others, we will find ourselves in opposition to His work. It is in that moment we discover just how far disjointed we are from Him; and how much damage we’ve already done, in His name.

A Written Definition of Love


In saying that “self-love” is the opposite to “love” we have, in part, already defined the word; but not any more than saying it is an adjective, noun, and verb. Gathering the descriptions has allowed us to know what elements should be in place when a definition is given. Now that we’ve done most of the leg work, lets open up to Romans 12:9-13:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

Below, I’ve divided the passage up in smaller parts. Doing so allows us to slow down and examine Paul’s words in a more “hands on” fashion. The summary for each broken down passage will be in bold. This is an interpretive step taken in order to help us write our a definition. I’ve added a bit of commentary to show why I’ve made the interpretation the way I have.


Love is divinely justified  

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

When we hold on to what is good, we will hate what is evil. In a sense, there is a kind of indignation that rises when we see indifference and injustice. How we move forward in our justifications should be defined by love; of which we are inching ever closer to an actual definition.

Love is affection loyalty

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; preference to one another in honor;”

What we see here is the antithesis to the “love yourself to better love others” perspective. In seeking other’s interests above our own desires, we see a familial kind of love that is marked by an affectionate devotion. When people honor our needs before their own, the need to prefer ourselves diminishes.

Love cures apathy

“Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”

In apathy, the appetite to serve others is minimal. We cannot take a day off in our devotion to one another. There is no room for us to “check out” mentally or spiritually. Doing so invites laziness and other self-serving habits.

Love is enduring

“rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,”

My pastor has a saying that goes along the lines of, “if you aren’t in a storm right now, you either just got out of one or are heading directly into it.” Tough times are a reality of the world we’ve helped build (see: screwed up), but when we serve the Lord we can rejoice in His accomplishments and promised return. We persevere because He did. We pray because Jesus did. To love is to do these things continuously.

Love meets needs

“contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality”

We can persevere because all of our needs will be met. God uses us, the Church, to provide where others lack. This isn’t a heavily coded message: love is definitely a verb.


To form the definition of the word, I’ll now take my bolded summaries to make a complete thought:

Love is a divinely justified, affectionate loyalty that continually feels for, and meets the needs of, others. 

All of the elements in this particular passage lead us to a definition that emphasizes justice, feeling, loyalty, and service to others. The big idea is that love is wholly, other focused. Its justice component means that love doesn’t make you a pushover, or a “yes man.” The affection of love includes our feelings, but its loyalty also eliminates its dependency on them.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about different ways to apply the definition that’s been developed. Both in a theological sense, and in a practical one.