Having a Christian worldview is paramount in our understanding of the world and ourselves from a Godly perspective. But developing such a view of the world and self is not easy nor is it natural; something must come first, something must be ingrained in our minds which prevents us from seeing life through the proverbial “Rose-colored glasses.” That something is the development of a personal Christian ethic.
It was once said you can judge a man character by what he does when he is alone; the only problem is we are never alone, God is always with us. Whether we think we are alone or not, developing a Christian ethic is easier said than done; first and foremost there has to be a heartfelt burning desire to be Christ-like in our thoughts and actions. So, like Calvin in the cartoon we must beware, because having a Christian character can complicate our lives and relationships. The bottom line is, we must want to develop a Christ-like character as portrayed by God in His revelation, the Holy Bible.
The Apostle John gives us the basic platform from which we are to develop the character of Christ in our lives: John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 no longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” ESV. This passage says a lot; first it makes clear Christ has given us all we need to know to develop our Christian character by making known to us all He heard from the Father. Secondly, Christ lays down the foundation of Christian ethics when He says we must be willing to lovingly lay down our lives for our friends. Notice His command is not about obedience to a set of rules or even to the Decalogue found in Exodus 20. His command is about love, sacrifice, and what ought to be and not what is. This is not to imply we are not to be obedient to Christ; rather the implication is if we have developed the proper ethic we will willingly do our best to be obedient.
However, God’s rules should not be laid aside; rather when we think of rules laid down by God we must first consider how the rule reveals to us the character of God. For example, looking at the command not to commit adultery it obviously means we are not to have sexual relations outside of the bond of marriage; but what it says about God’s character may not be so obvious. The rule says God is faithful in His relationships; therefore we are to be faithful in all of our relationships if we are to have the character of God. Another example; we are commanded not to steal, this demonstrates God as a giving God not one who consumes. Others are we are not to bear false witness telling us God is truth and the source of all truth; lastly we are not to covet showing the generosity of God. We could make the similar explanations when studying the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5.
The point is, if we understand the character of God found in the laws of God we will be motivated to apply that understanding with greater depth, instead of a shallow application for a particular incident. To clarify the point one could say being faithful is one law of Christian conduct; but choosing faithfulness will yield to you a faithful character.
I am currently studying Christian Ethics and I will be sharing with you my notes and thought after each class. My prayer will be you will gain at least as much from my experience as I will.
“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”
I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at: