A Moral Muddle 8/9/98

Judges 21:25
Page 400 Come Alive Bible

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Jesus Christ gave us a short course in truthfulness when He said: “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Mat 5:37).

Simple, isn’t it. Sub-title: “Don’t attempt to deceive.”

When Jesus encountered Nathaniel, who was to become one of His disciples, He said, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no guile.”

Guile is the tactful art of verbal deception. Nathaniel was a straight shooter. He was candid and up front. He left no doubt about what he meant.

An example of guile is this. Suppose two persons have engaged in certain conduct together. Soon they learn they are going to be asked if they did the deed of which they are accused. One says to the other “When asked if we did just say ‘no we didn’t.’”

When asked did you tell your friend to lie the answer is “No, I didn’t.” To that person he is telling the truth. In that persons mind he didn’t use the actual words “Lie about it” even though he did instruct his friend to give the wrong answer. That is guile.

In the mind of the person exercising guile terms are redefined to suit the users desire. They do what is right in their own mind.

In Judges 21: 25 a society of guileful people is described. They each did that which was right in their own eyes. Each person established their own standard for right or wrong. It was one of the bleakest periods in the glorious history of ancient Israel. Such a national mentality eventually leads as it did then to anarchy.

At a time when the daily news leads with a story of reputed immorality can the church dare be mute on the subject? It is not my purpose to impose guilt on individuals the court has not and may not judged. I want to be candidly clear that I am not saying our president is guilty of any impropriety. The ultimate evidence will determine that. However, we do well to consider public reaction to alleged conduct. A big “IF” hangs in front of all allegations. It is not the President’s alleged conduct that is the subject of this message, but public response to principles associated with claimed conduct. Got it? If you don’t you might very well judge my intent as improper instead of gaining a better understanding of a major moral trend in our national life.

The allegations against the President have unsettled many American Christians and others of high moral standards. All the talk of alleged moral impropriety and criminality has pushed the issue of morals to the forefront.

In assessing our response to the President we should model the behavior of the early church as noted in I Timothy 2: 1, 2: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:1, 2).

Most of their leaders were either ignorant or defiant of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Neither Israel’s anointed kings nor Rome’s emperors ever gave evidence of a moral life worth writing home about.

Of rulers and governing authorities one has said, “God rides a lame horse and draws a straight line with a crooked stick.”

Let’s pray for our leaders even if they turn out to be less than advertised.

It is a seemingly broad based approval of alleged conduct that is disturbing. Something is wrong in a society that tunes in daily to see the latest moral mutants on the “Jerry Springer Show.”

When vegetarians and animal-rights advocates debate the morality of eating eggs and advocate abortion something is morally wrong. When protests are held against putting stray animals to sleep but support Dr. Kevorkian’s helping to put people to sleep a moral anchor is missing.

Three major attitudinal changes have emerged in the last decade in America. They each contribute to the popularity of guile.

In the late 1960’s a book emerged entitled Situation Ethics. The thesis is that the situation determines what is right and what is wrong. There are no absolutes. Thus, what is right for one person at a given time and under a specific circumstance might not be right for others.

Push that out of the envelop and consider what it does to our legal system. It would dramatically impact education.

In chemistry there are absolutes. One atom of oxygen and two atoms of hydrogen always produces H2O, water. That’s an absolute. Think what it would be like in a chemistry lab if there were no absolutes.

There are absolutes in math. Try to convince a math teacher that your answer is different and right from the rest of the class because you did yours at 6:00 AM on Tuesday and the rest of the class did theirs at 8:00 PM on Monday.

In the matter of morals and ethics there must be absolutes. One reason certain groups have worked to have the Ten Commandments taken from public view is they are absolutes. In ruling to remove them from certain public places the court even said they must be removed lest persons looking upon them might come to believe in them as absolutes.

Have you established your core beliefs? That is, have you set your own personal moral and ethical standards and said these are they.

Parents need to be sure they don’t subtly teach children right or wrong is a matter of personal choice. This is done by a parent giving instruction to a child followed by “O.K.” Such as, “Junior, don’t do that, O.K.?” or, “Sissy, pick up your toys, O.K.?” If the child is being given instruction it should be made clear and not optional, “O.K.?”

Tolerance is the new “virtue” in our society. Tolerance is now taught as one of the basics in school.

Teachers are taught to tell students “We cannot tell you what is right or wrong. You must decide for yourself. We can only tell you what the options are.”

Most of the above 30 population has one understanding of the term and those younger another. It is now a relative term.

For years The American College Dictionary defined tolerance as “the disposition to be patient toward those whose opinions or practices differ from our own…” That is now known as negative tolerance.

For years many have felt it proper to say, “I love you, but I disapprove of what you are doing and your belief.”

That is negative tolerance. That statement is now considered bigotry.

Positive tolerance is defined as “every single individuals beliefs, values, lifestyle, and truth claims are equal.”

To assert your opinion is right and another wrong is to be called prejudiced.

William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania, said, “Right is right, though all be against it and wrong is wrong thought all be for it.” Today he would be called prejudice.

Ask an advocate of tolerance if he is sure there are no absolutes and he will say, “Absolutely!”

Advocates of positive tolerance are tolerant of everything except the Christian belief that there are moral absolutes.

Tolerance has replaced the former virtue of justice.

Justice and what is called “positive tolerance” can not co-exist. Justice is the enemy of tolerance. Justice says there is a moral basis for discerning right from wrong. Positive tolerance says there is not such moral basis.

Secular journalist, Rowland Netaway wrote of the present generation, “They don’t seem to know right from wrong.” Current teaching regarding positive tolerance is the reason.

Such value-free, morally neutral, education opens the door for sources in Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and even Nashville to bombard young minds with thousands of hours of sounds and images that glamorize immorality and mock Biblical values.

King David asked, “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

There are two distinct foundational models of truth:
1. Truth is defined by God for everyone; it is objective and absolute.

2. Truth is defined by the individual; it is subjective and situational.

The first model accepts God not man as the central Source of truth. The Bible is the repository of truth defining right and wrong. In the second model every person considers himself to be the judge of what is right or wrong in a given situation.

Regarding absolutes and tolerance the Bible advocates, “Speak the truth in love.” No guile, just truth.

A lady desiring a parrot for a pet went to a pet store in search for one. Sure enough there was one on sale at a low price. She decided on that one but the store owner urged her not to buy it because it was very bad to curse.

“I can break him of that,” she said.

Once she got the bird home it started cursing. She put it in the freezer for 15 minutes. It came out shivering but as soon as it warmed up it began cursing again. She warned the parrot and put it back in the freezer. This time for 30 minutes. It came out coated with ice crystals and shivering. As soon as it warmed up it began cursing again.

Back in the freezer. This time for an hour. When it came out it was stiff and ice coated. Soon it thawed out. The lady asked, “Are you going to curse any more?” It shook its head “no.” “Are you through cursing?” The head shake indicated a big “yes.”

Then the parrot spoke, “I have a question for you? What did that turkey in the freezer say to you?”

If you didn’t get that you are slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through chunky peanut butter.

Chill out! Speak only the truth in love.

The third factor impacting America’s moral climate is –

Subjectivism has replaced objectivism.

In Christian ethics and morals the Lord as revealed through the Bible has been the object affording us the standard for right and wrong.

Now the source of right or wrong has shifted from the object, the Bible, to the individual “I.”

“I” am the authority for right or wrong. That brings us back to absolutes. “I,” the subject has no absolutes, everything is relative.

This leaves a conscious free of conviction. The individual becomes “god.” When the moral compass of Scripture is replaced by the will of the individual direction is lost in life. Every person does that which is right in his or her own sight.

Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) are popular. It is a simple little device that is locked on to a satellite. It can tell you where on earth you are within a matter of inches.

If lost you might not like what the GPS shows. You might dispute it and decide to go the direction you desire rather than the one indicated to be correct. The standard remains. You don’t judge the standard, it judges you.

How are we to live in such a culture?

1. When you blow it, confess your sin quickly and repentantly return to the Lord in faith and obedience.

2. Build your faith through the study of God’s Word and prayer.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

3. Be prepared for spiritual conflict against:

A. The world.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2: 15, 17).

B. The flesh.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:16,17).

C. Satan.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (I Peter 5:8, 9).