Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On ethics

Let me provide a definition for ethics before we go any further. "Ethics is a disciplined reflection on the formation of a healthy character and its relationship to virtuous action." (from Living Ethical Lives - lesson 1 - NW Nazarene University COS)

Let's break this down. Firstly, ethics is a disciplined reflection. This tells me I need to be reflective on a consistent basis, suggesting there are routine moments in my day to be reflective about my life, faith, or perspective. As I think about the idea of such reflection, I wonder what the goal would be. In short order, it becomes clear that we are to "be of the mind of Christ" on a daily basis, if not a moment by moment one.

That idea alone helped me to understand why such reflection might be difficult. How many of us work full time? Do we have the opportunities to reflect on the nature of God in the middle of our shift? How is it that we go from saying yes to Jesus, admitting we need Him in our lives, to having a disciplined reflection where all our thoughts are on Christ?

Further examining our definition of ethics, I see that our reflection is on the formation of a healthy character. So it is that as we dwell on the mind of Christ, our very character should change and in fact, it should be "transformed by the renewing of our minds." Therefore, I am regularly thinking about Jesus and as I do so, my character changes, that is to say my words, thoughts and my demeanor.

To me, those around us should begin to see a difference as we think less about the things of this world and begin to think more about the things of eternity. Who we are is going to change, right in front of those who know us best.

Lastly, it is our character that becomes related to our behavior. A healthy character is related to virtuous actions. If I am thinking about Jesus all day and my character changes because of those thoughts, my actions are going to change as well. The idea here is that if I dwell on Christ, I will begin to think like Christ and then in turn I will act like Christ. It all sounds so simple!

It starts with a disciplined reflection. Actually, it starts with allowing the Holy Spirit to begin a work in us that we are not capable of on our own. From there, understanding ethics and its definition seems approachable. The troubles come when we let the distractions of this world sidetrack us from the work that God has called us to do. Soon, being reflective becomes a spotty affair, where we rarely take the time to reflect on the healthy character of Christ as it should be evidenced in our own lives.

Part of the word disciplined is disciple. For us to be disciplined, we have to find ourselves at the feet of Jesus as we learn to follow Him. It may take a few years to learn the shepherd's voice, but when we do, we will not get lost as easily as we did when we were younger. But I think we also have to remember not to purposely pull ourselves away from the flock either.

I have often wondered about the methodology of monasticism for such aims, only to step back and realize that we were meant to live in concert with each other. Our 21st century lives do not allow for much disciplined reflection and it will take a monumental effort to get people to buy into such an idea. But oh how our lives would truly change if we were willing to fully follow Him, dwell on Him and become like Him. Our ethics would be His ethics.

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