Handling Ethical Issues: Five Reasons Your Church Probably Isn’t Teaching Enough On It
How do you handle today’s hot moral dilemmas — especially when they hit you right in the face, at work, at school or in the family? Are you getting good guidance in it? Not if you’re like a lot of Christians I know. Most of them say they’re not getting any help. Not at church, anyway — and isn’t that where you’d most expect it from?
Too Many Churches Not Teaching On It
I asked readers on Facebook whether they could recall any sermons in the past few years on how to deal with practical ethical dilemmas. More than half of them — 57 percent — said no.
How that number translates to all Christians, I can’t say — except I doubt it would be any better. Given the work I do here at The Stream and elsewhere, my Facebook connections are probably a bit more ethics-aware than the average Christian. Chances are their churches are, too.
That means Christians aren’t getting nearly enough equipping on how to handle real issues we really face.
This concerns me, for five primary reasons.
Five Reasons This Matters to You and Me
1. If our churches aren’t teaching us how to do the right thing, who is?
Netflix? Hulu? Facebook? ‘Nuff said.
2. New questions keep flying our way, and we could use guidance in sorting out what’s right.
Should you attend your nephew’s gay wedding? I’ve never heard a pastor speak on that. I do know at least three couples right now who are facing that question head-on. It isn’t rare.
Should you boycott a store like Target for opening its bathroom doors to the opposite sex? That question touches virtually every one of us, but I’ve never heard a pastor offer an opinion on it. Maybe you would answer one way, maybe another, for I can think of arguments in either direction. Still, shouldn’t we be able to expect some guidance from our pastors?
3. It isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing anymore; it’s being able to explain what’s good about it.
Most churches haven’t noticed how much ethical questions have changed lately to catch up with it. We still have to teach what’s right, obviously. These days, though, we have to add another layer of teaching on top of that: We need to give solid, substantial answers to the why questions that are certain to come. “Why would you want to stay a virgin? Don’t you realize all the good stuff you’re missing out on?”
There’s an answer to that; do your church’s youth know it?
Then there’s the whole panoply of LGBT issues. Anyone who takes a solid moral stand on that gets labeled as an evil person. You’re “homophobic,” a “hater,” “against equality.” With that kind of pressure, knowing what’s right is hardly half the battle. We have to be explain that it’s good to make the right choices, and what makes those choices better than the wrong ones.
4. In today’s moral climate, we need a whole community of support behind doing what’s right. It’s hard to swim against the tide — and today’s immorality is more like a tsunami. That’s especially true for youth, but face it: We all feel the pressure. We need moral support — literally, moral support. We need to talk about what’s right, to agree on it, so we can do stand strong in it together.
5. We could seriously miss out on our mission.
It isn’t enough to preach what’s in the Bible. It never was. We’ve got to connect it with day-to-day life. If the gospel we preach doesn’t address people’s questions, it won’t touch their hearts. Which questions? These days, moral issues sit at the top of the list.
This Message Is for All of Us
This may sound like a message for pastors; which of course it is. Lay persons can pass it along to their pastors, with a gently worded question like, “Don’t you suppose we could use something like this here?”
Or anyone with some good biblical teaching skills could find a good book on Christian ethics and lead a small group on it. Henry Cloud’s Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality is a good one to consider.
Whatever it takes, we need more than 57 percent of Christians equipped in handling the tough questions. A lot more.