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What does it mean to live an ‘ethical life’?
I can sum up today’s question by saying living an ethical life is following one’s common sense. Hope you don’t believe that, though I think some people would and that might make a topic for another article. I’m of the opinion that my summation is ridiculously off course, so I guess I’ll get serious about this very good question. First let’s look at what ethics are.
I like what the BBC said in a general introduction to ethics, “At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles.” Based on that definition, living ethically would involve applying those beliefs to everyday life. And that’s where things get complicated.
Morals don’t come pre-packaged from the grocery store. People get them from childhood upbringing; dramatic life experiences; religious beliefs; discussions with family, colleagues, and friends; the ethical teachings of whatever philosophers the person may have read, and probably many more sources. And not everyone gathers the same list of standards.
Even among Evangelicals, the list is not identical for everyone, but there are some ‘common’ denominators that help us determine and implement an ethical life.
First, it must please God, so if it’s against His revealed will, it shouldn’t be on our list. We get that inventory of do’s and don’ts from the Bible.
The Scripture’s also give us principles which need to be incorporated into our lives but sometimes those can be more difficult to manage. For instance, at least ten times we’re told to ‘love our neighbor’ but what exactly does that look like.
Love is defined as a number of characteristics; things it is, such as patience and kindness; and what it isn’t, like being boastful and envious. But determining how each of those looks in real life isn’t as easy as knowing if you’re breaking the speed limit law while driving.
That’s where Christians have an extra tool that is amazing and difficult to understand. It’s known by many as the indwelling Holy Spirit. God is somehow able to influence us to stop doing certain things or start others, using His silent voice that we can ‘hear’ sometimes as clearly as a friend speaking to us. And that is a topic for another article; maybe from you. Is there a question about the Holy Spirit you’d like to Ask an Evangelical or one of our other ‘religion’ writers?
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