It seems that I’ve run into two types of Christians lately when it comes to ethics; those who believe in the “no harm no foul” ethic and others who believes in restrictive ethics. Let me explain.
The “no harm no foul” group says that so long as what you’re doing doesn’t harm anyone, then it’s not wrong. If there is consent, who is to say the action is immoral?
The restrictive crowd, however, has a long lists of “do this” and “don’t do that.” In short, it’s legalism, but in a watered down form.
Christian ethics, however, doesn’t need to be so confusing. Though our ethical system is virtue based, it has its foundation in two things: Love for God and love for man. The key word in this then becomes “love.”
Biblically, love means to be self-sacrificial. It means to put your wants and desires aside for the object of your love. Thus, if we are to love God (with all our being), this means that we must love Him both in our deeds and in our thoughts. If we think properly about God and toward God (that is, we have the right doctrine), but don’t back it up with our actions, then we aren’t loving God self-sacrificially. The opposite is true if our actions spill over with love, but we think the wrong things.
Likewise, when it comes to our fellow humans, unless we treat them as we would want to be treated, we are failing them. Now, this doesn’t mean we affirm them, but instead that we love them and when they are in error, we gently move them toward loving God (as loving God is primary – all actions must go back to our love for God).
So the question of any act then becomes, “Will this action anger God or go against His nature?” If so, then no matter what that action is wrong. If we know the action won’t go against God’s nature, we must then ask, “Will this hurt my fellow man?” If so, then we must abandon such action (unless God has commanded it).
This is the simplicity of Christian ethics. The difficulty is in following such ethical codes and also figuring out what does and does not violate the nature of God.