March 19, 2020

Learning Godliness Together

The voice on the phone was both familiar and strained.

“I need to tell you something,” he began. “I made a decision today that you might not agree with, and I didn’t want you to hear about it from anyone else.”

I tensed inwardly, anticipating some difficult news that might take days or weeks to resolve. But all for nothing. As my colleague described what he had done, I found myself agreeing fully with his choice. He had carefully considered the options, made the best decision he could, and moved the process forward.

But then he had done that most unusual thing: he contacted me to let me know that he would take responsibility if somehow his choice was wrong. I paused to thank the Lord for someone I can trust in things both large and small.

This is the practical stuff of ethical living in the mission and ministry of the church—not perfect people or impeccable decisions, but men and women whose lives are guided by a biblical norm of responsible behavior. Because they pray and seek the will of Jesus, their wisdom often guides the church they love toward better outcomes, more involvement, deeper faith and witness.

And on those occasions when they “get it wrong” or miss some urgent element, they own their responsibility instead of waiting for others to discover it.

Living by a code of personal ethics that grows from the Word of God means more than not enriching ourselves at the church’s expense; not manipulating decisions to our own advantage; not intimidating others to achieve an outcome we desire. It also means admitting our fallibility as men and women being saved by Jesus, “speaking the truth in love,” and growing up “in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). In a community where we must have high expectations of ourselves and of each other as disciples of the Risen One, we also practice the grace and forgiveness that yield in holiness.

In godly, clear, and consistent ways, we hold each other accountable, not to a standard we’ve invented, but to the manner of living Jesus taught to all who followed Him. We also own our responsibility to prompt each other to fulfill the law of Christ: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).

Ethical living in God’s last-day church requires a community of faith that encourages us in doing well, corrects us when we miss the mark, and reminds us of both righteousness and grace. The church is God’s appointed laboratory where we practice our faith. It’s where we learn new ways of thinking and doing, and all to glorify the Saviour.

That’s why the church I want to belong to is . . . ethical.

* All Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.