18 July 2006

Speaking Ethically No. 1

By Rod Benson

March 2006

The abortion pill, the war in Iraq, withdrawal of medical treatment, genocide in West Papua, the AWB scandal, human cloning, gambling, homosexuality: these and scores of other ethical issues clamour for our attention. Faced with complex issues, many of which the Bible does not explicitly address, we can feel overwhelmed and under-resourced.

At such times, it’s important to remember our calling, as Jesus put it, to work as “salt” and “light” in our communities. Baptists have a long history of enlightened social and ethical action. Never has our public witness been more needed by the church and the world.

In Philippians 2:4, Paul writes, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I’m sure our own interests are already well served, but to what extent do we actually serve the interests of others? Who are the “others” on the edges of your life? What are we doing to share God’s love and grace with them? How could we speak prophetically on their behalf? How could we be more strategic, more effective?

In The World Calling: The Church’s Witness in Politics and Society, Thomas W. Ogletree reflects on the church’s public witness in a world of competing interests, entrenched injustice and radical individualism. He is optimistic about the church’s capacity to fulfil its prophetic calling, and has something important to say to liberals and conservatives alike. In the preface he offers this wise advice on strategy:

… sometimes our most energetic efforts will prove fruitless … We have to learn to discern the times of opportunity when openings emerge that present unprecedented new possibilities for constructive change. At other times, we must learn to practice patient waiting and faithful enduring, holding steadfastly to our deepest convictions even when prospects for constructive change are slim.

Ethical activism starts with a fresh awareness of the social and moral problems of our world, a glimpse of a better world, and the audacity to believe that these two worlds might be one. I dare you to ask God today to point you in the direction of some concrete ethical action, and give you the wisdom and grace to make a lasting difference!

Rev Rod Benson is Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics based at Morling College, Sydney. Previously he pastored Baptist churches in NSW and Queensland.

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