Responsibility in Christian Ethics

QUESTION: Responsibility in Christian Ethics

ANSWER:

When it comes to the responsibilities of Christian ethics, we are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This command, like all other commands in the Bible, implies that Christians have responsibilities.

This responsibility to love others requires not only compassion but also a servant attitude. At its most basic level, loving God means serving others. Carl F.H. Henry summarizes our Christian duty: “The Apostle John appeals to the explicit teaching of the Redeemer to show the inseparable connection between love of God and love of neighbor: ‘If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also’ (1 John 4:20f). ‘God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him’ (4:16). The love of God is the service of man in love.”1

Responsibility in Christian Ethics – Love Our Neighbor
This duty toward our neighbors requires more than serving their spiritual needs. “[M]an is more than a soul destined for another world,” says Norman Geisler; “he is also a body living in this world. And as a resident of this time-space continuum man has physical and social needs which cannot be isolated from spiritual needs. Hence, in order to love man as he is—the whole man—one must exercise a concern about his social needs as well as his spiritual needs.”2 As Christians, we cannot claim that our faith in God exempts us from worldly concerns such as feeding the hungry or caring for the sick. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31–46 that when we serve others we serve Him; and that when we fail to serve others we fail to serve Him. Furthermore, He will judge us on the basis of our service to those who are in need.

As Christians, our responsibility to love our neighbor entails an even more fundamental obligation: our duty to love God. “The moral end, or highest good, is the glory of God,” writes William Young. “In declaring by word and deed the perfections, especially the moral perfections of the Most High, man finds true happiness.”3 Carl Henry describes the heart and soul of Christian ethics: “Hebrew-Christian ethics unequivocally defines moral obligation as man’s duty to God.”4

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Carl F.H. Henry, Christian Personal Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1957), 221–2.
2 Geisler, Ethics, 179.
3 Henry, Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 432–3.
4 Henry, Christian Personal Ethics, 209.

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