Christian Ethics, Free Course, Lesson 1

William Mc Nicol

Should the church take any interest in the great moral questions which confront society? Or should church leaders see their role merely as supplying a ‘religious’ dimension to life – conducting baptisms, weddings and funerals; providing church services and marking the passing of the seasons with appropriate festivals? ”Let the scientists, sociologists and politicians deal with the real world” some would say.

Or again, is the role of the church simply to preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit? If men and women repent and believe in sufficient numbers and with enough miracles taking place, then all society’s problems will be solved. Or will they? The O1d Testament prophets continually preached against religion which had no concern for the daily plight of men and women. Isaiah cries: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isa 58:6-7)

Jesus addressed all the great issues of His day in the course of His gospel ministry. Kingdom power would be revealed in Good Samaritans, in prison visitors, in those who gave to the poor, in new marriage ethics, political attitudes and protection of the weak.

All the New Testament letters reflect this concern that the good news should touch every aspect of life. Indeed, Paul sees a day coming when God will reconcile all things through His Son.

The Cross is the great road-junction of life, the meeting place of heaven and hell, life and death, justice and injustice, the rich and the poor, men and women, religion and politics.Obey the signals and we drive up Reconciliation Road: disobey them and we crash.

Preaching the gospel of the kingdom involves bringing the government of God into every department of life. Concern for society, its values and practices, is a central part of the church’s mission. We are called to bring God’s reconciliation to God’s world and this course is about just that. In these 10 studies we will consider some of the main issues of our day, the biblical principles which apply to them and some of the practical things we can do about them.

Ethics is a vast field and this is only the merest introduction to it, but hopefully it will help us as Christians to understand and face up to the social, ethical, medical and cultural issues around us and thus will both stimulate our concern and set us thinking along the right lines.

LESSON ONE: HUMAN RIGHTS (PART 1)

Read: Luke 4:18-19; Prov. 31:8-9.
Human rights are important because it is the basic issue that lies behind many of the ethical and social problems that society and the church face today.

A. A Definition of Human rights
The United Nations declaration of human rights proclaims the right:
* To life, to freedom from subjection, to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or to slavery, servitude or forced labour.
*To liberty and security of the person.
*To a fair trial.
*To freedom from retroactive criminal law or punishments.
*To respect for private and family life, home and correspondence.
*To freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
*To freedom of expression, peaceful expression and association.
*To an effective remedy against officials who violate these rights.
*To the enjoyment of these rights without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Today, the majority of the people in the world are held in a bondage which denies all or most of the U.N. declaration. And even where democracy holds sway, human rights are seriously limited for many groups. Justice still works best for Western, white, wealthy males! 

This declaration is an example of idealism. It is an aspiration to human freedom in a world of political, racial, economic, sexual and religious bondage.

B. Christianity and Human Rights.
Christians are neither idealists nor indifferent to human bondage and deprivation. Jesus’ message of freedom is the greatest single contribution to human rights in history. Here is His Nazareth Manifesto: “To preach good news to the poor…. To proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19)

This has enormous spiritual implications largely ignored by modern society, but it also declares Jesus’ concern for the liberation of the whole person.Yet Christians have sometimes become the persecutors.

Christianity – the State version – has a bad record on human rights. Slavery, torture, class barriers, sexual subjugation, colonialism and many more vices have been justified in the Name of the One who came to abolish injustice. The church has sinned grievously, and many of today’s secular responses to human rights reflect a recognition of that fact.

Not least has been the emergence of Marxism and its Christianised form known as liberation theology. Both stand in stark contrast to the authentic New Testament church – violent confrontation versus healing love and persuasive wisdom. If liberation theology is a Christian extreme, then so is an evangelicalism concerned only with salvation from personal sin and with preserving the faithful until they go to heaven. Jesus’ message implies far more than this.

C. A Biblical Approach to Human Rights
The issue of human rights confronts us’ squarely with the question: “What is man?”
(i) A MARRED IMAGE
The gospel begins with creation. Man is dust into which God has breathed. He is midway between the angels and the animals. (See Psalm 8:3-8)

Man (or humankind) was created in two forms – male and female. Both were in the image of God, both were to have authority; both were made without reference to racial, social or intellectual characteristics. Alienation, between themselves and God, and between one another, was unknown. Yet today we are magnificent ruins, made in the image of God, yet marred in every part. This is the root of the denial of human rights (See Rom. 1:18-32).

(ii) A NEW HEART
The gospel proposes a remedy. It isn’t a political solution imposed upon unwilling people but a new heart, which in turn is reflected in a new society. (See Heb. 8:10-12).

(iii) A NEW STATUS 
If the new heart produces a new attitude of love towards our fellow-creatures, then the gospel of grace also changes our status. The old categories of race, class and sex lose their importance. (See Gal. 3:26-29).

(iv) A POLITICAL S
OLUTION? 
Grace must affect politics but politics cannot produce grace.
This is why Jesus would not lead a political revolution. (See Jn. 6:15).
He avoided an overt attack upon the repressive Roman government which, in His own nation, abused every known human right, simply because He knew that the most dangerous thing you can give to a man is his freedom – unless grace operates to sanctify his conscience and to discipline his heart. 

All rights carry responsibility (Gal. 5:13). We cannot embrace the ways of violence in order to achieve the goals of the Prince of Peace. Proclaiming the gospel of grace is the only sure remedy for injustice.

(v) THE RIGHT TO RIGHTS
   Human rights are not an absolute. Doing the will of God is.
Christians are called to sacrifice their human rights for the sake of the gospel. (Mt. 5:10-12; 38-42: 1 Peter 4:12-16). 

The Christian church today is the most heavily persecuted minority in the world.  Religious liberty is purchased with martyrs’ blood. This means, incidentally, that the believer can hardly be a supporter of religious persecution. In all this we follow Jesus who at the cross willingly put Himself into the hands of unjust men. The trial and crucifixion of Christ stand as one of the greatest denials of human rights in history. But it was the will of God. – See Isa. 53:10! 

We must face the fact that we will come into conflict with the powers that be when we speak up for the needy – and this is part of our calling – See Prov. 31:8-9; Rom. 12:14-21.

QUESTIONS:
1. Do you agree that human rights are the basic issue that lies behind the ethical problems of today’s society?
2. Is the U.N. Declaration in section ‘A’ realistic or idealistic? Why?
3. Can you add any other Biblical material to section ‘C’?
4. Do you have a different Biblical approach to that suggested here?
5. Can Christians support the work of:
(a) Amnesty International?
(b) Liberation Theology?
(c) Animal Rights?
(d) Greenpeace?
Give reasons for/against in each case.
6. Can we always allow others the free exercise of their rights? What about children? Criminals? Animals? Nature?

PERSONAL WORK:
1. Examine your own attitudes before God on this whole issue of human rights.
Have you given it much thought? lf not, then why not? What implication does this have for you in the future in thinking through ethical issues?
2. Have you found this first session boring? Interesting? Challenging? or threatening? Examine your reactions.
3. What positive steps are you going to take before God to get actively involved in ethical and social issues? ‘

25 comments for “Christian Ethics, Free Course, Lesson 1

  1. August 23, 2008 at 2:42 am

    To the glory of God I want to do some course with you in other to improve myself thanks pastor Afolayan John Omodele is my name have a nice day.

  2. Arzelia Jones
    November 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    This course teaches our right as christians what we should believe and how we as christains should conduct our selves. We must examine our selves and adapt the ways that are condusive and human towards God.

  3. Arzelia Jones
    November 12, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I enjoyed the first course and look forward to the next one.

  4. CHAD TRANGSRUD
    December 12, 2008 at 4:35 am

    i do like the first lesson i cant wait for more

  5. Sharon Reed
    January 19, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I really enjoyed the first course and looking forward to the next one. I have never looked at Christianity in this perspective. I am so glad I came across this material. I am planning to use these courses to gain the knowledge I need to reach others as a missionary. I truly believe that God has guided me to your website for a reason. He wants me to be prepared to help build his Kingdom. I enjoy being a servant of the Lord.

  6. February 6, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    please lwanttotake up some courses with you, how do lgo about it

  7. April 21, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Human rights is a subject that every Christian should be in favor of. This is not an option for us. With this in mind, we are not to behave like some and take it to the extreme. Those that suggest that things like the death penalty or other forms of corporal punishment (within the scope of the law, without violating God’s principals) should be abolished as these are legal means of punishment, put in place by the people, who are (be it without their acknowledgment) operating in accordance with the sovereignty of God.

    Thanks,
    Bobby
    Blogger: Christian Business Ethics

  8. Moses Aderogba
    May 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Thank you God for this institution.
    I have learnt something that befor now my attention as never been drawn to.speaking out for the poor.
    Thank you

  9. Ignatius Duncan Ansah
    July 22, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    please i need some course concerning christian ethics.please this is my address.calle camino suarez 71 4g malaga 29010 spain.hope to hear from you very soon.

  10. Daniel Ragan
    October 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    As to Bobby’s words, I agree to an certain extent. As corporal punishment, ie. dealth penalty, it was also back in the old testament and Jesus was punished to death but who really gives us the right to make the call. We as people do not have the right to take another life for a life that have may have been taken. We are on this planet for a reason and not put here to find our destiny immediately. As a kid, I always wondered what my life was going to entitle. I am starting to discover the destiny God has created for me. Our rights are limited as stated previously and we are constantly tested to our limits. We live one right everyday and that is we are still alive. Thanks,

    Daniel

  11. Gary Fisher
    May 5, 2010 at 4:16 am

    The words spoken by such a corrupt organization are only words. They speak of human rights but allow nations like China, Iran, Russia and a number of others to have a say in the business of world affairs. “Human rights” as spoken by the UN? Hypocrisy.

    Luke 4:18-19 the poor that Christ speaks of are the poor of spirit, the brokenhearted are those who have awaited His arrival. The liberty He gives the captives is from the bondage of the fear of death that is the devil. (Hebrews 2:14-15). The blind in the inability to see the light that shines from the clearest brightest source such as Himself. Christ was spot on in speaking to the Pharisees (the blind), besides this was his home town synagogue. No Christ was not alluding to the poor in monitory gain, or the prisoners of an invading army. Christ was speaking of what no man can harm, the spirit of a man, a man with the Spirit of God.

    “What is Man?” Man as created by God is an image OF GOD and as such should be treated as one would treat a loving brother of God. At the “fall” man has become corrupt. Man is evil, vain, proud, and wicked. Only an indwelling of the Holy Spirit does one so corrupt find the ability to give out a portion of grace, a portion given to him by the grace of a loving and just God.

    Hebrews 8:10-12 Christ talks of the end times, the second coming when all shall know Him.

    1. No. society’s lack of a higher authority.
    2. Realistic, in a country like America, (without lawyers). Or under Gods plan, if we follow Him.
    3. yes
    4. For human rights? Just realize we are all from one family, Noah.
    5. The same work under different flags. Animals have respect under God’s way. The world that is managed by man for man blooms with life, man, plant and animal.
    6. Freedom under God. A world that looks up and fears God is beautiful but not perfect. That is why there is forgiveness.

  12. Susan England
    June 1, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Will study this and get back to you.

  13. lucia Harry
    July 9, 2010 at 6:42 am

    will get back with the answer of the Questions

  14. July 10, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Free verse by verse Bible study !!!!
    Conservative, evangelical exegesis using
    1. history
    2. context
    3. original word meanings
    4. syntax-grammar
    5. genre
    6. parallel passages
    These Bible studies emphasize the original inspired authors’ intent (one
    meaning) and then attempts to offer possible applications (significances).
    These free Bible studies are available in video, audio & written formats.
    Please look at http://www.freebiblecommentary.org and if you like it a free Cd-rom
    is available upon request which contains all of the written material.
    Please remember that no one agrees completely with any commentary. They
    are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive!
    I am making this life’s work available free to be a blessing to the body
    of Christ. I was teaching at an OMS seminary in Haiti several years ago and
    I felt the Lord say to my heart”make them available free”. I am trying to
    follow that “word”. If you feel comfortable share this website address with
    others interested in Bible study.
    Dr. Bob Utley
    Professor of Hermeneutics (retired)
    Marshall,Texas
    butley@etbu.edu

  15. deborah
    September 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

    I will return.

  16. BARRY NOBLE
    September 16, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    i would like to stuy for free courses l love to study

  17. David White
    October 18, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Very interesting article. I liked the way it began. The ideology of “Human Rights” cannot be an effective intercessory agent for the lives and preservation for mankind unless their Creator is at the very foundation of the “Human Rights”. So far, we do not fully see that.
    But praise be to God for Christian Organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse and the such!

  18. October 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks,this lesson is quite challeging.It is the major purpose of Jesus’coming.The laws governing the society can never please God,if not the Love of God.The laws of Moses requires the Love of Jesus to be fulfilled.And if christians stick to the LOVE of Jesus the world will be a better PLACE TO BE.

  19. November 16, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Thank you for this very edifying lesson on human rights and the bible. It is very meaty and I have learned a lot, especially in terms of perspective and order of things.

    I liked the part that said grace must affect politics, but politics cannot produce grace. This is just one of so many gems in this lesson:)

  20. Joseph Borral
    December 6, 2010 at 5:37 am

    I would like to study about the human rights in biblical view.

  21. George Ahondjo
    April 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    I am young youth minister and i like study with you for free. Than very much.

  22. KH Tong
    November 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I was moved to hear some brothers’ witnesses from Shanghai. There was no such thing – freedom to worship in China. Still they persisted their Loyalty to the Lord.

  23. adgran williams
    June 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I have enjoyed the study of human rights…we all should be in favor of this….due to the fact that we have rights as Christians..trough JESUS CHRIST….if we believe on him…..

  24. John
    July 10, 2013 at 4:25 am

    I do agree with the topic, May God blessings be upon those who have sacrifised time and money to teach people about human right. I know there are many in this world who are oppressed and discrimanated. This course can help many to know their rights and to love and be happy.
    Whether they are poor an educated black or white we are all one and eque before God.
    John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he give his only begortten son……

  25. Bona Bol Anyieny
    August 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Here i appreciate the work done by posters and God agencies plus brothers and sisters online studies to be agents of this topics to delivered this message to the people on the ground. the lesion is so interesting to each one of us in this world we really need to see the love of God in us and respect of human life whether male or female and often yourself to God for long live. thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *