Christ’s teaching on marriage and divorce (Mark 10:1–12) is just one example of the ethical instruction we find throughout the Gospels. As Christians, we are to take our rules for living from our Lord, which makes what He says about ethics throughout His Word of paramount importance. To help us better grasp what God’s Word says about ethics, we will now take a short break from our study of Mark’s gospel and use Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Christian Ethics as a guide for our devotionals.
Few Christians would deny that Western culture is currently suffering an ethical crisis. Talk of a fixed, universal standard of ethics is rare, and moral relativism—the idea that there is no unchanging measure of right and wrong—rules the day. Sadly, moral relativism has infected many churches, leaving people with the belief that what is right for one person in ethical matters is not necessarily right for another.
One does not have to talk to a moral relativist for long before it becomes clear that his position arises from a heart that seeks to legitimize a personal desire that violates what he knows to be right. In other words, sinners advocate moral relativism because they want to justify their sin. But we also see that almost no one lives consistently with a profession of moral relativism. Steal the wallet of a moral relativist, and he will call the police. A consistent moral relativist, however, has no basis upon which to reject theft. Under that worldview, it is right for the thief to steal if the thief believes it is the right action for him. How, then, can the one who has his wallet stolen complain? Does not the complaint bear witness to the fact that the complainer expects the thief to know and abide by a fixed standard that says theft is wrong? People live as if transcendent moral absolutes exist even when they deny such absolutes, thereby proving the hollowness of moral relativism. Try as they might, people cannot erase the law of God on their consciences (see Rom. 2:14–16).
If people appeal to anything outside themselves to justify their behavior, they usually cite their legal rights to engage in a particular act. Yet Christians know that no humanly enacted law can give them a moral right that God does not grant. What the government has made legal is not always morally permissible in our Creator’s sight, and what is morally permissible in our Creator’s sight has not always been made legal by the government.