Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Justice and Forgiveness

April 10, 2014

Last night in our Bible study at church, we were discussing the Lord’s Prayer and the emphasis on forgiveness.

And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  (Luke 11:4)

We were in agreement that it is necessary for us to forgive those who have wronged us.

Then someone asked about justice.  Just the day before, a family had observed the one year anniversary of a tragic event.  A baby had been shaken by his father, causing severe damage.  The child went through months of seizures, and has lasting damage that, unless miraculously healed by God, will likely be permanent.  While the baby fought for his life, and while the mother and family dealt with the multiple treatments, seizures, and ongoing effects, the father moved out, and was free to go about his business while the justice system went through the various steps leading eventually to conviction and confinement.  The family was, and is, concerned about justice.  A wrong had been done, a penalty should be paid.

How do we reconcile forgiveness and justice?  This blog does not claim to present the final solution to that problem, but rather, a starting point for thought, and perhaps discussion.

I would suggest that forgiveness is an act of an individual, while justice is a function of society.  Forgiveness is an attitude that allows us to let go of the anger, resentment and hatred that poisons our hearts.  Justice is a necessary component of society that punishes wrongdoers, thus preventing us from taking matters into our own hands.

It would be wrong to think that God only supports forgiveness.  The Mosaic Law set forth laws, and punishments for those that broke the law.  These penalties were considered to be just.  It would be wrong to think that the God of the New Testament, with the emphasis on forgiveness; and the God of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on judgement, are incompatible, or different Gods.  God is both just and forgiving.

There are consequences to wrongdoing.  These consequences can be both temporal and eternal.  God is both merciful and just.  We can be forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins, and still face the temporal consequences of our actions.

For the believer who has been wronged, it is important for us to forgive the wrongdoers and leave the consequences for their actions in the hand of God.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Clearly there is a tension between justice and forgiveness.  As individuals we must forgive those who have wronged us.  As a society we must pursue justice for those who have been wronged.  The Holy Spirit can help us have the ability to forgive in our hearts,  and the wisdom to pursue justice in our land.

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A Good Superbowl

February 8, 2011

Sunday the Green Bay Packers became Superbowl Champions.  It was a good game.  Despite being down 21-3 in the first half the Steelers never gave up.  They battled back throughout the game so that the game was still in question in the final minutes.   One big play on their last possession and there would have been a different conclusion to the game.  I like games that keep you on the edge of your seat.  It is more fun to watch a close game than a blow-out.

It was a good Superbowl.   I define good by comparison to an ideal.  I think that definition of good can be used for more than football games.  When we say that something is good or even great, it is in comparison to some concept that we have of an ideal object.

If we want to discover the good in humans, it should be in comparison to an ideal person.  Does one exist?  I believe that Jesus was the ideal human.  He is the only one that was, and is, truly perfect.  If we want to compare our lives, we should compare ourselves to him.  We will fall short of course, but Jesus gives us an ideal to serve as a model for our lives.  If we have chosen to follow Christ, let us also seek to imitate him.

Eat, Pray, Love (movie review)

September 7, 2010

The film “Eat, Pray, Love” starring Julia Roberts is not so much a love story as it is a life story.  Roberts plays a writer who takes a year off to get her life in order.

The first four months she spends in Italy, basically eating and spending time with friends.  This time period represents the need to find enjoyment in the simple, material, things in life.  It also points out the need to slow down, and the value of doing nothing. Tasting life, you might say.

The next four months are spent in India learning the value of prayer, meditation and forgiveness.  This time period helps her to connect with the spiritual aspect of life.  Her earlier existence had been without spiritual influence.  There is a brief prayer in the beginning where she states that she had never talked to God before that point, so this is very new, and difficult for her to learn.

The next four months she spends in Bali.  During this period she rediscovers the importance of human relationships, and yes, love.   Also, she is taught the  importance  of balance.  Balancing the various aspects of life is the final lesson.

So “Eat, Pray, Love” is a story about appreciating, practicing, and balancing;  the material, spiritual and relational aspects of life.  In some ways, it teaches some very valid principles.  Unfortunately, these principles are discovered by pursuing non-Christian religious paths.  The movie could easily be used to encourage individuals to find meaning for their lives through various Eastern religions.

The only true and lasting meaning for life is to be found in Jesus Christ who said that “I am the way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6) and “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)

The Greatest Pleasure

February 17, 2010

Yesterday I read something in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics that caught my attention.  “…the activity of philosophic wisdom is admittedly the pleasantest of virtuous activities…”  He goes on to say, basically, that it isn’t for everyone.  Yet, he ranks philosophic reflection as the highest pleasure.

I will admit, that there are times when contemplative thinking has been profoundly pleasant.  This is especially true when you combine philosophical inquiry with theological reflection and prayer.  (I can imagine some of you are rolling your eyes by now, or perhaps have stopped reading, or maybe even have fallen asleep!)

Maybe it is an age thing.  In Hinduism, the third stage of life, from 50-75 is one of slowly withdrawing from the world, spending time with the grandchildren, and increasing your focus on religious and philosophical pursuits.  I have to admit that the idea of increased religious and philosophical meditations is appealing to me.

I suppose that means I’m in the right professions.

Soul Value

February 3, 2010

Last night in ethics class we discussed John Stewart Mills utilitarian approach to ethics.  His view is labeled eudaimonistic because he defines pleasure as other than simple sensory stimulation.  Human beings are capable of pleasures that are different in kind from what mere animals are capable of experiencing. 

He goes a little further in stating that among humans, there are varying degrees of capacity for appreciating the good in life.  This leaves me with the sense that he places a higher value on those people who are capable of the highest pleasure.  “Oh, I am sorry, you are not able to appreciate the opera.”  “Some people just can’t appreciate the finer things in life.”

Some people are snobs.

God does not look at people in that way.  Our value to Him is not based on our intellect, our abilities, our cash value, our looks, our contributions to society, our potential, our past, or any other thing. 

We are all loved by God.  Our value as a soul; a human being, to Him is equal in His sight.  God loves us all equally.     

I take comfort in that thought.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Talk to, not About

December 31, 2009

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Many of us probably remember our mothers giving us that piece of social instruction.  It was good advice, and perhaps it needs to be instilled in a new generation. 

There are times when words of correction need to be expressed.  However, these words of correction should be given to the person needing correction, not to general audiences. 

If you have a problem with someones actions then you should speak to that person.  All too often, instead of offering words of correction or rebuke, we will simply talk about that individual to other people.  Did you hear about so and so?  Can you even believe what they did?  Worse yet, some will accept stories that are told to them, pass judgement on the individual, and then repeat the story, without ever asking about the other side.

Talk to people, not about them…unless it’s good of course.  Almost no one minds if you say nice things about them.

Obama Reverses Stem-Cell Policy

March 10, 2009

President Obama has reversed the Bush administration’s policy on stem-cell research, opening the way for new embryo’s to be processed for use in research, funded by government dollars.  He said “Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values.”

Actually, he is the one making a false choice.  It is not all sound science that is the problem.  It is science that intentionally destroys innocent human life.

As for morality, I hope that we can agree that it is wrong to intentionally destroy innocent human life.

So, this brings up the question of when does human life begin?  This is a religious, or philosophical question, not a scientific one.    There are many people in this country who believe that human life begins at conception.  Therefore, for all of those people, embryonic stem cell research may be  scientific, but it is, and always will be immoral. 

President Obama has clearly sided with a certain philosophical view regarding the beginning of human life.  That is clear from his views, and his action, on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.  That is the choice that has been made, not a choice between morals and science.

It is the wrong choice.

Pro Choice or Pro Abortion?

February 28, 2009

Q. When is pro choice not pro choice? 

A.When it comes to the right of individuals not to perform medical procedures that go against their morals.

President Obama is considering overturning a regulation that was introduced during the Bush administration regarding the right of medical personnel to refuse to perform certain medical procedures (including abortion)  for personal ethical reasons.  This is good news to the people who support abortion, and bad news to their opponents.

I thought that a big part of the argument in favor of abortion was over a person’s right to choose?  What has happened to the right of medical personnel to refuse to participate in acts that violate their moral conscience?  Since when does the right for an individual to choose to have an abortion mean that someone else has to violate their personal choice to not perform abortions?  

That is inconsistant and it is wrong.  I sincerely hope that President Obama will be as considerate of the choice of people who want nothing to do with abortions as he is with the choice of those who want an abortion.

Is he pro choice?  Or is he just pro abortion?

I guess we will see.