Making Moral Decisions: Christian Approach to Personal and Social Ethics
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As Son of God Jesus receives from the Father an exclusive knowledge of God as Father; he has also received the exclusive commitment to reveal, that is to make known, God as Father. In this way the promise in Jer These distinctive traits of the new covenant in Jer Jesus as Son knows the Father in a complete and exclusive manner and lives in the most intimate communion with God.
This unique relationship with God underlies his principal tasks. His activity also shows the way in which God communicates his definitive gift and fulfils his promise of the new covenant. This is the model for all action in his Spirit and for walking in the way of God. He proclaims the nearness of the kingdom of God, to be heard and accepted through conversion and faith. Acting in this way, Jesus reveals at the same time the norms of righteous human behaviour.
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We shall present some aspects:. Jesus manifests his authority to show the right way for human conduct specifically by the call of the disciples. The path traced by Jesus is not presented as an authoritative norm imposed externally. Jesus himself walks along it and asks no more of the disciples than to follow his example. Moreover, his relations with the disciples do not consist in dry and disinterested lecturing. In this communion of life with him they learn from Jesus the way of right conduct, they partake of his Spirit and walk along with him.
The relationship of Jesus with his disciples is not something limited in time, it is a model for all generations. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
A whole list of fundamental virtues and dispositions is to be found in the beatitudes. The beatitudes belong to a literary genre used in the Old Testament and other parts of the New Testament. They attribute joy and happiness to certain persons and dispositions, often in connection with a promise of future blessing. In Matthew 5. Then come the afflicted who do not turn in upon themselves but compassionately participate in the necessities and sufferings of others. Next come the meek who do not use violence but respect their neighbours just as they are.
The merciful offer active help to the needy cf. The pure in heart seek the will of God with integral and undivided commitment. The peacemakers do everything in their power to maintain and re-establish love-inspired fellowship among human beings. These virtues and dispositions correspond to the teaching of Jesus in all the gospels and also reflect the behaviour of Jesus himself. For this reason following Jesus faithfully leads to a life animated by these virtues. Therefore the beatitudes constitute one of the most compact and explicit revelations about God that is to be found in the gospels.
Poverty in spirit or fidelity under persecution do not stand as obligations on their own. We cannot of course mention all models of conduct that appear in the actions and teaching of Jesus. Most of all discipleship of Jesus implies determination not to be served, but to serve. The service of Jesus is limitless and includes the sacrifice of his life.
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For this reason the invitation to discipleship does not mean following Jesus only in his actions, in his style of life and in his ministry; it includes the invitation to participate in his suffering and in his cross, to accept persecution, even to die a violent death. From his very first coming the Son is moved by the desire to enter into a relationship with humanity, to help it overcome its solitude; it needs him, perhaps even unconsciously. Accepting his coming brings salvation. The manifesto of this transformation can be seen in the dialogue with Nicodemus Jn 3.
The newness Jesus brings is the fruit of a gratuitous gift that begs to be accepted; those who refuse it are guilty and place themselves outside the order of salvation. The literary structure of the miracle-story is itself significant. Each story begins with a situation of need, fear and danger, more often of suffering, which is later overcome. Jesus makes the transition from a wedding at which wine is lacking to a feast where wine flows in abundance 2.
Why Morality Matters: An Introduction to Ethics by Scott B. Rae
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. No one comes to the Father except through me. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
In these sayings Jesus discloses what God the Father has given to humanity in the person of the Son. Jesus is bread, light, gate, shepherd, resurrection and life, way, truth and life, and vine. At the same time he shows what people should do to draw benefit from the gifts his presence brings: come to him, believe in him, follow him and remain in him.
He also reveals the gifts he grants: life, deliverance from darkness to confident sight, triumph over death by resurrection, knowledge of the Father and full communion with him. Though the terms may differ, they express the gifts of the new covenant, the knowledge of God light, truth , the law gate, shepherd, way , and the ensuing fruit, life.
All this is present in the person of Jesus and is granted by him integrally and organically, as symbolized by the relationship between vine and branches. Confronted by the appearance of the Son of God in history human beings are invited to express their total acceptance and open themselves to salvation. Acceptance is expressed by means of a total life-commitment.
He says whatever the Father has commanded him to say This is especially true of his will to serve cf. The high point of imitation is the mission undertaken by disciples in imitation of Jesus Faith goes hand in hand with love of brothers and sisters. The Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves the disciples, the disciples must love one another. This new reality has the power to become a sign Jn This love means commandment, instruction, Torah, as in all biblical ethics.
The importance of the community corrects this impression; evil has a collective aspect cf. Jn The gift of the Son and its moral implications in the Pauline corpus and other Letters. For the apostle Paul moral life cannot be understood except as a generous response to love and to the gift God gave us. God, who wants to make us his sons and daughters, sent his Son and put into our hearts the Spirit of his Son crying Abba, Father Gal 4. Eph 1. Gal 5. Believers are therefore invited to render ceaseless thanks to God 1 Thess 5. In his writings Paul insists on the fact that the moral conduct of believers is a consequence of the grace of God which has justified them and enables them to persevere.
Because God has pardoned and justified us he accepts our moral conduct as a witness to the salvation operative within us. He founds his counsels and exhortations on the experience made of Christ and of the Spirit without external impositions. He puts a distance between the problems and his answers. He takes up the great trends of his gospel e. Rom 1—8 , shows how his readers should develop their understanding of the gospel, and only then does he proceed to formulate his counsels regarding the various difficulties encountered by these young Churches e.
Rom 12— In this context another question arises. Has too broad a separation been created in the course of centuries between the moral imperatives presented to believers and their roots in the gospel? In any case it is important today to formulate anew the relationship between the norms and their theological motivations in order to achieve a better understanding of how the presentation of moral norms depends on the presentation of the Gospel.
For Paul the determining factor of moral activity is not an anthropological concept, that is, a certain idea of human nature and human dignity, but rather the relationship of individuals with Christ. But death to sin is death with Christ. We find here a first formulation of the Christological foundation of the moral conduct of believers, a foundation that is expressed as union but at the same time implies a separation; united to Christ believers are now separated from sin. What is important is the assimilation of the journey of believers with that of Christ.
In other words the principles of moral conduct are not abstract but derive from a relationship to Christ that has made us die to sin together with him. Moral conduct is founded directly on union with Christ and on the indwelling of the Spirit, from whom it comes and whose expression it is. Thus, basically this behaviour is not dictated by external norms, but derives from a strong relationship which, in the Spirit, unites believers with Christ and with God.
CHAPTER 4 Ethical Perspectives — World Council of Churches
For the apostle this is more than a simple metaphor, it acquires a quasi-metaphysical status. Again, as Christians form the one body of Christ, the various charisms must be exercised in harmony, with mutual respect and love and with special attention to the more vulnerable members 1 Cor 12— Further, when celebrating the Eucharist Christians must not abuse or disregard the body of Christ by giving offence to the poorer members 1 Cor As the relationship with Christ is so fundamental for the moral conduct of believers Paul explains what their attitude towards the Lord should be.
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This love is no inoperative sentiment. This relationship between believers and Christ profoundly conditions their own interrelationships.