The Bible study of Christian ethics studies the principles and concepts that are godly behavior's foundation. The Bible study of Christian morality studies the behavior those principles and concepts produce. The mature Christian accepts those principles and concepts and applies them to each situation encountered in his or her life. Living a godly life is much more than yielding to a set of rules and regulations.

Serious Bible teachers experience the same frustration. The frustration: many Christians view godly principles and concepts as hypothetical. To them, these principles and concepts are not intended to deal with the actual. They are intended only for the hypothetical. These principles and concepts become hypothetical when reality challenges them. Maturing in Christ-like perspectives is demanding! The highway to that maturity confronts many question marks and temptations.

Years ago [in another city] I was physically assaulted in a public parking lot in the early afternoon in the full view of pedestrians and passing motorists. The situation was completely unexpected. Instantly the hypothetical became the actual.

To be physically assaulted is unnerving. To be assaulted because someone who knew you disagreed with you is very unnerving. To remain seated on the wet ground while someone stands over you, cursing you, doing all is his power to anger you, wanting you to fight him is indescribably strange. Every sense of physical security vanished!

Were Jesus' teachings hypothetical? When an actual situation challenged Christ's principles and concepts, were those principles and concepts real? Or, were they just thoughts concerning hypothetical situations?

We emphasize godly principles and concepts that easily can be focused on the hypothetical. Often those principles and concepts do not become mental and spiritual tools that exist to deal with reality. Real life and spiritual life become unrelated realities.

How do spouses treat spouses in a crisis? How do parents work with children in the face of serious trouble? How do children react to parents when real oppression exists? How do Christians treat each other when there is strife in a congregation? How do we react to enemies in or out of the Christian community? How do the godly act when the ungodly oppress them? When evil is in control, how do those who are in Christ react?

Do Christians use evil's tools to confront evil? That is never a hypothetical question. It is a real life decision. From earliest Christianity, it always has been. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 9 June 2002

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