In life we are called upon to make many decisions. Some of these are routine, physical actions such as stopping for a red light or eating when we are hungry. Some of our decisions are judgment calls on matters of significant importance: selecting a mate for marriage, choosing a vocation, investing money for future security, preparing for retirement. Each must “make up his own mind” on these issues. The freedom (and responsibility) we have in these areas are often “assumed” in religious matters. Many feel that each of us are at liberty to decide what is right or wrong on moral issues or for religious practices. A study of the Scriptures indicates this is not man’s right – God has given us the direction and we are to recognize his regulations.
How are we to decide moral issues? Is it right or is it wrong to lie? to steal? to kill? to commit adultery? What process do you usually hear used to decide these maters? “It seems to me. . . ” or “I think. . . ” are common expressions in such discussions. Using this process, changes can result in standards of morality. Within the past generation a classic example of this process has occurred.
Sixty years ago, most “everyone” condemned homosexuality. Anyone who practiced homosexual relations were considered an abomination to God. The practice was so generally condemned that violators were discharged from the army, removed from government posts, fired from businesses, and otherwise rejected and ostracized by society. Although some of this rejection still exists, we see the practice defended now as “an alternate lifestyle.” Practitioners have “come out of the closet” and openly parade for gay rights. Many churches have given open acceptance for the practice and gay churches exist in many cities. Society has declared them to be as normal as heterosexuals. They are allowed to be preachers, school teachers, government officials, parents, and even given in marriage. Sodom and Gomorrah means nothing to this society!
What standard should we use to govern our lives in religious or moral issues? A look at the Bible shows that the inspired writers recognized “the Scriptures” as the standard. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul reasons that both the Gentiles and the Jews stood condemned because they had left God and his Word. No appeal was made to Paul’s own feelings or to how society felt about these issues. (Actually, “society” would have approved the common practices which Paul condemned.)
On another occasion Paul reflects the attitude toward God’s revelation which should characterize all of us. In 1 Timothy 5:18, while discussing the support of elders who gave their time and efforts to the teaching of the word, he says, “For the scripture saith, You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn. And, the laborer is worthy of his hire.” Note the appeal made by the inspired apostle: “For the scripture saith . . .”
What should we recognize as authority today for our moral code or for our religious practices? God’s Word, the Scriptures, are the proper source, and we should be careful not to substitute the judgments of men with the commandments of God (Matt 15:7-9). How I feel or how you feel may be of interest, but only what God says is right! Yes, let God be true and every man a liar; as it is written, That you may be justified in your sayings, and might overcome when you are judged” (Rom 3:4).