Ways of Christ

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Part 3 Ethics and society

Basics of ethical values.

with excerpts of the main text, and other annotations.

Jesus Christ set a high value on standards for ethical behaviour which live within the individual instead of only being effective because of the pressure of an external law or custom. This is not achieved by hammering it into somebody from outside, but by a life, unfolding the "love of God, to our neighbour... as to oneself". To "love each other" (John 13, 34) gives us the ability to act according to our real conscience. Loving God, we can guess what are his higher goals. Wherever individuals, couples, groups, etc. include this universal love, one can see the difference. The more these attitudes live in everyone, the less important the external, detailed rules will become.

The contents, e.g. of the older "Ten Commandments" are not outdated, but have become acknowledged. They are subject to cultural change, not in their basics, but in certain details. This is already substantiated by the report of Moses himself, who initially received a higher version of the commandments and then had to ask for a simple version for those who were not sufficiently developed. So far these ethical principles are the same in Christianity, in Judaism and in Islam. Almost all other religions have similar principles too, as shown in the "World Ethos - Declaration for the Parliament of the World's Religions" (see our links page). Even a system of ethics that sees itself as "non-religious" or humanistic shows connections to values of religious cultures. Ethics mainly deal with treating others as humanly as we want to be treated ourselves, not to harm others, but to help. This is essential for one's destiny, because of the biblical principle of sewing and harvesting (Gal. 6:7; 2 Cor. 9:6). It is the minimum requirement for survival in a society that keeps evolving. This is, in the end, the main criterion for one's participation in the new time, about which the Lord's Prayer says: "...Your kingdom come!" (Matthew 6) and about which the Sermon on the Mount says: "The meek shall inherit the earth".
In a wider sense this results in vital viewpoints for various levels of human existence. Some Christians dismiss the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount as an "ethics of the turn of mind", falsely thinking that it is not applicable. Although it does not necessarily provide us with instructions, e.g. for making difficult political decisions, it is a yardstick for them. If a human, so-called "ethics of responsibility" leads to decisions in society, which are the opposite of what the Sermon on the Mount expects the individual to do, one should not think that Jesus would have decided this way.
Each individual is responsible for his/her part. Groups with their compulsions and models are also responsible for their part. Each group would need their own " group code of ethics", as some professions already have. So beyond the individual ethics some "structural ethics" of groups and society would be necessary. Law with its arbitraries cannot replace this.
Especially a formalistic and general legal practice, which would not sufficiently consider the single deeds and motivations, would be viewed as critical, as this would emanate from the thinking of some ancient Pharisees and Sadducees that was most sharply rejected by Jesus.

The Ten Commandments of Moses (Exodus 20)

Ethics in the Koran (Quran)

"World Ethos" (see our links page)

1.  I am the Lord Your God... You shall have no other gods before me. (You shall not make for Yourself an idol...)

2.  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord Your God (for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name)

Set not up with Allah any other god... (sura 62,9*)

(This interreligious agreement did not concern a mutual concept of God. F.e. with regard to the buddhists, only a "Last truth/ last reality" was acknowledged in the paper, meaning something beyond the physical world.)

3.  Remember the Sunday/ Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah (sura 62,9*)


4.  Honour your father and your mother, (so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Your Lord has decreed, that you show kindness to parents..., speak unto them a gracious word. ...Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer... (sura 7,23-26*)


5.  You shall not murder.

Do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause... (suras 17,33 und 5,32*).

Commitment for a culture of non-violence and the reverence for all life.

6.  You shall not commit adultery. **

And come not near unto adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way (sura 17,32).

Commitment for a culture of partnership of man and woman (, against destructive use of sexuality...) 

7.  You shall not steal.

9.  You shall not covet your neighbours house.

10.You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands... But whoever repents after his wrongdoing amends his conduct, then surely Allah will turn to him (in forgiveness). (sura 5,38-41*)

(This concerns aggravated larcery.)

Commitment for a culture of solidarity and a fair economy...

8.  You shall not give false testimony against Your neighbour.

...Be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness of Allah's sake, though it may be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives... Sura 4,135*. (concerning betrayal see sura 2,188*)

Commitment for a culture of tolerance and a life in truthfulness...

*) Used is the egyptian counting most commonly used in islamic countries. Other translations may count the verses differently; then You find the named contents before or after that verse number in the same sura(h).

**) Particularly here the various religions have added many different details. This might help us to understand that not all details are necessarily good for everyone. Additionally - for today's purposes - there has not always been enough distinction between purely religious principles and detailed secular laws. This doesn't mean, however, that beliefs and laws should have big contradictions.

Already after the great flood - before the mentioned 10 commandments - according to the biblical tradition there were some basic ethical principles valid for all mankind, beyond the Israelites too: 
- the reverence for human life (Gen 9:6), and not to eat meat of living animals. The rabbinic Judaism later derived versions of 7 "Noachian commandments" for Non-Jews: 
- You shall not murder;
- You shall not torment animals;
- You shall not steal;
- You shall not commit adultery;
- You shall not worship idols (in spite of the fact, that Non-Jews did not have to worship God like Jews) ;
- You shall not blaspheme against God;
- You shall have courts of justice.

It is helpful to note down both the problems we have discovered in our own characters and our own positive qualities, in order to consciously monitor progress. There are several ways of doing this:
1. Directly working on problematic incidents in life (see "...digestion of the daily life"). Positive intentions. Jesus also encourages people to look at their own problems first. In the Koran this is known as the "Great Jihad", the "Great Holy War", which is more important and more difficult than any external conflict. Many conflicts could be positively solved this way.
2. Direct reparation and 3. Directly forgiving each other, as far as possible. or to offer the problems up to God in prayer for him to work them out and to forgive in one's soul. Jesus also speaks about "paying to the last penny". (But see 5.)
4. If there is no other way, one can also perform good deeds for others, apart from those one has harmed. A lot of things are made good by God if one, e.g. takes up tasks for the public benefit.
5. "Pray to God in my name", here for his forgiveness and mercy in the further development of one's life. This is the significant help, which pure humanistic ethics cannot give. Destiny is no longer experienced as something mechanical, but as guided by God. Everything is worked out and developed in the best interests of ourselves and others, seen in the light of His higher wisdom. The qualities of man become more similar to God.

There are also our Extra pages "General christian viewpoints for society and politics"  and "Christian viewpoints for economy and social affairs" .


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