Ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior. God-centered ethics are the moral principles provided to man through His inspired Scriptures. God’s will for mankind has always been that we come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved, He does not desire that any should perish. His love for mankind was shown by sending His only begotten Son to be that Savior and Mediator between us and the one and only living God (1 Tim. 2:3-6). God has always blessed men with a system of right and wrong as well as the free will opportunity of choosing right or wrong.
The first commands from God were given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. At this time commands were given directly to the patriarchs such as Noah, Abraham, and his descendants. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt God gave His people the ten commandments and other spoken commands for them to live by. There have also been judges and prophets who have relayed information to the people to live righteously. When we come to the New Testament period we have Jesus, our mediator who provided a better way established on better promises (Heb. 8:6).
A lawyer once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This great foundation of love for God and awareness of others is crucial in understanding God-centered ethics. As usual, Jesus was the best example of loving God by perfectly carrying out His will, even to the point of giving Himself as a ransom for all. Love always involves sacrifice. We gladly sacrifice our time, energy and money for what we love the most.
It can be easy to recognize how to love your neighbor as yourself because we have a vested interest in caring for ourselves. Paul describes a husband loving his wife just like he loves his own body: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Eph. 5:29) We also have the example here of how the Lord loves His church. Another well known scripture that’s important in this topic is Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” So we have yet another example of God-centered ethics summed up in one short verse, often hailed as the Golden Rule.
But what is a sign of someone who loves God? Jesus answers this question very simply in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John also records a contrast between love of God and love of the world in 1 John 2:15-17; one cannot have both love for the world and for God. These verses also cast a light on the darkness that is sin. This doesn’t mean that Christians will never sin, or that when we do sin we don’t love God. It shows the internal struggle between willing spirits surrounded by weak flesh. This is the struggle of living in the world but not being of the world. We are not to avoid the people of the world but we are to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2). This is our reasonable service.
A truly fair system of ethics must be objective (Acts 10:34), just (Deut. 32:4), and unchanging (Heb. 13:8). Without an objective standard of truth, ethics would be dependent upon any given situation or perspective; injustices would abound and as time goes on standards would change. The alternative would be a system of self-centered ethics, a system built upon the desires of the individual or the majority of a people. This alternative system would be subjective in nature and may even progress to the point of calling good evil and evil good. But if there is no objective standard there cannot definitively be good and evil.
We are repeatedly warned by God not to lean on our own understanding and that our own hearts can be deceptive (Jer. 17:9). This kind of self centeredness has been the downfall of mankind since the very beginning. Through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life we can be drawn away from God, toward a path of death and destruction (1 John 2:16; James 1:14,15). Adam and Eve fell prey to the craftiness of the devil, who promised something contrary to God’s given word. They sinned and faced the consequences of their actions and so death spread to all men.
God in times past left men up to their own devices. These have always been times of great despair in our history upon this earth. Mankind in Noah’s day showed that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). The wicked cities in the region of Sodom and Gomorrah also suffered from a lack of God-centered ethics and were destroyed. During the period of the Judges, being without a king as leader and guide, everyone did what they felt was right in their own eyes (Judg. 17:6). So we see time and time again the consequences of people with an absence of God-centered ethics.
Regardless of the past, today God requires all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31). We ought to count it a blessing that a truly objective, omniscient Judge will be in charge of such an undertaking. There will be no partiality shown or mistakes made by Him. Every man will give an account of himself to God, so let us be prepared for that day by basing our lives on an ethic that revolves around God. We are without excuse recognizing the tremendous importance of trusting and obeying the one and only living God. We ought to love God by knowing and respecting His will for us. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Eric Diaz is a servant of God residing in the Gulfport, Mississippi area. He’s married to his high school sweetheart Charlotte Diaz and they have four sons. Together they strive to follow Christ with the support of their loving brethren.