How do you determine right from wrong?

Aug. 27, 2017 | by Bob Russell

Several Christian parents have recently expressed concern to me about the eroding moral values of their millennial children. Children raised in church a decade ago are ambivalent today about right and wrong. What was considered abhorrent a generation ago is now widely accepted.

Many of these parents moan about their kids saying they have no right to judge others’ behavior and as long as people are happy or fulfilled, they shouldn’t be criticized. Pastors, whether you have children or not, such views are coming into your church. You need to be ready to answer them.

Not that many years ago, the late Charles Colson—founder of Prison Fellowship—insisted that no society has long endured without a common moral consensus. He decried the myth of moral relativity which produces chaos and confusion. Imagine a football game where there is no common set of rules.

Colson wrote that today’s myth of moral relativity “hides the dividing line between good and evil, noble and base. It has thus created a crisis in the realm of truth. When a society abandons its transcendent values, each individual’s moral vision becomes purely personal . . . ”

Moral confusion

The prophet Isaiah warned there would come a day of such moral confusion that men would call evil good and good evil. (See Isaiah 5:20.) That’s where we are today. In this era of moral relativism, how do we determine right from wrong?

  • Some rely on majority opinion,which philosopher Francis Schaffer called “51 percent morality.” If the majority concludes a behavior is moral, it’s moral. But the vast majority were condemned as immoral in Noah’s Day and perished in the judgment of the flood.
  • Others use personal feelings. What is moral is what I feel good after; what is immoral is what I feel bad after. But the conscience can be programmed wrongly or completely seared. A terrorist may feel gratified after killing dozens of innocent people with a bomb.
  • Some suggest what is legal determines morality. But in the Sudan, it’s legal to beat your wife or to sexually mutilate your daughter. It’s legal to smoke marijuana in Colorado, but not in Kentucky. Man’s laws are imperfect and grossly inconsistent.
  • We often hear that love should define right from wrong. Therefore, any behavior between consenting adults is OK as long as the people involved care for one another or don’t hurt one another. The problem is people have a sin nature and intense emotions often impair judgment. A brother and sister may “love” each other, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for them to marry.

The standard

An authentic Christian is one who acknowledges Jesus Christ as the ultimate standard of right and wrong. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “Whoever is on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). Paul told the Athenians that one day God would “judge the world with justice by the man (Jesus) he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Jesus is the eternal standard of right and wrong. He said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6). He is the same yesterday, today and forever.” His moral values don’t change like shifting shadows.

Jesus is not an imaginary friend who can be conveniently manufactured to accommodate personal preferences. There is a literal, historical Jesus revealed clearly in Scripture.

John wrote, “These are written that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Jesus Himself prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Keeping His commands

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said when he was vastly overweight his doctor introduced him to an unusual diet. The physician said, “On this diet, you can eat anything you want to eat. . . . now here’s a list of the things you want to eat!” That’s why Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).

Author Jeffrey E. Ramey said it well: “Who decides what is right and wrong in the world? Who has the authority to define morality for all of creation? It is not the courts, Congress, the media, public opinion, the ‘politically correct’ police, the ‘tolerance’ brigade or even the church.

“The only answer has been, is and always will be Jesus Christ. You can find His opinion on a great variety of subjects in His bestseller: the Bible.”

Photo source: istock


Topics: Commentary, Discipleship, Leadership, Ministry, Preaching, Teaching Resources, Vision



Bob Russell

At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.

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