Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ethical repentance

“Jesus told us to clothe the poor…the poor are clothing us”.

This line from a blog smacked me across the face this morning. It went on to reflect on the heart-rending story of the recent disaster in Bangladesh when nearly 300 people died as the garment factory they were working in collapsed on them.

We’ve been hearing a call to repentance recently in the Jesus Army. It links to a prophetic call to be people of God’s fire, and an increased desire to receive that fire and be changed by that fire.

I’ve noticed that usually, when the call to repentance has been unpacked in our various gatherings it is couched in terms of morality.

Nothing wrong with that. Yet I’ve been increasingly aware of how biblical repentance must also include ethics as well as morality.

What’s the difference between the moral and the ethical? Wisegeek.org puts it like this: ‘Morals define personal character, while ethics stress a social system in which those morals are applied.’

Put another way, morality might ask ‘What do I do with my money?’ (a question that was indeed put to our local Jesus Army congregation just a couple of weeks ago). Ethics might ask ‘What do banks do with our money?’

A moral question might be ‘How can I clothe the poor?’ An ethical question would be ‘How do we ensure the poor aren’t clothing us (and dying in the process)?’

Justice and love for people, especially the poor, are close to our heart as the Jesus Army because we believe they’re close to God’s heart. It’s all over the bible. Jesus himself inaugurated his mission by quoting Isaiah’s announcement of ‘good news for the poor’.

The fire, I believe, will cause our ethics as well as our morality to be renewed. I reckon the time is coming and is now here when we need to look harder at what we eat, wear, consume, who we bank with, how we live, in ways we simply hadn’t considered before this wave of fire came.

Isaiah again. A friend pointed out to me that Isaiah 1:16-17 sums up what repentance looks like. ‘[16] Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, [17] learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.’ I note that verse 16 is mainly moral, verse 17 mainly ethical. Of course the two overlap – but I feel it’s in ethics we’ve got some real work to do.

Come fire! Change everything.

5 comments:

Adrian said...

Well said James.

It is quite a challenge though as it is very difficult to be sure of the origin of a lot of products, just look at the horsemeat scandal for proof of that.

Also a lot of companies, including household names, have links to or are owned by some dubious people. There are some which have terrible histories, for example Siemans built a lot of the Nazi gas chambers and Bayer, the manufacturer of Aspirin, knowingly sold drugs contaminated with HIV to asia and south america in 1984.

It is best to avoid any and all corporations and their products if possible.

Tschaka Roussel said...

Can I suggest we approach this from a different perspective?

I fear we have a bad idea of what it means to be holy and not of the world.

To me holiness isn't about being separate but about being special and made for a purpose - a commitment which redefines how we engage with the world, rather than takes us out of it. It follows that our repentance is definitely seen in what we do - John the Baptist says it 'must' be fruitful.

We may, as a community, remove ourselves from the world but it doesn't necessarily mean we're able to detach from the world system - I believe only spirit inspired passion really allows us to do that.

In fact such passion will drive us to engage with the world, in a way which is holy-hot with its love. Repentance should be fundamentally a positive thing, much more so than a negative.

And that, I believe, is what righteousness truly means, that whether we outwardly seek to redress issues or train ourselves for inner purity, it needs to come from a desire for every relationship we have, global or spiritual, to be right before God.

pierscjc said...

James is this the crusade you're on or just one of several? It certainly needs addressing, albeit carefully. Is anyone listening?

n0rma1 said...

One of several, and this is something of an opening salvo on this one. Did mention it vn IGH recently, too. It's part of a wider 'crusade' (if we wanna call it that) to get our prophetic imagination opened up. If 'hearts on fire' means anything it'll mean that. Fire will surprise us with new things as well as leading us un re-embrace old things...

Jules said...

Funny thing, was just considering this morning that perhaps it's time to think about the source of our food e.g. coffee. To follow 'justice' and 'righteousness' extends far beyond personal morality and if we are to 'love not the world' these are questions we must be asking.