“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. ‘ Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,  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.