Legal, moral and ethical are three standards worth establishing in life – the legal standard upholds the law of the land, the moral standard upholds the law of God, and the ethical standard upholds personal values. But the standards are not equal – the moral standard is higher than the legal standard, and the ethical standard is higher than the moral standard. The three can work in harmony with one another, but there may come a point in time when they conflict and people need to know what to do.
These standards were addressed by Bahamas Harvest Church Senior Pastor Mario Moxey, during his Independence weekend sermon, “Uncompromised: You Stand” as he encouraged the membership to take a stand in a world with blurred lines.
“You stand by not compromising your moral values,” said Moxey.
According to the pastor, many people need to start with facing the fact that they casually break the law and feel it’s really no big deal when they do it.
“It’s like breathing air, it just so naturally happens,” said Moxey. “I’m not talking about the big violations like killing or anything like that. Thou shall not murder is not one of the laws that we touch. But there are a number of petty crimes that we commit, almost on a daily basis.”
He spoke to them about people making use of a company’s WiFi for their customers when they’re not a customer; speeding and going above posted speed limits, which he owned up to being guilty of himself.
“One time, I was at the Christian Council meeting with the Minister of National Security and talking about traffic laws and all this stuff, this lady got up and said we need to do something with all the speeding in this country, too many people speeding, and she was passionate and sharing this, and when she was done, I said I’m guilty and she said, ‘I know, I was talkin’ about you. You overtake me on the way here’. I was like Oh Lord Jesus! I’m guilty.”
Moxey also spoke to them about driving without seatbelts, which he reminded them is against the law, as is driving with a device in hand.
“A couple of years ago, I was in St. Thomas and the host pastor was driving us around. Every time he would use his phone, he would pull over to the side of the road, use the phone and when he was done, he would join in with traffic, and I’m thinking this is so annoying. But then I realized it was the right thing to do. What would that look like if we were to do that? If you have to use your phone while you’re operating your vehicle, to pull to the side of the road, use your mobile device, and when you’re done, then you can rejoin the traffic. Wouldn’t that be awesome?” Moxey vowed to practice this for the month.
He also touched on the issue of a man and woman marooned on a deserted island, but aren’t married to each other; he said whether they’re married at all is irrelevant. He asked of his congregants how long the people should wait before they know each other in a biblical sense – a question of moral ethics. Which he said also shows that we’re living in a time when the line between right and wrong is blurred, and there is a lot of gray area.
“Decades ago, there was something called situational ethics that started to surface. In situational ethics (contextualism), right and wrong depend upon the situation. There are no universal moral rules or rights – each case is unique and deserves a unique solution. Situation ethics rejects ‘prefabricated’ decisions and prescriptive rules’. It teaches that ethical decisions should follow flexible guidelines rather than absolute rules, and be taken on a case-by-case basis. Situational ethics focuses on creating the greatest amount of love, therefore, loving ends justify any means. In other words, if what I’m about to say to you isn’t true, then I can lie, because I love you and my love for you justifies me holding the truth from you.
“There is a word for this – “hogwash”. How long should you wait – forever?”
BREAKING IT DOWN
Referencing Isaiah 5:20 – Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, Moxey said God has insight into what is relevant today and that there are people who call evil good and good evil.
He also reminded worshippers that not all laws are equal and that certain laws are higher than others.
“Certain standards trump other standards. They’re not all equal – they’re not all the same,” he said before reminding them of the three standards worth establishing in life – the legal standard, the moral standard, and the ethical standard.
The legal standard Moxey reminded them is based upon the constitutional laws of the land and that everyone should abide by – complying with the laws of the land.
“We have an obligation to adhere to the legal standard, but also based upon what God says, everyone must submit to governing authorities. The laws of the land reflect the collective will of the people. Whatever the people desire in a democratic society becomes law; laws therefore are subject to change.
“Moral standard is based upon what is written in the Word of God, and what God writes in his Word does not change. God does not change. His moral standards do not change from generation to generation.”
Moxey said morality deals with what is regarded as right and wrong according to the Word of God. And that morality is not subjected to the urges and impulse of culture, because the impulse and urges of culture change.
“Moral standards are not based upon man’s consciousness, because man’s consciousness is subjective. Morality is based upon the impartial objective standards that are set by the Creator himself. God himself sets the standards for what is right and wrong – so much so, that the law of the land is subjected to man, but even the law of God, God himself, is subjected to it. God himself holds the law at such a great esteem, that He places himself under the Word of God. God’s Word goes above His name. In other words, all these things around us will come and go, but God’s Word will remain constant – the same. It will not change based on man’s whims, ideas or scientific discoveries. God’s Word will not change.”
Moxey said ethical standards are based upon a person’s written code of ethics, just as there are professional codes of ethics. And he said each person should have a personal code of ethics.
Referencing 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, which Moxey said is a powerful passage of scripture that many people have a problem with because it says, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ – but not everything is good for you, he said just because a person is allowed to do something does not mean they should do it.
“If there’s anything that’s clear to all of us, it is our desire to stand for our rights. And Paul says listen, you may have a right to it, but just because you may have a right to it, doesn’t mean you should have it. And man … we struggle with that, because what Paul is talking about may not be something illegal or immoral – legally it’s OK, morally it’s OK. He’s talking about an ethical standard that you establish for yourself, and many Christians can’t comprehend that – they don’t get it. You’re telling me that it’s OK to do certain things, and that even though it’s OK, that I shouldn’t. Paul says it’s not that you’re looking out for your own good, but you’re looking out for the good of others. In other words, you’re willing to disadvantage yourself, so that someone else is advantaged.”
Moxey spoke to the congregation about his top three personal codes of ethics – he is never in an office/room alone with the door closed with another female; he does not allow females other than his wife, children or mother to ride in the front seat of his vehicle; and he doesn’t say anything to anyone that he would not be able to say in front of his wife, Erica.
While none of the codes of ethics he set for himself are illegal or immoral, he said they are personal ethical standards he set for himself.
At the same token, he said the passage of scripture Paul referred to is challenging to many people because not everyone is willing to give up their right to do a certain thing and not everyone is willing to establish a certain standard.
But Moxey said people need to develop their personal code of ethics to live by, but which he said should not be imposed on anyone else.
“What is not in my code of ethics – I will not steal, because it’s illegal; I will not get involved in entanglements, and that’s covered already in the moral code, so I don’t need that in my personal code because there are things in my personal code that help to protect me from entanglements. Other personal codes that we may have, especially men, include to open doors for women, that’s a moral code and has to do with honor – so as long as I’m around, a woman would never have to touch a door. Another code is smoking cigarettes, I refrain from smoking cigarettes.”
For a complete list of moral standards, he encouraged people to read the Bible.
His address came as the country recognized its 48th Independence anniversary, and he said if The Bahamas is going to be stronger, ethical standards have to be established.
How do you take a stand in this world with these blurred lines? You stand by not compromising your moral values. The early Christians lived in a time,
culture and society where they worshipped God in a society that was hostile against the things of God. They were being persecuted. All the disciples were martyred for Jesus Christ. They were killed because they were followers of Jesus Christ – all of them with the exception of John the Baptist and not because they did not try; he was baptized three times in hot oil and he refused to die, so they just banished him. Christians were persecuted – that was how it was. But Peter and the apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.’
“There are certain things in life, if you live long enough, you are going to realize will conflict with one another, and in this instance, the legal standard conflicted with the moral standard. And when that conflict happened, the question is which one is going to trump the other? This is where we begin to learn that not all standards are equal. There is a legal standard here, and according to Peter and the apostles, the moral standard is higher. They said we would rather obey God than obey man. You don’t compromise the moral standard – no matter what. No matter how much pressure comes to bear on you. You maintain, you hold that moral standard even when it’s in conflict with the legal standard. The moral standard is higher.”
Moxey reminded them of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to worship the gold statue and had a choice to make – comply with the legal standard or operate at a much higher standard. They chose the higher standard, he told them, confident that God would deliver them.
“They were willing to burn for what they believe in. Where is that moral conviction in our nation? That we’re willing to uphold the moral standard above a legal, cultural standard, because that conviction is needed.”
The BHC pastor also spoke to the 16 months the country has been “dealing with” the pandemic and Emergency Orders requiring churches to shut down, which he said some people have likened to the persecution of Christians in biblical times. But he clarified that contrary to those beliefs, the church is not being persecuted as a result of the pandemic, even though some people would want to skew it that way.
“Emergency Orders that went out globally was for the safety of everyone and had nothing to do with not worshipping God,” he said.
ON THE FLIP SIDE
Moxey said on the flip side, there are other things at play – but there is social injustice that comes as a result of non-compliance with the wishes and will of culture and society, and maintain moral standard in the face of cancel culture. And he said we are living in a global situation, where people are being forced to call evil good and good evil, but that people must love people enough to tell them the truth.
“You get kind of tired and weary and very concerned when you see the church not representing the truth of God, the church not willing to say that homosexuality is a sin, because they may offend someone. It’s not that we say it to offend, we say it because it’s the truth and contrary to offending, we say it in love because we have to warn people. We cannot go along with this line that everything is going to be good. We cannot go along with the line that because you love God even though you’re a homosexual, that God understands that. That’s not fair to you to tell you a lie – to tell you something that’s not true. To call something that is evil, good, just so we can feel good about ourselves. That’s no compassion at all. The moral standard trumps the legal standard, so don’t compromise the moral standard.”
Moxey encouraged each person at the service to take a stand and establish their written code of ethics to keep them on the right path. Their code he said is between them and God and not something to be imposed on anyone else.
“It is always better to establish standards before we get into the thick of things because when you’re in the thick of things, sometimes the pressure and emotions of everything else comes to bear on a standard where it shouldn’t. So, it’s always better to establish your standard while you can connect with God.”
Moxey also left congregants with an assignment to complete over a seven-day period, which was to legally observe speed limits and traffic light laws; to pull to the side of the road if they needed to use their phone; morally, to be honest and tell the truth even if it embarrassed them; and ethically, establish top five ethical standards list. He told them they owed it to themselves to at least write down their ethical standards.