Last time we talked about how people’s ethics (“Halloween spirits could be evil! No candy for you!”) get in the way of joy and community. This harms not only the people who espouse those views, but the people around them.
Fortunately, this kind of thinking is fairly easy to detect. I employ a two-step process:
Let’s flash back to the beginning of all things. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created the world good. There were no exceptions. God didn’t make bad things. Not even the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (the one Adam and Eve ate of) was bad. It served a good and proper purpose. Evil found definition when people misused God’s good creation for selfish gain. The tree wasn’t evil, Adam and Eve saying, “We’re going to use this to become like God, taking power over everything, defining good and evil for ourselves!” was evil.
The same is true of the things in our lives. The same hands, elements, and actions that heal can also harm. Radiation can be used to treat cancer or cause it. Categorizing an object or action as inherently good denies its inherent potential for misuse. Categorizing an object as inherently evil does the inverse.
Churches used to do this all the time. Ask around 100 years ago and you would have likely heard some version of, “Church is good, but dancing is evil!” In the last century we’ve learned we can’t automatically assume that churches or church leaders are good. We’ve left a trail of broken lives behind learning that lesson. Meanwhile you, and maybe your parents, might well exist because of relationships that started with a dance.
People want to read scripture in ways that take the guesswork out, defining good and evil simply. We like it when we hear that X is good and Y is evil, particularly if we lean more towards X than Y. Trying to justify ourselves, we end up telling a lie. We objectify the world around us and its people, causing great harm.
Meanwhile we read in Galatians 5:22:
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
This provides its own ethic, less concerned with things than the effect those things have on the community. Is it possible to dance with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and etc.? I think so. Is it possible to do church without those things? Absolutely. Which determines what’s right or wrong, better or worse. Is it the thing itself, or what that thing brings into the world by how it’s used?
If an object, word, or action brings forth fruits of the Spirit, there is no law against that thing (at least the way it’s being used at that point). If an object, word, or action does the opposite, no law can justify it.
This ethic is more complex. It forces us to ask questions like who, where, when, why, how, and to what effect. It forces us to listen to each other instead of judging each other. It’s also a truer, more powerful representation of the way we’re meant to be together.