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Friday, May 20, 2016


Consistency (the absence of contradictions) has been called the hallmark of ethics. Ethics is supposed to provide us with a guide for moral living. To do so it must be rational, and to be rational it must be free of contradictions. If a person said, "Close the door but don't close the door," we would not know what to do; the command is contradictory and thus irrational. In the same way, if our ethical principles and practices are not consistent, it will be difficult to know what we ought to do and how to live.
How do we determine what our moral and ethical standards should be? The only sure guide is the unchanging Word of God. By accepting and following the commandments and principles in the Bible, we have a solid, consistent foundation on which to build our lives. Although the Bible does not speak on every detail we face today, such as computers and Internet, it does contain principles to guide us in the use of these things. "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes" (Psalm 101:3) is a principle that applies to the use of the Internet.
Where are we likely to uncover inconsistency in our lives? First, our moral standards may  contradict each other. We discover these inconsistencies by looking at situations in which our standards would require incompatible behaviors. For example, as a Christian, I believe I should obey the laws of the country in which I live. I also believe that it is wrong to harm innocent people. If the government would draft me to serve in the military, I could either obey the law or avoid harming innocent people, but I could not do both. To be consistent, I must weigh the choices to see which standard is more important and worth retaining. In such cases, the Word of God takes precedence over the laws of man.
A more important kind of inconsistency is that which can emerge when we apply what is known as situational ethics to making decisions. Right and wrong is not determined by the situation but by truth. For example, our church discipline gives us some guidelines for dressing modestly. To follow the guidelines at home but wear a different set of clothes on vacation is inconsistent and shows I don't really believe what I practice at home.
We often use the word "integrity" to refer to people who act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs. Consistency in our lives implies an inner integrity. For example, a desire to be courageous or honest may be contradicted by a desire to avoid the inconvenience or pain that courage or honesty often requires. Inner integrity will choose to accept pain to remain honest. Jesus chose the way of the cross to fulfill His mission on earth.
Consistency is not an end in itself for a person can be sincerely and consistently wrong. Christian ethics requires a consistency between our standards and actions, as well as among our inner desires. Finally, Christian ethics requires that there be consistency between how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.  "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).

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