Christian ethics and the powerless

The recent political campaign and election week have had many of us thinking about politics and government. For those of us who look at bioethics from a biblical perspective we have had to think about how our perspective on moral issues affects public policy and how we as a people govern ourselves. What do we do when no one seems to support a public policy platform that includes both care for the poor and care for refugees that we see in God’s message to Israel through the prophets and respect for the value of every human life including those who are unborn, terminally ill, or disabled who have been made in the image of God?

One thing to remember is that our ethical beliefs are first about how we ourselves should live. For Christians that means being willing to submit to God’s moral truth and live our lives in a way that reflects his goodness and love. Our next obligation is to do what we can to protect those who are the most helpless and on the fringes of society, including influencing public policy to help accomplish that end. That is the focus of much of what the prophets told Israel and what Jesus demonstrated in how he cared for those around him. We need to stand for what is right in every situation, but focus on public policy that protects those who are weak. That can include preventing the unborn from being killed, protecting the old, infirm, and disabled from being euthanized, and providing care, including adequate health care, to the poor, the immigrant, and the refugee.

We should not be surprised that biblical values do not line up fully with any of the major political groups in our very divided and very secular society. We live in a fallen world. The political process recognizes that people are basically self-centered and appeals to that selfishness to get elected whether that involves an appeal to protect the voter’s economic well-being at the expense of others or an appeal to satisfying the voter’s desires without moral limitations. The Bible tells those of us who follow Jesus that our focus should not be on ourselves, but on others, particularly those who cannot stand up for themselves. In a fallen world that perspective is not likely to win elections, but we still need to appeal to the sense of what is right that people have written on their hearts to move government toward protecting and caring for those who are powerless.

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