I found Kevin Donnelly's article particularly interesting as the principal of the local primary school has said that she would prefer lessons on ethics, rather than religion or Religious Education as we call it. Does this reflect the lack of marketing of the relevance of Christianity in our every day lives by the Christian Church?
When Jesus taught the 'Golden Rule' ( Matthew 7:12) he wasn't talking about warm fuzzies and trying your best - he was coming to the end of the Sermon on the Mount which contains some pretty in depth teaching. Even when he gave the new commandment 'Love your neighbour as yourself' it was preceded by love God first with all your being. God just cannot be left out of the equation of loving others.
When God gave Moses the Law or 10 Commandments, God knew that the people would not be able to live up to God's standard, so he also provided a way for people to be forgiven, at that time, through the sacrificial system. Guilt and forgiveness are very real issues in our lives, but there is no provision for dealing with this when we choose to live by our ethics alone. I guess 'turn over a new leaf and start again' can bring some consolation, but what happens to the old leaf? 'Doing good' can be a very rewarding experience but as Kevin Donnelly has implied there is much more to this life than the here and now.
But what of Christian ethics? It is so easy to slip into the mode of 'if I do this or that I will be a better Christian';that is, trusting in our works or ethics instead of accepting God's grace. We don't have to do anything to earn God's love or favour but it is so easy to set ourselves a set of ethics and then think that these should apply to others as well.
Depending on your age and denomination you could probably reel off a list of Do's and Don't's which have been suggested to you or even been imposed on you. This is so contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. I recall as a teenager the ethics of our youth group and when I moved to another area I was shocked that these wonderful Christian young people were enjoying the activities which were frowned upon where I had just come from. That, for sure, set me thinking and re-evaluating what the Bible had to say compared to people's own ideas or ethics. How much Christian teaching has there been on Christians having personal boundaries? Very little in my experience.
Secular and Christian ethics raises so many questions but whatever our views are on any particular subject, God had it right when he said to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah in chapter 31:31"the days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant...I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts" and to the prophet Joel chapter 2:28 "I will pour out my Spirit on everyone".
As our relationship with God develops and grows, so his Spirit teaches us what is right and wrong for us, and always based on what he has written in the Bible. Questions,Questions and more Questions will always arise but God's Spirit is with us to teach us God's ways. We need to listen very carefully.