I was in Montana this week for Continuing Education, which in this case consisted of a course titled “Methodology in Ethics”. The setting on Flathead Lake was enjoyable despite unseasonable heat and wildfires in the area, and the course covered theory that matters for how we live our lives.
While those outside of Christianity might search in vain for universal ethical principles and struggle to apply them consistently, God reveals to non-Christians and Christians alike His perfect law that shows us all, if we will only let it, where we have failed to live as we should. When by God’s leading we turn in sorrow from our sin and trust Him to forgive our sin for the sake of His crucified Son, Jesus, as revealed in His Gospel, then we are forgiven of our sins. Moreover, Jesus — Who by His read and preached Word, Baptism, Absolution, and Communion abides and is active in us — then keeps the law through us.
Of course, to the extent that even after our conversions we are still sinful, we quite often fail to keep law as we should. We may even struggle to discern what the best way to love God and our neighbor might be in a given set of circumstances. Our using ethical or moral methodologies and theories then might help or hurt.
The severity of God’s law in and of itself must never be lessened, so we dare not excuse thoughts, words, or deeds that truly are sin, neither for sinners before they repent nor for Christians who have repented. Nor may any such excusing of sin and its resulting lessening of our sinfulness be allowed to lessen the fullness of God’s Gospel.
Only as we are in Jesus and so as He is in us is the tension between the demands of God’s law and its fulfillment in Christ resolved for us. God sees believers in Jesus Christ as perfectly keeping the law, and, even as we still fail to perfectly discern and keep it, He graciously gives us eternal life and the peace and joy that come with it.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.