“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

To live by Christian ethics is attempting the impossible, for it is a premeditated plan of deliberate behavior to be assiduously followed in every situation, using Jesus Christ as the model. It is a plan to be like Christ in His perfection (Colossians 1:10). Though perfection is beyond our reach until we reach glory, it is still required of every believer because our Father commanded it: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14f). Every believer, of every age, needs to man-up and heed the call to Christian ethics. A biblical, wise, and intentional system of Christian ethics will inevitably cost you, sometimes dearly, but you will always gain an incalculable benefit by attempting to live pleasing to your Master alone (Joshua 24:14). You will possess a conscience that is clear, a growing trust in God, and the ability to rest upon divine promises and be assured of His approval.

Noah Webster defined ethics as “the doctrines of morality or social manners; the science of moral philosophy, which teaches men their duty and the reasons of it; a system of moral principles; a system of rules for regulating the actions and manners of men in society.” Ethics is all about the philosophical structure from which thinking and actions hang. The world’s standards of ethics seem to go only as far as professional ethics, while Christian ethics go a great deal further. For a Christian, ethics must arise from divine revelation. Psalm 119:105 declares, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Herein lies the challenge: A believer must studiously look to the Word of God first and set aside every habit, every feeling of affront, every customary expectation of society, every worldly bit of wisdom that does not square with the plain dictates of Scripture. God calls us to a higher standard of thinking and behavior. Our Lord stated in Matthew 22:37ff, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Since Christian ethics is a premeditated framework for your civil behavior among men, it is chiefly occupied with the practical outworking of the second part. Jesus concisely illustrated the second commandment in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is called the “Golden Rule.” Our treatment of others and placing their spiritual interests above our own earthbound interests is meaningless without the first and great commandment to authentically love the LORD your God. Only such a love is capable of the high bar of truly Christian ethics. How else is Christ to live in you? How else is your life lived by faith in the Son of God (Ephesians 2:8–10, Titus 2:11–14)?

I firmly believe every believer must build a biblical framework upon which to hang his every action. Do not take your sense of bearing from your peers, from society, or most other believers. Let Christ be your “north star.” A good place to start is the simple list of Ten Commandments, tried and true throughout the generations. The first five are like the “first and great” commandment and the last five fulfill the “second” commandment. Just swearing off murdering, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting is a good beginning.

Another good study is to search out what God says He “hates” in Scripture. Proverbs 6:16–19 lists seven things. (An additional one is found in Malachi 2:16.) Proverbs is a very good place to regularly haunt in your devotions since Solomon does a good job of unpacking the concept of “justice” which is a hallmark of a godly man. Micah 6:8 says, “…What does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Man’s definition of justice is rarely God’s, or so it seems these days. God is meticulous in His standards of honesty and justice (Leviticus 19:11, Proverbs 11:1, 20:23).

Hidden away in every corner of the Bible are ethical instructions. For instance, in Leviticus we learn to pay our debts as soon as possible (19:13) and to not take advantage of others (25:39). In Deuteronomy 15:13f we are taught the responsibility of generosity. In Colossians 3, Ephesians 6, Titus 2, and 1 Timothy 6, ethics in the workplace are taught. Romans 12:9ff presses the believer to give preference to others before himself and he is taught another key principle of justice, to treat everybody equally (Romans 2:11). 1 Corinthians 6 teaches that Christians ought not to sue one another.

The Bible is uncannily harmonious in its ethical instruction. Matthew 5:37, among other passages, teaches that “your word is your bond” just as Psalm 15, “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” Only with such high-quality ethics is Christ adequately represented before a lost and watching world. Prayerfully build and diligently practice your Christian ethics framework. Trust and obey.