Published on Feb 21st, 2015 by wpd-office | 0

To quote the Apostle Paul, “ I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NRSV) That may be the most honest and touching statement made by a Biblical writer. And we may be able to relate to that, at least sometimes.

Every pastor who is licensed and ordained is mandated in the Church of the Brethren to take training in pastoral ethics once every five years. And beginning next year, every Church of the Brethren congregation is asked to consider congregational ethics. Reactions by both pastors and congregations range from “We need it,” to “Why do we need to do this again?, to “We are good people. We should not have to take time to listen to all this. This is an insult.” Unfortunately, we need to consider ethics periodically, just as much as we need to read the passages in the Bible we have heard before, since we may just find new light, and since we are human. Further, this human condition not to do our best, but to do things we hate and know better was exactly what Paul was acknowledging. We find ourselves sometimes surprised and sometimes appalled at what comes from our mouths and what we do.

In an effort, then, to help us prevent such things we might say or do that do NOT bring glory to God, we offer the ethics training to pastors and congregations. We offer a consideration of what harm is done to God, to Christ, and to God’s people when the boundaries between helpful and harmful, when the boundaries between self-centered and more concerned about others, when the boundaries between God’s hope and our willfulness, are crossed.

I would like to spend a few moments, however, offering a positive picture of ethics. Too often, we believe that ethics training simply lists all the “do nots.” Let us consider the “do’s” of our life together in Christ.

  • Pastors and congregations are called to believe that their life together is sacred, the result of God’s invitation.
  • Pastors and congregations are called to care mutually for one another—never seeking what is wrong and always seeking what is right and good and true and honorable!
  • Pastors and congregations do not operate as businesses, but as the body of Christ, together, working shoulder to shoulder to bear fruit and to bring people to the best they can be and to discover the abundant life for which Christ came.
  • Pastors and congregations are to be different than the world around—not carrying grudges and speaking judgment, but forgiving with gracious with ready hearts, speaking with the intent of mutual upbuilding mentioned in Ephesians 4:29 NRSV.
  • Pastors and congregations seek only the good of one another.
  • Pastors and congregations are generous to one another.
  • Pastors and congregations serve one another as if they were washing the feet of Jesus.
  • Pastors and congregations constantly pray for one another and their families. Congregations and pastors are concerned to be open to the messages of God, some of which may be prophetic and call people back to their best and some of which may bring love and comfort and care.
  • Congregations and pastors operate out of the intent to find and nurture with joy the image of God in everyone.
  • Congregations and pastors always return good for either good or evil.

Congregations and pastors, I submit, may find that such a healthy and whole and God centered and Christ loving and Holy Spirit guided may be the most appealing to people today, regardless of any differences that might be perceived. Thanks for listening to Sonja’s Positive Ethics List! Try it and let me know how it works out for you! AMEN

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Sonja Griffith
District Executive Minister

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