By Ed Jordan
My family and I served many years in Eastern Europe as missionaries. We lived in the country of Hungary, and we loved the Hungarian people and culture, and were loved by them. After eleven years of mission service there, religious politics entered the picture and missionaries from our group had to decide what was to be the authority for their faith and practice.
For us that question was a “no-brainer,” as they say. We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and as interpreted through the life of Jesus, is the authority for our faith, ethics, and practice. Remaining firm in our convictions had its consequences. For the last thirteen years we have been back in the U.S.A., serving God where He opens doors of service.
I share this background as an example of decisions Christians are being called upon to make. We live in a world that is becoming more and more confused about what is right and wrong, what is the evaluative criteria by which to decide what is right and wrong, and what is indeed healthy leadership.
When the two alternatives given to a leader are both undesirable ones, how do you decide what to do? In the so-called “modern” world of the last century, leaders used objective tools such as logic and critical-thinking, i.e., rationality, coupled with the basic values of Judeo-Christian ethics, to aid in their decision making. Good leaders could at least to some degree use objectivity to assess a situation, and attempt to use probability and projected outcomes to reveal the “right” choice.
In a “post-modern” culture, values and ethics are often decided based upon subjective tools and criteria. Each person is encouraged to use their feelings to discern the popularity of positions in making decisions. Values are more fluid and more difficult to delineate. Many things are decided based upon how well something will resonate with the constituents. I know these are simplistic generalizations, but in a brief column one must generalize.
Many people reading this column are in some role of leadership, either in their families, churches, jobs, businesses, or personal planning. All of us face decisions, and we must all live and function in a world and culture that is in constant flux.
The speed of change challenges the best of planners, because by the time the plans are determined, adapted, resourced and carried out, the world has moved beyond the plans. So what is a leader to do? How can we plan for things that will endure the rapid changes of culture? How can we make decisions that will still be valid by the time they begin to be implemented?
I think we find part of the answer in Proverbs 21:2–3 (NIV): “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” God transcends time. He and His truth are always relevant. So part of our task is to align our lives, values, ethics, and plans to those things which are timeless, which will be just as relevant ten years from now as they were several thousand years ago.
This passage gives us three constants by which to evaluate the decisions we need to make. The first is to align our desires and plans with the values of the LORD. We all make lots of decisions that are decisions that we convince ourselves are the right thing, mainly because they are either the easiest or most enjoyable things for our agenda. We need to let God evaluate our ideas and plans, and make sure we are doing things for the right reason or with the right motives.
Secondly we need to do what is right in the sight of God, and right things will align objectively with the truth of God’s word. It is not easy to do what it right, especially when it is not popular or cutting-edge. It is not popular to acknowledge that there still are absolutes which remain right or wrong in God’s value system. It is not easy to do what is right, but it better to do what is right in God’s eyes, than to try to patch up the damage done from disregarding God’s values.
Thirdly, do what is just. “Just” is an objective value, i.e. what is aligned to the justness of God, whereas doing what is “fair” is a subjective value that aligns with what other people say is fair.
We should pray for everyone who is fulfilling the role of a leader. Pray that they will align their objectives and motives with God’s values, will decide to do what is right in the sight of God, and will live justly in relationship with God and others.