“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us…We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.” (Justice Jackson, spoken at the Nuremberg Trials) There’s been a lot of commentary in the news lately about “moral equivalence”…or a lack thereof. For example, I’m morally superior to a racist, because the racists are wrong. Right? And, I can break the laws in order to stop the racists from their immoral behavior. Right? Wrong! The world around, one of the greatest causes of war is racism and believing that one race or group of people (“mine,” no matter who “mine” is) is superior to another. Those of us who profess to be non-racists may get caught in the trap of becoming moral racists…myself included! It’s all too easy to believe we’re better than someone else. As Christians, do we think we’re morally superior to other religious groups because we keep the Ten Commandments or follow Christ? Those of you who are atheists, do you think you’re wiser than religious people because you don’t believe in “superstitions” about God? Those of you who are agnostics, do you think you’re intellectually superior, since no one can really prove or disprove the existence of God through philosophical debate?
I heard a message at church last Sunday about the fact that we need to discern between good and evil. Our culture’s moral relativism has euphemized “evil” into “poor choices” or taken away the blame for sin altogether by labeling it mental illness. (There is true mental illness, but not all inappropriate and/or sinful behavior can be excused as simply mental illness.) We need to be willing to recognize evil for what it is and stand against it. I totally agree.
The Bible is crystal clear about two things:
1. God individually created and loves every person. We have different gifts and weaknesses, but we are all equal in our person-hood and needs. We have all descended from one source: G0d, who created Adam and Eve, from whom the rest of us descended as blood relatives. We can fuss and fume over who’s “best,” but the fact is, regardless of our race, we all share the same blood line!
2. Each of us has a selfish, sinful nature, also inherited from Adam and Eve. Regardless of our religious convictions and desire to be and do good, we all stand before God as sinful, morally inadequate, and in need of a Savior: “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:9-10). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:7-9). So, are any of us morally superior to others? Not in the ultimate sense. Some people have character as stalwart as Job…like a mighty mountain! Others are probably as devoid of moral fiber as the vast emptiness of the Grand Canyon. But, none of us compare to God in moral perfection. Job’s mouth was stopped when he caught a glimmer of God’s majesty. It is only through Christ, the God-man who alone lived a sinless life, that we can be reconciled to God and have true brotherhood restored: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us (Ephesians 2:13-14). In all the debates over moral equivalence, let’s remember that at best we are all only sinners saved by grace. Even if our cause is right and just, we are never above the law; we always need to obey the laws of God and government, working humbly within the system to honor God and serve man. I think the prophet Daniel is a worthy example for us. Jesus is our perfect example. May God be honored by all we do and say. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).
(All photos taken on my last trip to Berlin, although the one inflammatory banner was related to the Charlottesville debacle.)