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What is your moral compass?


February 20, 2014
Have you noticed the rash of “public opinion polls” that have been published lately?

It seems every week we read of a new poll on abortion or same-sex marriage or the legalization of marijuana, just to name a few. My point is not to question the accuracy of polls, but I do know when people are polled as to how often they attend worship services, many people say they are at worship more often than they actually are.

Also throughout the years, I have noted a tendency on the part of many politicians to “follow the polls,” so to speak, in terms of their public policy. While this causes me some concern, this is not my main point.

To me the real question is: “what is our moral compass?”

What I mean is upon what do we base our opinions or for that matter, upon what do we base our actions? What guides us in our thinking, in our doing, in our speaking, how we feel and how we respond concerning the issues we face in life?

Plus, we can and I believe should, expand the question also taking into account what is best not just for ourselves, what we want, how we feel; but in addition, what is best for our family, our community, our society, our world. We do not live in a vacuum. Our actions have an impact upon others and what others do impacts us.

For those of us who come from the Judo-Christian tradition, our understanding of what we are called upon to believe and how we should live out our lives is directed by scripture. But even here I have noticed over the years less reliance upon God’s word and more upon what we want — how we feel, what suits our needs.

As I look at our society today I cannot help but be reminded of the refrain of the book of Judges, which is repeated four times: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes!”

I am very much aware of the dangers of trying to legislate morality and the political in-correctness of suggesting one’s lifestyle must conform to a set standard, and I certainly would not want to return to a “Scarlet Letter” time and place. My concern is have we tipped the scales in favor of our “rights,” and neglected our “responsibilities.”

Being a pastor I am continually drawn to the words of scripture.

I Corinthians 10:23-24 I believe has some very wise words for all of us. St. Paul says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.”

In our moral choices have we, are we, turning inward, focusing primarily upon our own needs, what we want and therefore often failing to bear in mind the larger picture of what impact our words and actions might have upon others? Or in the words of St. Paul do we seek our own advantage over that of others?

The simple reality is, as I have already suggested, we do not live in a vacuum and yes, our words and actions do have an impact upon others, near and far.

What do you think? Has the pendulum in our society swung to the side of an over emphasis upon our individual rights and away from looking at what is best for society as a whole, our responsibilities? I suppose we could go off and live alone as some sort of hermit, but in reality we do share this earth and we do share the communities in which we live; thus it seems at least to me, that it would be unwise to fail to take into account the larger picture.

What do you think?

What should be our moral compass that gives guidance and direction to our lives?

Schmidt is the senior pastor at First English Lutheran Church, 800 Vernier,Grosse Pointe Woods.

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