“An ethical system in a shame-and-honor-culture is a self-regarding and self-actualizing ethic, but an ethical system that draws on Christian beliefs is an other-regarding ethic based on a commitment to the good of others for their sake, not yours.”- Timothy Keller (emphasis author’s)
As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 3 of Forgive, he talks about the coming of Christianity. Most significantly, he notes the remarkable emphasis on and practice of forgiveness and nonretaliation.
Yet, the first three centuries, the Christian church was the most persecuted religion within the Roman empire. Hence, espousing the Christian faith carried a high social cost as well as political/judicial costs. Despite these factors, Christianity grew rapidly.
In addition, in the third century the Christian bishop Cyprian preached a sermon entitled De bono patientiae (‘On the Good of Patience’). Cyprian stated with great impact that Christians must wait for the day of future vengeance – with a strong patience. Above all, Cyprian’s sermon called Christians to nonretaliation, patience, and love for enemies. Yet, the sermon never diminishes the injustice of what’s been done to them.
According to C. John Sommerville, an English history scholar, when the Anglo-Saxons in England adopted Christianity, they had no clue what they were getting into. Because, like the Greeks and Romans before them, they found honor a self-evident value.
Thus, one used a show of strength, sometimes brutal, to earn and insist on respect from others. Earning higher social deemed you worthy of regard. Not so for people without social honor – slaves, women, cowards. In contrast, the values self-evident for the Christian missionaries included service, forgiveness, and charity – wanting the best for others.
In conclusion, Kenneth Scott Latourette states:
“It is important, too, to remind ourselves again that the church did not seek retaliation against its persecutors. In the Christian writings of the period there is little or nothing of bitterness or of a desire for revenge against those who were hounding the faithful.”
Today’s question: What ethical system do you observe most people using? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Frameworks of thought – forgiveness”