Ethos That Lies Behind the Ethics

Article excerpt

AS I LOOK over my columns for the Journal I realize that I have fallen into a pattern that I have often criticized. Almost every column has focused on a particular moral problem. There is a great deal to be said for this approach. It is timely and topical. It makes it clear that Christianity is relevant and has the resources to speak to contemporary issues. Even if I don't offer simple solutions, the focus on concrete problems helps to suggest both the questions that need to be asked and the ways in which Christians can work together even where they disagree about how to respond.

The focus on particular moral problems can be helpful, but it misses aspects of the moral life that we need to remember. This focus can also be divisive. We talk about the things we disagree about. This tends to conceal basic characteristics of the moral life that we, as Christians, share before we face any particular problem. The result is that we neglect the ethos of the community we are called to be as the body of Christ. The focus on disagreement also threatens to undermine the life of that community.

What I would like to do therefore is to think about the ethos that should lie behind Christian ethics. There are many places where I could start. The qualities of faith, hope, and love would be an obvious place, but I have chosen to start with the notion of hospitality.

The Christian commitment to hospitality helps us to flesh out what we mean by the great virtues of faith, hope, and love. Hospitality was a key theme in the New Testament. Frequently we see Jesus enjoying the hospitality of others and making it an image of the good news of God's kingdom.

I have travelled around the church; I have experienced a great deal of Christian hospitality so it has been very much on my mind. …