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Imposing our morality?

Turning the Tide

From Turning the Tide - Imposing our morality?

Do we have a right to 'impose our morality'? We live in a pluralist culture where religious belief is seen as a private matter and the supreme virtue is tolerance. It's not surprising that when we submit to God's rule in the way we behave, we will be accused of attempting to 'impose our morality' on our colleagues and patients. Of course we mustn't impose our beliefs in the sense that we force them to do what we say. After all the Gospel is an invitation not an imposition. But neither must we let the world 'squeeze us into its mould' (Rom 12:1-2). We must resist having the morality of others imposed on us to the extent where we refrain from speaking the truth or become a party to things which we know are wrong for fear of causing offence. The gospel is offensive and our allegiance to Christ will cause us at times to do things which others find offensive (Mt 5:11-12).We must be careful to ensure that the only offence we cause is that of the Gospel, that is that our manner is not ungracious (Col 4:5-6) but we must realise that at times people will dislike or even hate us purely because of how what we believe leads us to behave (Jn 15:18-21; 16:1-4).

There are two main areas where we can be tempted to compromise in our allegiance to Christ. The first is in giving medical advice which challenges our patients' or colleagues' lifestyles, and the second is in participating in unethical practices which society has given tacit approval to.

First, giving medical advice. As well as having skills in the diagnosis and treatment of disease doctors also possess knowledge about the aetiology, progression and spread of disease. Because before God all knowledge confers accountability, doctors have a responsibility to educate and warn patients about lifestyle factors and prognosis. If we fail to do so we are not giving them the opportunity to change their behaviour or prepare properly for the future. A patient's illness may well be linked to some lifestyle factor such as alcohol, smoking, fat consumption, stress or sexual promiscuity and if so they themselves may not be aware of the link. Some patients will take such advice well but others may be offended at our suggestion that they may have contributed to their illness in some way. Either way it's our duty to inform them sensitively and firmly in the hope that they will take our advice and change their behaviour.

Secondly, participating in unethical practices. There are situations when our patients or colleagues want us to help them do something we regard as unethical. It may also be illegal, such as making false statements on an official document or certificate or it may be something quite 'legal' such as being party to an abortion. If we refuse to co-operate in such situations we may be putting our relationships, reputations or careers at risk. In these conflict situations we have to remember that we are ultimately God's servants -and not primarily the servants of our patients, colleagues or superiors. Although we must never be rude or disrespectful there are times when we are obliged politely to refuse to act improperly remembering that 'we are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts' (1 Thes 2:4).



More from Turning the Tide: Turning the Tide

  • Knowing the Times
  • Why is ethical decision making more difficult?
  • Thinking World-Viewishly
  • Making Ethical Decisions the World's Way
  • Making Ethical Decisions God's Way
  • The Authority of the Bible
  • Authorities Outside the Bible?
  • Interpreting the Bible
  • Applying the Bible
  • Ethical Principles from the Bible
  • When Christians Disagree
  • Ends and Means
  • Conflicting Commands?
  • Imposing our morality?
  • Handling Conflict
  • Tips for ethical debates
  • Euthanasia
  • Abortion
  • The Status of the Embryo
  • Contraception
  • Animal Rights
  • Sexuality
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