The article contains the picture of an infant staring intently. Along with the astonishing report, “Researchers in baby psychology at Yale University say that they have gathered evidence that suggests babies demonstrate a ‘rudimentary’ moral sense very soon after they are born, indicating that morality may be hardwired into human beings from the very beginning.” This, in turn, recalls from the creation narrative: “So God formed man in his own image, in the image and likeness of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
What may be implied by this recent discovery? Morality has to do with what is proper or appropriate. In what context? According to the Genesis account, with God as Creator.
If creator, then what? It is his to do with as he pleases. Then to serve his righteous intent as long as deemed desirable. Leading C. S. Lewis to conclude, “Only God knows when no more time will serve any good purpose.” Meanwhile, persons should make the most of the opportunity that life affords.
“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psa. 103:15-16). While life fleeting, the psalmist continues: “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remembers to obey his precepts.”
In greater detail, morality implies three related considerations. First, intention. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you,” the psalmist allows (119:11). While indicative of his calculated intention.
This recalls the saying, “It is difficult to hit a target if you don’t have one.” Which serves as a warning against proceeding aimlessly through life.
Second, decision. Recalling the lyrics of my favorite gospel chorus, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” Whether alone or in the company of others. In good times and bad times. Whether for short duration or long.
“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” a certain scribe addressed Jesus (Matt. 8:19). Apparently caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have hole and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Thus alerting him to the cost of discipleship. What Dietrich Bonhoeffer refers to as costly grace, in contrast to cheep grace—which he repudiates as the deadly enemy of the church.
Finally, action. In this regard, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). What does this entail? Proclamation of the gospel. In brief, “He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
Then as attested by doing good. “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” James rhetorically inquires (2:14). “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”
All of which recalls my deployment to Nigeria. Pioneer missionaries, like Tommy Titcomb, focused on sharing the gospel. So that on one occasion, he was not allowed to enter a village. Whereupon, he crawled up into the rock outcropping overlooking the location, and began to shout out the glad tidings.
In retrospect, he is recalled with deep appreciation. So that on one occasion I overheard a conversation, in which one of the men referred to a certain person as resembling the missionary with regard to reconciling previously hostile people.
However, once nationals were primed to share the gospel, missionaries increasingly took on related ministries. Such as health services, education, and transportation. That which would qualify as a holistic ministry. While the nationals insisted that it should not be one to the exclusion of the other. In graphic terms, complaining that a certain pastor was more concerned for raising chickens than ministering to his congregation.
Recalling again the report concerning infant morality. “In the end, we found that 6 and 10 month old infants overwhelmingly preferred the helpful individual to the hindering individual,” Professor Paul Bloom allowed. “This wasn’t a subtle statistical trend; just about all the babies reached for the good guy.” So that C. S. Lewis’ admonition seem in order, “Pray that nice people may become Christians, and Christians may become nice.”
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