The classic humanist statement is; “My rule is to love my neighbor and do good unto others. Why do I need god to be a good person?” And I must agree that people can have relatively good characters without recognizing the creator. However, I propose that the first great ethic is to recognize the creator? To claim to be ethical and yet not recognize the Creator is just not really ethical, it is incomplete ethics.
Can we love the art and not recognize the artist? Jesus says that there are two parts to true ethics, “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the great dividing point in ethics. If this is true that God has really revealed himself in Christ, then the ultimate unethical act would be to ignore him. If we agree that recognizing the creator is the first principle of ethics then that becomes a premise out of which the rest of our values will flow.
Which part of this great twofold ethic we emphasize depends on our view of the Creator/ creation relationship? Often religious people are known for emphasizing the first part, loving God, while neglecting the second half, loving neighbor. Religious people can be all about doing a church thing for God. But ignore what God says about loving our neighbor. In contrast the non-religious folk love the creation and love people but ignore the Creator. Truly consistent ethics should be more holistic recognizing the connection between Creator and creation. If we do recognize the Creator first then we can potentially have a balanced ethic towards people. This balance will drastically affect our views of social justice. The ancient scripture says, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20).
The Bible declares clearly that whether we live under a strict moral religious system or prefer just living by our own conscience, none are considered pure in the sight of the Creator. The amazing thing about God’s revelation in Jesus is that God is reaching out to us, to make that bridge between him and us. In this grace of God, ethics can be transformed from legal obligation into love, through faith.