I used to think that hypothetical ethical questions about extreme cases or large-scale problems mattered. I used to think that they help us answer the everyday questions.
I was wrong.
A few weeks aog, I solemnly announced to some close friends that I, at some time in my life, am highly likely to commit some form of treason against the United States of America.
They were, of course, quite surprised. Their surprise melted into interest when I stated that since
- the definition of treason includes giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and
- as a Christian, I am dedicated to giving comfort and aid to all people, as if I were doing it to Christ.
- Thus: if I come across people who are enemies of the United States, my duty to God is to care for their spiritual and physical needs.
The topic moved on to pacifism, and again, I suggested that it would be unwise for me to kill an attacker in self-defense, since I don't know the state of his/her soul.
As I drove home that evening, I was strongly rebuked by the Holy Spirit. Why had I said those things? For the growth of my friends? No. It was from pride, that they might think me a more loving person, and for the entertainment of a good argument/discussion.
"But it's true!" I protested.
"That may be so," the voice of righteousness replied, "but do you truly love others?"
I thought for a while.
Then I saw the important truth. Whether or not I am willing to inconvenience my country for the good all people, I have not been willing enough to inconvenience myself for the good of others.
It may be true that I might embrace death so an attacker might live. I might respond well in extreme situations. But such hypothetical questions distract me from the reality of my daily sins, of the times I am not willing to give up desires, accomplishments, or routines to meet the deep needs of those around me.
I apologized to my friends, and I apologize to you.