By: Harold Sala
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Two slightly overweight men board a bus and head for the one empty seat. Both, approaching the seat from different directions, arrive at the same time and attempt to claim the seat. The result: both occupy half a seat while a rather large portion of each is suspended in mid-air.
One says, “This is my seat.” “No, it isn’t. It is my seat.” “I got here first,” says the other. “No you didn’t, I did.” “You’re wrong!” “No, you are wrong.”
In writing about the incident, C. S. Lewis raises the question, “Where did this idea of right and wrong come from?” Who says something is right and something is wrong? Lewis points out the fact that you’ve got to know what a straight line is before you know what a crooked one is.
Today the issue is fuzzy in the minds of a lot of people. Our basic understanding of right and wrong is the result of our Jewish and Christian roots, which have been the foundation of society. In simple terms, it has been the Bible which has provided an understanding of right and wrong. This book provides answers to issues such as the fact that it is right for me to love my wife, wrong for me to love another man’s wife. It is right for me to take the grain that is grown in my field; wrong for me to take what is grown in my neighbor’s. It is right for me to discipline my children; wrong to discipline yours.
Some of these issues were defined in a set of moral guidelines known as the Ten Commandments, which have been the backbone of society for 3,000 years. Other guidelines for living came with the teaching of the prophets and then in Jesus’ teaching. He said things such as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” instead of the rule of the street, which is: “Do unto others before they do the same to you!”
Today, however, we’ve obscured the line between right and wrong. Making the issue of moral right and wrong a subjective matter, nothing is really right or wrong. And when you abandon issues of right and wrong, chaos and anarchy result.
Whenever a mob is inflamed to violence, people justify violence, theft, and looting based on the fact that everybody is doing it, so I might as well. Typical is Octavio Sandoval, 17, who explained why he helped loot a furniture store, saying, “I saw everybody getting things so I said, ‘It seemed like fun’ so I started doing it.”
Was C. S. Lewis right in saying that you’ve got to know what a straight line is before you know what is crooked? If he was on target (and history well demonstrates that he was), then our failure to know the difference today results in the chaos that touches us at every level of life: in government, in education, in our schools, and, most important of all in our homes and families.
We can blame the educational system for its failure. We can castigate leadership today for failing to exemplify the qualities in their lives which we feel are important, but the fundamental failure is that of the home, where parents bear the great responsibility of teaching right and wrong. Who says so? God does, and that very clearly. Make a note of Deuteronomy 6, where God instructed, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). When we begin to do that again, our children will know clearly what is a straight line and what is a crooked one.
Resource reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-12.