I get up out of bed every day wanting to glorify God in everything I say and do.
Most days I fall short.
“Can a behavior be ethical but illegal at the same time?” my professor asked.
Interesting question, I thought. Ethics seem to be a tricky thing depending on what folks base their idea of right and wrong on. Ethics is simply a matter of right and wrong. The trouble is determining how to decide what right and wrong is and according to who.
Legal and ethical behavior are closely related, like brother and sister. They continually cross paths, but do not always point us in the same direction. I am not sure how many behaviors are ethical but illegal. On the other hand, I can think of several behaviors once considered unethical that are legal in today’s world.
The law condones some behavior, making it acceptable under the law, even though some people may consider it unethical. Conversely, something might be ethical but illegal. Same-sex marriage, abortion, legalization of marijuana, and euthanasia are current topics that come to mind when I think about what is legal versus what is ethical. I suppose that is where the standard we use to decide right from wrong comes into play.
There was a time in our nation when it was perfectly legal to own a slave. Even so, that did not make it right or ethical.
In most States, marijuana is still illegal. However, there are studies that have shown that marijuana may be better in treating cancer than chemotherapy. If I had a loved one with cancer would it not be ethical for a doctor to treat them with marijuana if that is what helped them? It is certainly illegal.
Let’s take it a step further. Their cancer is terminal. Nothing will save their life. The only option left is easing their suffering. Would it be ethical for them to end their life if that is what they decided they wanted to do? Would it be ethical for someone to help them? It is illegal.
I think it is easy for us to answer these questions from afar; but we really do not know how we will respond until we face crossing that bridge.
We need a solid foundation for figuring out what is right and wrong. Our different government agencies dictate what is legal versus what is not.
For me, personally, my faith provides me with a foundation of what God considers right or wrong. I believe God is the Creator and ultimate authority of the Universe. Therefore, it only makes sense that I rely on His standard for right and wrong (ethical behavior).
This may not work for you. You may rely on something else. Shrug. All I can tell you is God has worked faithfully for me even when I have not been faithful to Him.
I am grateful that whether I do right or if I do wrong God remains faithful in His grace and mercy toward me. He is faithful to love me even though I don’t always get it right.