Against You, and You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight. Psalm 51:4 (NASB)
Only – “What’s the problem? It doesn’t hurt anyone?” So goes the excuse for “victimless” crimes. The world’s view of ethical action begins with “Do no harm,” and as long as no one suffers, most people of this culture believe their actions are legitimate. But the biblical view of crime is not a violation of the law. It is moral repugnancy judged by a holy God. The law of God is simply a helpful guide toward holiness, a guide designed to introduce our conscience to His holy character, not to provide us with a casebook of legal proceedings. David knew the difference. His cry, “Against you only,” underscores the fact that there are no victimless crimes in a divinely governed universe. Anything that insults, abuses, shames or violates God’s character is evil.
The Hebrew word bad is used in a variety of ways concerning solitary circumstances. It can mean alone, apart, by itself or only. It indicates separation. It is (pictographically) the doorway out of the house. Once we step through, we are apart, alone, removed from the family. In this case, sin is the door that separates, but the separation is not focused on the community of other persons. It is focused on the absence of the Father. David’s sin was an affront to God because it was not simply a violation of a law. It was an attack on God. You can think of this Hebrew term (bad) in Paul’s comment about sin’s entrance into the world. Sin came through the door that Adam and Havvah opened.
Today’s ethical relativist may argue that his actions do no harm and are therefore of no consequence in the grand scheme of things. Without a direct violation of some legal statute, no one is likely to press the matter. But followers of YHWH should. The requirements of the law have no bearing on the requirements of the Creator. They may intersect sometimes but the demands of the holy One of Israel are not circumvented by legal arguments or the absence of any particular law. “What does God demand of me?” is still life’s fundamental question. We may not make headway against the ethical relativist, but that’s not because of ethical issues. The lack of progress comes as a result of an unwillingness to acknowledge the creative right of God to demand what He wills. Where there is no shared paradigm concerning a holy God, there is no ground for ethical debate. This is why the discussion between pro-life and pro-choice does not, and cannot, move forward. The fundamental understanding of life itself as a gift from God is absent from the pro-choice position. As with all ethical relativism, this absence allows actions that are unconscionable for pro-life proponents. Abortion is a sin against God because it eradicates a life He gave to the world, but no pro-choice proponent worries about God’s point of view.
Perhaps there are some actions in your life that rest on the foundation of ethical relativism. Misreported income, promises not kept, agreements modified, reduction of tithing obligations (and I don’t mean ten percent to the church) – things which appear to have no tangible effect on others, things that don’t seem to matter very much. Perhaps we need to ask if God is harmed when we bend the rules. Maybe we aren’t standing on such firm ground after all.
Topical Index: only, sin, bad, ethics, Psalm 51:4