Moral equivalence – saying that something is ‘as bad’ or ‘as good as’, or ‘not as bad as’ by comparison with something else – increasingly dominates many conversations. Commenting on those who say that democracy is just ‘as bad as’ totalitarianism, George Orwell noted that all such arguments ‘boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread’.
In the Woody Allen movie, Bullets over Broadway, when one of the characters is questioned about the issue of conscience, the response is, “You just have to ignore the bourgeois nonsense of morality.” Gone is an awareness of logic and moral clarity needed for a healthy society.
Today men and women have lost confidence in truth: you can’t talk about right and wrong anymore. In issue after issue people are casually overturning long-held moral values – for example on matters such as abortion, euthanasia, and marriage.
How do we respond? How should we live in this climate of changing attitudes?
Psalm 8 is one of the great psalms of the Bible moving from considering the greatness of God and the vastness of his creation, to the greatness God intends to give men and women. In verses 5-8 we read: …You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands, …
God has placed men and women just under the position of the heavenly beings. From the first, God’s intention was to invest in us a royal sovereignty, crowning us with glory and honor.
The theme is introduced in Genesis 1:26f: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
Intended to be the glory of creation, tragically, humanity succumbed to temptation and became creation’s shame (Genesis 3). Failing to honor God and give Him thanks (Romans 1:21) we have lost the glory God intended for us (Romans 3:23). Our minds are distorted, and our affections are darkened (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:21b).
But that is not the end of the story. Psalm 8 is not just a statement of wonder: it is also prophetic.
For as we look back at it through the lens of the New Testament we see that God in his mercy has provided the means for our rescue through his own personal involvement. The Second Person of the One eternal God drew into himself human form. As both truly God and truly man he lived amongst us as one of us, and through his death and resurrection paid in full the death penalty we deserve, opening the way for us to return to share in the glory of his dominion.
How important it is that we learn from our Forerunner, Jesus Christ, for we are not there yet. We need to attend to his values and his example. Through his teaching in the Sermon on Mount (in which he doesn’t abrogate the Ten Commandments) we see that there is a law superior to the laws of human legislation. We also see that God is not simply concerned with our actions, but with the attitudes of our minds and hearts.
Psalm 8 not only speaks of ‘the smallness’ of men and women (as we touched on last week), but also speaks of the dominion that God bestows on his people. Indeed the day will come when all his people will participate in the glory to be revealed (Romans 8:18).
C. S. Lewis commented: ‘There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors’ (The Weight of Glory).
The bookends of the Psalm in calling on us to worship God truly, show us that the starting and the ending of the answer to our questions about who we are and how we should live, is God: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (8:1a and 9).
How necessary it is for us to reflect on this – who God is, his utter power, perfection, and glory. He is the God who has not only made us, but in his love has rescued us and now calls us to be his loyal followers. He calls us to see the fallacy of moral equivalence so we can live in the light of his moral clarity – promoting truth and justice for the good of all.
Optional. You may want to reflect on Psalm 8, Colossians 1:15-20 and Romans 8:18-30.