The Christian & Social Mores

The word “mores” (pronounced morays) is defined as “customs that are considered conducive to the general welfare of society, and which, by observance develop the force of law, often becoming part of the legal code.”  We recognize these as generally accepted attitudes and practices that mark an orderly and moral society.  They are conventions that have, until recently, been expected as the norms for our behavior in a community, state or nation in the world.  There are variations in some of these conventions from one nation or culture to another, but many of them are the same in every culture.

One aspect of social mores is that they tend to change with the passing of time.  For example, in the 19th century it would have been scandalous for a woman to appear in public in a dress that revealed her ankles.  By the mid-20th century, however, women not only wore shorter skirts, but also lower cut tops, shorts, and tank-tops in public.  The same kind of changes also took place in other social mores, including the now infamous sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Whether we admit it or not, Christians are affected by social mores.  As society’s customs have changed over the years, Christians have followed along in varying degrees.  In some cases, the changes in our societal customs have little effect on our spiritual walk.  In other cases, however, these changes can raise significant issues for us.  As is the case with many circumstances in life, some Christians deride any changes, whether they affect our spiritual walk or not.  Others jump whole-heartedly into every change with little regard for the consequences.  Some, on the other hand, try to ignore the tensions produced by changing social mores as though ignoring them will make them go away.

A case in point is the changing societal attitude toward homosexuality.  The Attorney General of the United States recently declared that all U.S. courts  must grant the same status to same-sex partners that they would to a heterosexual married couple, whether the laws of their states recognize such unions or not.  This is an attempt to force the homosexual agenda on states against their will.  It is, in fact, unconstitutional, but few seem willing to press this point in our government.

For Christians, the push for so-called equality for homosexuals is a challenge to our faith.  God’s word is clear that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).  To say this does not mean that we hate homosexuals.  It simply upholds God’s will on this subject in the same way as observing that those who practice heterosexual immorality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).  The Lord said that His word will judge at the last day (Jn. 12:48).  Therefore, as slaves of Christ we must abide by His word and warn everyone to do the same.

When legislators propose a law to require some kind of moral conduct we often hear critics say, “You can’t legislate morality.”  This is a cop-out offered by those who do not wish to be bound by any moral code.  In contrast to this, though, we must observe that one cannot legislate immorality.  As Christians we are bound to obey those who rule over us (Rom. 13:1ff).  However, as Christians we are also bound to an even higher authority.  If our government decrees that evil is good, we cannot obey it.  We cannot change our attitude about sin simply because society decides to condone it.  Like the apostles, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).