Chapter 1.1 (CRE Sec 4)

Meaning and basis of Christian ethics

Meaning of Christian ethics

Ethics are moral principles which influence a person’s behaviour. Christian ethics are guidelines on Christian living based on biblical principles. Ethics comprise the moral values and attitude that govern how people relate to each other in a society. Ethics therefore determine both personal behaviour and societal behaviour. Some of the moral values that guide societal ethics are kindness, patience, love, generosity, honesty and humility. We practise such Christian ethics by sharing with others, visiting the sick, being just, holy and being fair to others.

Basis of Christian ethics

What factors do you take into consideration before making a moral judgement? Religion and morality cannot be separated. One’s moral behaviour is guided by one’s religion or beliefs. The behaviour of Christians is therefore guided by their belief in a relationship with God.

The following are sources or basis of Christian ethics:

The Bible

Christians accept the Bible as the Word of God. God communicates to his people through the Bible. The Bible offers answers to questions in relation to the life of a Christian. For example, the Ten Commandments guide a Christian on how to relate with God and fellow human beings. Christians therefore refer to the Bible for guidance in their actions and the moral choices they make in life.


Conscience is the sense of right and wrong that governs a person’s thoughts and actions.

Conscience tells us whether it is wise or worthwhile to do or not to do something. Depending on whether the act is right or wrong the mind generates a feeling of acceptance or guilt. Adam and Eve were given instructions by God concerning the tree of life. They had the will to choose between right and wrong. Their conscience condemned them as we read in Genesis 83:, “they hid from the Lord...” Having chosen to do wrong, they were punished.

Christians have a choice between right and wrong and their conscience, like that of all human beings, should provide the basic guidance to choose what is right. In his letter to Timothy, Paul says that evil-doing is a result of ‘conscience that have been seared with hot iron’. This means that everything becomes acceptable when one’s conscience is dead. One does not feel guilty even when they do wrong.

Faith in God

Faith is a strong and unshakable belief in something or someone. Christian faith is the trust in God, His actions and promises.

As a personal experience, faith in God motivates the Christian to make ethical decisions that show confidence and loyalty to God’s word. A true Christian who has faith in God will always make an effort to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians’ behaviour is determined by their faith in God, which is shown in their works.

James writes that “so faith by itself, if it has no works is dead” (James 2:17). This shows that it would be unethical for a Christian to claim to have faith with no action to prove it. A Christian who has faith in God will help the needy in the society, such as, those living with HIV and AIDS, the faminestricken, orphans, widows, widowers and those in prison.

Teachings of Jesus Christ

During his life on earth, Jesus taught people many things. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), Jesus taught us how to behave towards those who are in problems, even if they are our enemies. His teachings also deal with issues such as the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-5), fasting (Luke 5:33-39), divorce (Mark 10:2) and discipleship (Luke 6:17-49). Christ’s teachings guide Christians when making decisions that involve moral judgement.

Church community

Christians are also guided by the Christian Community. For example, Christians receive guidance on moral behaviour from the teachings they get from their churches. A true priest or preacher will guide the congregation to make the right decisions in their day-to-day challenges. Such guidance will be based on the will of Jesus Christ and biblical teachings. For instance, what would your priest or pastor advise you to do if you wanted to join a group of poachers to make some money?

Church rituals

Church rituals are also a source of Christian ethics. When people undergo a marriage ritual, they vow to be faithful to each other till death. Faithfulness is therefore a moral choice demanded by the Christian marriage ritual. Similarly, when people are baptised, they take a vow to change and lead a life that is pleasing before God.


Most churches have incorporated many African values in their Christian teachings. The behaviour of most Christians has not been cut off completely from their African roots. For example, in traditional African society, elders were highly respected by the youth. This is a culture that is emphasised by both Christianity and traditional African culture.

How can African culture help Africans to behave in the following circumstances?

  1. As a family member
  2. As a married man or woman before the in-laws.

Authoritative Christian literature

As Christians, we also derive our ethics from authoritative Christian literature. Such literature includes pastoral and papal (from the Pope) letters on several issues. There are also several Christian theologians who have written inspiring books on moral guidance. They include the works of Bishop Henry Okullu, Cardinal Otunga, Barclay, Myles Monroe, Joyce Meyer and Stormie Omartian, among others. These theological works are based on biblical teachings.

Secular state law

The constitution of any nation guides the behaviour of its citizens. The Constitution gives guidelines on how people should behave in relation to others and to the state. For example, in the Kenyan Constitution, theft, murder and rape are against the law. It also states that it is the duty of every citizen with an income to pay taxes to the State. Christians, therefore, being citizens of the country, are guided in their behaviour by the Constitution. As Jesus put it, ‘render unto Caeasar what is Ceasar’s...’ (Luke 20:25).

God’s revelation

As learnt in Form One, God reveals Himself to people through prophets, natural events, the law, dreams and visions. Through such ways, God guides Christians on how they should approach certain issues, hence determine their behaviour.

Hot Spot

Dan and Joy are strong Christians who are happily married with four children. They were both working for a certain company. Due to economic hardships, the company closed down and both Dan and Joy lost their jobs. Consequently, their children dropped out of school.

In an attempt to sustain the family economically and take the children back to school. Joy decided to brew traditional liquor for sale.

  • As a Christian, what advice would you give to this family? Why?
  • What are the consequences of the decision Joy has taken?

Study exercise

    1. List down your school rules. 
    2. Explain how school rules guide your behaviour in school. 
    1. State the meaning of Christian ethics. 
    2. Explain the basis of Christian ethics. 
    3. To what extent should people rely on their conscience when making moral judgement? 

Class Activity

Compose a song on Christian ethics.

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