A Gospel for Liberals
Considering the historical     Jesus in light of today’s most controversial social Issues

Jesus Was a Situational Ethicist

He approached each person, each situation, openly, without any preconceived rules or overarching notions dictating his response.  His only governing predisposition was his principle of love. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” He then concludes, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In doing so, he summarizes and subjugates the entire Jewish Torah (the Written Law) and the writings of the Prophets (those believed to have spoken on behalf of God) to the authority of love.  He was, therefore, willing, as we have seen, to violate the law if doing so brought about a more loving outcome. “The Sabbath was made for humankind,” he said, and not humankind for the Sabbath.”

By promoting and placing love above all else, Jesus seems to have been more a situation ethicist than anything else.  Situation Ethics was coined in 1966 with the publication of Joseph Fletcher’s controversial book by the same name. “The situationist,” he writes, “enters into every decision-making situation fully armed with the ethical maxims of his community and its heritage, and he treats them with respect as illuminator of his problems.  Just the same he is prepared in any situation to compromise them or set them aside in the situation if love seems better served by doing so.” In this spirit, although he was willing to violate the law when necessary, Jesus was not an anarchist. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets,” he said, “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

Joseph Fletcher’s Six Propositions of Situation Ethics
1.	Only one ‘thing’ is intrinsically good; namely love, and nothing else.
2.	The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else.
3.	Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.
4.	Love wills the neighbor’s good whether we like him or not.
5.	Only the end justifies the means; nothing else.
6.	Love’s decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively.