At one time, Francis Schaeffer says, he shared a platform with former cabinet member
and urban leader John Gardner, during which Gardner spoke on the need to restore values to
our culture. After he finished, a Harvard student asked him: "On what do you build
your values?" Gardner, usually articulate and erudite, paused, looked down, and said,
"I do not know." I repeatedly encounter the same reaction. When I have
contended before scholars and college audiences that in a secular, relativistic society
there is no basis for ethics, no one has ever challenged me. In fact, in private they
Charles W. Colson, The Body, Word Publishing,
1992, p. 162-163.
When actress Sophia Loren sobbed to Italian movie director Vittorio De Sica over the
theft of her jewelry, he lectured her: "Listen to me, Sophia. I am much older than
you and if there is one great truth I have learned about life, it is this--never cry over
anything that can't cry over you."
A.E. Hotchner, Sophia: Living and Loving.
Norman Cousins, after his experiences at UCLA Medical School, notes a common
misunderstanding about what is "real" and "unreal." In Bob Benson's He
Speaks Softly, Cousins is quoted: "The words 'hard' and 'soft' are generally used
by medical students to describe the contrasting nature of courses. Courses like
biochemistry, physics, pharmacology, anatomy, and pathology are anointed with the
benediction of 'hard' whereas subjects like medical ethics, philosophy, history, and
patient-physician relationships tend to labor under the far less auspicious label 'soft'.
. . (but) a decade or two after graduation there tends to be an inversion. That which was
supposed to be hard turns out to be soft, and vice versa. The knowledge base of medicine
is constantly changing . . . But the soft subjects--especially those that have to do with
intangibles--turn out in the end to be of enduring value."
"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I
wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not
given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not that, and I
had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."
I recently saw the story of a high school values clarification class conducted by a
teacher in Teaneck, New Jersey. A girl in the class had found a purse containing $1000 and
returned it to its owner. The teacher asked for the class's reaction. Every single one of
her fellow students concluded the girl had been "foolish." Most of the students
contended that if someone is careless, they should be punished. When the teacher was asked
what he said to the students, he responded, "Well, of course, I didn't say anything.
If I come from the position of what is right and what is wrong, then I'm not their
counselor. I can't impose my views." It's no wonder that J. Allen Smith, considered a
father of many modern education reforms, concluded in the end, "The trouble with us
reformers is that we've made reform a crusade against all standards. Well, we've smashed
them all, and now neither we nor anybody else has anything left."
Senator Dan Coats, Imprimis, Vol. 20,
Number 9, Sept 1991.
On April 14, 1912, 10:00 p.m. the Titanic crashed into an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic
and four hours later sank. One woman in a life boat asked if she could go back to her
room. She was given only three minutes to do so. She hurried down the corridors, already
tilting dangerously, through the gambling room piled ankle-deep in money. In her room were
her treasures waiting to be taken, but instead, she snatched up three oranges and hurried
back to the boat. One hour before she would have naturally chosen diamonds over oranges,
but in the face of death, values are seen more clearly.
Robert Oppenheimer was the one man responsible for the development for the atomic bomb
the United States used against Japan at the close of World War II. He was born in 1904 in
New York City, and showed an early interest in science. He entered Harvard at 18 and
graduated 3 years later with honors. He continued his studies in theoretical physics at
various universities in Europe prior to teaching at the California Institute of
Technology. He was considered one of the top ten theoretical physicists in the world, and
specialized in the study of sub-atomic particles and gamma rays.
From 1943 he began
directing 4500 men and women at Los Alamos, New Mexico, whose sole purpose was to build an
atomic bomb. Two years and two billion dollars later, they had successfully detonated the
first atomic bomb. When he saw what he had made, Robert Oppenheimer underwent a radical
revaluation of his values; a value inversion. Upon seeing the first fireball and mushroom
cloud, he quoted from the Bagavad-gita, "I am become death."
Two months later he
resigned his position at Los Alamos and spent much of the remainder of his life trying to
undo the damage, trying to get the genie of atomic weapons back in the bottle. There are
certain individuals who, in a flash so to speak, like Oppenheimer, see that all they once
valued is really of no lasting value at all. Their entire life has been turned on its
head, everything is upside down. They see with painful clarity that the very things they
prized most in life are in reality worthless baubles.
I once heard of a child who was raising a frightful cry because he had shoved his hand
into the opening of a very expensive Chinese vase and then couldn't pull it out again.
Parents and neighbors tugged with might and main on the child's arm, with the poor
creature howling out loud all the while. Finally there was nothing left to do but to break
the beautiful, expensive vase. And then as the mournful heap of shards lay there, it
became clear why the child had been so hopelessly stuck. His little fist grasped a paltry
penny which he spied in the bottom of the vase and which he, in his childish ignorance,
would not let go.
When you're raised in the country, hunting is just a natural part of growing up. For
years I enjoyed packing up my guns and some food to head off into the woods. Even more
than the hunting itself, I enjoyed the way these trips always seemed to deepen my
relationship with friends as we hunted during the day and talked late into the night
around the campfire. When an old friend recently invited me to relive some of those days,
I couldn't pass up the chance. For several weeks before the trip, I had taken the time to
upgrade some of my equipment and sight in my rifle. When the day came, I was ready for the
hunt. What I wasn't ready for was what my close friend, Tom, shared with me the first
night out on the trail.
I always enjoyed the time I spent with Tom. He had become a leader in his church and
his warm and friendly manner had also taken him many steps along the path of business
success. He had a lovely wife, and while I knew they had driven over some rocky roads in
their marriage, things now seemed to be stable and growing. Tom's kids, two daughters and
a son, were struggling in junior high and high school with the normal problems of peer
pressure and acceptance.
As we rode back into the mountains, I could tell that something big was eating away at
Tom's heart. His normal effervescent style was shrouded by an overwhelming inner hurt.
Normally, Tom would attack problems with the same determination that had made him a
success in business. Now, I saw him wrestling with something that seemed to have knocked
him to the mat for the count.
Silence has a way of speaking for itself. All day and on into the evening, Tom let his
lack of words shout out his inner restlessness. Finally, around the first night's
campfire, he opened up.
The scenario Tom painted was annoyingly familiar. I'd heard it many times before in
many other people's lives. But the details seemed such a contrast to the life that Tom and
his wife lived and the beliefs they embraced.
His oldest daughter had become attached to a boy at school. Shortly after they started
going together, they became sexually involved. Within two months, she was pregnant. Tom's
wife discovered the truth when a packet from Planned Parenthood came in the mail addressed
to her daughter. When confronted with it, the girl admitted she had requested it when she
went to the clinic to find out if she was pregnant.
If we totaled up the number of girls who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock during the
past two hundred years of our nation's history, the total would be in the millions.
Countless parents through the years have faced the devastating news. Being a member of
such a large fraternity of history, however, does not soften the severity of the blow to
your heart when you discover it's your daughter.
Tom shared the humiliation he experienced when he realized that all of his teaching and
example had been ignored. Years of spiritual training had been thrust aside. His stomach
churned as he relived the emotional agony of knowing that the little girl he and his wife
loved so much had made a choice that had permanently scarred her heart.
I'm frequently confronted with these problems in my ministry and have found that
dwelling on the promiscuous act only makes matters worse. I worship a God of forgiveness
and solutions, and at that moment in our conversation I was anxious to turn toward hope
I asked Tom what they had decided to do. Would they keep the baby, or put it up for
adoption? That's when he delivered the blow.
With the fire burning low, Tom paused for a long time before answering. And even when
he spoke he wouldn't look me in the eye.
"We considered the alternatives, Tim. Weighed all the options." He took a
deep breath. "We finally made an appointment with the abortion clinic. I took her
down there myself."
I dropped the stick I'd been poking the coals with and stared at Tom. Except for the
wind in the trees and the snapping of our fire it was quiet for a long time. I couldn't
believe this was the same man who for years had been so outspoken against abortion. He and
his wife had even volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center in his city.
Heartsick, I pressed him about the decision. Tom then made a statement that captured
the essence of his problem...and the problem many others have in entering into genuine
rest. In a mechanical voice, he said "I know what I believe, Tim, but that's
different than what I had to do. I had to make a decision that had the least amount of
consequences for the people involved."
Just by the way he said it, I could tell my friend had rehearsed these lines over and
over in his mind. And by the look in his eyes and the emptiness in his voice, I could tell
his words sounded as hollow to him as they did to me.
Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway,
There is an old legend of a swan and a crane. A beautiful swan alighted by the banks of
the water in which a crane was wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane
viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired:
"Where do you come from?"
"I come from heaven!" replied the swan.
"And where is heaven?" asked the crane.
"Heaven!" said the swan, "Heaven! have you never heard of heaven?"
And the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of
streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life,
pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of the
nations. In eloquent terms the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the other
world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane.
crane asked: "Are there any snails there?" "Snails!" repeated the swan;
"no! Of course there are not." "Then," said the crane, as it continued
its search along the slimy banks of the pool, "you can have your heaven. I want
This fable has a deep truth underlying it. How many a young person to whom God has
granted the advantages of a Christian home, has turned his back upon it and searched for
snails! How many a man will sacrifice his wife, his family, his all, for the snails of
sin! How many a girl has deliberately turned from the love of parents and home to learn
too late that heaven has been forfeited for snails!
Moody's Anecdotes, Page 125-126.
Values are often unwritten assumptions that guide our actions. Values demonstrate our
convictions and priorities. Values are confirmed by our actions, not just our words.
Values are not a doctrinal statement; they are convictions that determine how our church
operates. Values provide the foundation for formulating goals and setting the direction of
the church's ministry. Core values are the 5-10 key statements that reflect the
distinctives of a church. Key issues for determining your core values: If the church were
really the church, what would it be doing? What makes you angry? What do you get
passionate about? How do you invest your time and money? What's your biggest criticism of
the church? For what do you want your church to be known? What are the essential functions
of the church?
Determining your core values: Brainstorm a list of potential core values. Make sure
each value is easily translated to action. Group similar statements together. Highlight
the ones that are the most important. Write a tentative list of 4-7 values. Check for
completeness. Do all the essential ministries of the church flow logically from one of the
core values? Describe the specific behaviors that will demonstrate each core value in
All across this country, the undermining and destruction of the values that children
were taught at home is going on in public schools. One of the first things a family tries
to teach its children is the difference between right and wrong. One of the first things
our schools try to destroy is that distinction. The up-to-date way to carry on the
destruction of traditional values is to claim to be solving some social problem like
drugs, AIDS or teen-age pregnancy. Only those few people who have the time to research
what is actually being done in "drug education," "sex education" or
"death education" courses know what an utter fraud these labels are. For those
are courses about how right and wrong are outmoded notions, about how your parents' ideas
are no guide for you, and about how each person must start from scratch to develop his or
her own way of behaving.
Thomas Sowell, Creators Syndicate, quoted in Reader's
March, 1993, Page 178.
Church attendance makes little difference in people's ethical views and behavior with
respect to lying, cheating, pilferage, and not reporting theft. For example, equal
proportions of churched and unchurched admit to overstating income on tax forms.
Gallup, "Religion in America", Leadership, Fall, 1987.