When I was in college, I found an old party game in the back of a closet. The game was called A Question of Scruples, and the gist of the game was that you had to guess how other people would respond to an ethical dilemma drawn at random from a big stack of cards that contained hundreds of different situations. I don’t think my friends and I ever really followed the rules for gameplay, but throughout that summer we spent hours discussing the different situations that the cards presented and arguing our points for the ones that seemed especially tricky.
The High School Sunday School class is currently doing a series on an introduction to Christian Ethics, so I decided to bring in the Scruples game and use it as a jumping off point to help us think about how we make choices. Each student was given a card and asked to not just think about how they would respond to that specific situation, but about what influenced their thinking.
We had some good discussion about how relationships, future goals, rules, consequences, and whether we could “get away with it” influenced our decision making. The high school youth were also smart enough to point out that doing ethics, whether they are Christian or not, must be about more than just making decisions in the heat of the moment. To live ethically, we must also think about how we cultivate the values we hope to live by long before we have to make a decision.
As some point during class, I asked whether it was helpful in these situations to ask “What would Jesus do?” The WWJD craze with its bracelets and other merchandise has mostly come and gone, but is that a question we still find helpful? When I was in high school, I was challenged by a youth sponsor to ask not WWJD?, but WDJD? (What DID Jesus do?) Trying to figure out what Jesus would do without first doing the work to understand what Jesus did can make Christian Ethics an exercise in self-confirmation. We need to allow ourselves to be shaped by the stories of what Jesus did in order to ever be able to begin to answer the question of what Jesus would do.
Our class will be continuing to wrestle with these questions for the next month. In the meantime, I’d love to hear stories of your own ethical dilemmas (big or small) and what questions or practices have helped shape you as you face them.