I saw a T-shirt in Florida that said “Do the right thing. Because it’s the right thing!” I love its simplicity. A similar truth was express on a poster in a police station. The poster quoted Marcus Aurelius, “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king of Rome, was a great man. He won battles and he wrote books. He expressed wonderful ideals that in his own mind at least he probably attained. However he was not morally a great man. He was a dictator in the fashion of every dictator or king or emperor before or since. This is a quote from Wikipedia so as you well know, ‘take it with a grain of salt’. The quote is: “Belonging to the later Stoical school, which believed in an immediate absorption after death into the Divine essence, Marcus Aurelius considered the Christian doctrine of the immortality of the soul, with its moral consequences, as vicious and dangerous to the welfare of the state. A law was passed under his reign, punishing every one with exile who should endeavor to influence people’s mind by fear of the Divinity, and this law was aimed at the Christians.”
Assuming this is an accurate interpretation of the Emperor’s thoughts this is exactly why all dictators hate Christianity. If the soul is immortal and actions have moral consequences then how is the empire to impose its will? What if Christian citizens refuse to obey laws that they determine are against their religion. What if Christian soldiers refuse to mete out the death that such refusal compels.
The guy who said ‘if it is not right don’t do it’ had no compunction against persecuting Christians to preserve the empire and further his own interests as Emperor. He was in the end just like everyone else; He was only willing to do what was right if it was in his own self interest.
I believe ‘If it’s not right don’t do it.’ But I believe I need Jesus to teach me what is right, and I need Jesus to give me the strength to do what is right, and I need to believe that there is forgiveness for the times when I don’t do what is right, and – I am a rational person – I need to believe that it is not for nothing.