YEARS ago, during my army Basic Military Training, we green recruits had to learn the SAF’s Code of Conduct. There are six official statements but we were jokingly taught a seventh unofficial Code, “C.O.C. 7”. It has, since then, stuck in my mind: “Do what you want, but don’t get caught.” It was a big laugh then.
Unfortunately, 15 years down the road, when you see people actually living according to C.O.C. 7, it is not so funny anymore.
Just flip open the newspaper. From clerks stealing money, to CEOs fiddling the books, to states violating international agreements, people try to get away with everything. In Singapore, if you pay attention while you drive, you will see motorists who smoke surreptitiously flick their cigarette butts out of their car windows; you will see motorists drive erratically as they use mobile phones without hands-free kits; you will see cars parked by the side of roads marked with a yellow zigzag line. Never mind that all these acts are illegal — it is okay if you are not caught, isn’t it?
In a way, society itself tells us to see what we can get away with. “Never admit fault at a scene of an accident.” “Innocent until PROVEN guilty.”
Even Christians do not always do the right thing. One may be faithful to God; it does not, however, follow that one will always do the right thing.
David, for example, was perhaps the most beloved king of Israel. Of all the kings, David was the only one who truly walked with God and clung to Him faithfully. Yet his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah are well-known. In spite of his repentance, when David was on his deathbed, and after he had charged his son and successor Solomon to be strong, to walk in the ways of God, and to obey all of God’s commandments and laws, David unfortunately went on to give some amazing instructions.
David first urged Solomon to remember the bloody deeds that Joab did. Joab had been David’s loyal army commander who faithfully supported David through thick and thin. David owed so much to Joab. But Joab had a habit of taking matters into his own hands. He murdered Abner and Amasa, the army commanders of Saul and Absalom respectively. So in 2 Kings 2:6, the dying David practically instructed Solomon to kill Joab.
David then reminded Solomon of how Shimei of Bahurim cursed and stoned David during Absalom’s rebellion. After the rebellion, when Shimei came to beg forgiveness, David swore that he would not kill Shimei. Yet in 2 Kings 2:9, David told Solomon to kill Shimei.
During his reign, David never punished the loyal Joab. He publicly forgave Shimei. But as he lay dying, he quietly told Solomon to bring their grey hairs down to Sheol with blood.
I suppose the real question is, “What do you do when you think nobody is watching?”
What do you do when nobody is watching? Do you steal? Do you surf the Internet for pornography? Do you cover up your mistakes even if others are ruined? Do you protect the wrongdoers and harm the innocent? Do you try and see what you, your friends and your family can get away with?
And do you really think that God is blind and that His anger will not burn against you?
I wonder how things would have turned out if all of us adhered to one Code of Conduct that insists “Always do the right thing.” Not what is easy or expedient. Not what is economically prudent or legally defensible. Not what is politically correct or socially acceptable. But what is right.
After all, the Bible puts great emphasis on doing what is right. For example, Paul urged the Corinthians to do right even if it appeared to put Paul in a bad light. He writes in 2 Corinthians 13:7, “Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we should appear unapproved.”
This New Year, why not make a resolution to always do what is right? Even if you have to suffer a loss, even if it means making a lonely stand, try to do what is right. Because, as James 4:17 puts it, “to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
On the other hand, 1 Peter 2:15 and 20b promise, “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men … But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favour with God.”
Your understanding of what is right will invariably differ from some other people’s. But I think the world would be very different if Christians at least tried always to do what is right.
The Rev Chiang Ming Shun is Assistant Pastor of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.