In my life, I have had two moments that have stuck with me in terms of how I make choices. One was counseling a woman who lived, with her young son by her previous husband and her, now, second husband. She loved her husband although she did not like the way he treated her son. It occurred to me that she had to make a choice based on two options – protecting her son or loving her husband.
One choice meant protecting her child and leaving her husband because he was not going to change his relationship to her son. The other was a choice to continue the marriage to her husband and disregard the mental health of her child. From that moment on I called this “the principle of the highest good.” “Good” in this case means something one finds desirable or valuable.
The second moment was earlier in my life; I was 15 years old. My family was in Missoula, Montana, on our way to the Seattle World’s Fair. It was Wednesday night when our family would usually be at a mid-week Bible study at our neighborhood church. Our family considered that mid-week meeting to be non-negotiable.
Meanwhile, in Missoula we were at a local motel, and I was staring at a sparkling blue motel swimming pool that was calling my name. My father asked me sincerely if I wanted to go swimming or go to church. I chose church to win his approval. However, being conscious of what is important stuck with me. Today I would go swimming, while understanding that values sometimes change places based on context and what the moment allows.
Joshua called on the people of primitive Israel to “chose today whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15. He was asking them to decide between the false gods that they worshiped earlier in their lives versus Yahweh who had delivered them to their new home. Which would it be?
Today we live in a choice smorgasbord, and it has become increasingly more difficult to sort out the place that God will receive in our list of values. So Joshua’s question still applies.