Tea, Friends, and Defining the Important

We drank tea once a week and talked about important things. Specifically, we drank peach tea. And generally, we discussed life.  

It was the early 1990s and my final semester at Penn State. I was commuting about 40 or so miles five days a week with a heavy class load. At times, I struggled to stay awake on my way to my friend’s house. But I always left invigorated, refreshed.

One discussion carried itself over several visits as we sharpened our thinking through conversation.

Much political talk of the day was of values–such as family values. It was a term politicians bandied about freely–a term Friedrich Nietzsche had coined.

Nietzsche used the term as something relative–that morality is something ever changing–or at least something that had changed in modern times–and was subject to change depending on social conditions.

The dispute my friend and I had with that use of the word was its application in moral terms. My friend pointed out that Christian morality specifically is based on standards rather than values. Standards are unchanging, absolute. A cup is a cup. A mile is a mile. And adultery is wrong. Always.

On the other hand, values shift from day to day–as in the value of a dollar or a commodity like, soybeans or pork bellies or bitcoins, which are up one day and down the next. 

Consequently, holding moral standards means that something that is wrong today was also wrong yesterday and will remain within the realm of wrong tomorrow. Relative moral values can shift with the wind. They can become matters of convenience and expediency.

That was our analysis of the political jargon of the 1990s.

Using values rather than standards to discuss moral issues was another way of disregarding the notion of sin. We’d lost our ability to discuss sin.

Yet today, our language has shifted once more. Unfortunately, it still does not allow room for discussion of sin. To do so is to judge. And above all, we must not judge. Even so, the current discussion of values makes room for what is important. And discerning what is important can lead us to moral standards.

In today’s vernacular, values sit on a continuum of priorities. They can be flexible without violating–even while upholding–moral standards.

For example, a business or ministry entity can hold its associates to a standard of integrity. Leaders can expect those under supervision to always be honest and act with integrity in all their dealings. 

Yet these entities can value productivity, hard work, and camaraderie among those supervised. The value of camaraderie might present itself in social events occurring during or after the workday–inside or outside the workplace.

Good leaders value good fellowship among all associates and realize that even while they are on the clock fueling friendship enhances productivity instead of reducing it.

Barbara Corcoran writes: “Employees who regularly gather together trust each other more, which contributes to better teamwork. It also makes them more loyal to the business as a whole. Camaraderie strengthens communications within a team, and these all contribute to the bottom line of the organization.”

Such a workplace can value employee fellowship and teamwork. The team can come together to help a co-worker struggling with illness or a family issue thereby strengthening the team.

Moral standards remain constant. Family and workplace values are a moving target. Yet such values point us to what is important.

And what is important–the relationships we have in our families and at our places of employment–can only hold together as we embrace the unchanging standards God asks of us at every moment.


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26 Replies to “Tea, Friends, and Defining the Important”

  1. Gathering with friends and sharing thoughts, hopes, and life journeys gives us the opportunity to share His love with others. Conversations may change, but the chance to show His love is always available. 🙂

  2. I love that God’s standards don’t change over time. We can always know what He wants from us, even though the world is constantly changing, He is steadfast and sure.

  3. I appreciate the clarity in your post between standards and values – how they should be distinguished from and how they work in conjunction with each other. This is such an important concept for us as Christians, churches, parents, etc. to understand, and the lack of thereof causes such confusion. Thank you and I hope many will read this.

  4. I love this post. I always try to think of conversations with friends (and even acquaintances) as ways to be encouraged and encourage others! Even though they may change, God’s love stays the same!

  5. Nancy,

    Yes and Amen! While I do like to say something is an integrity issue or someone has a heart issue, I also want to be bold enough to call sin, sin.

    Recently, we had family members who decided to call another family member “sick” or chalk up her evil heart and mean-spirit to mental illness. My husband said they were leaving out that it is also sin in this person’s life.

    1. Mental illness can wreak havoc on families–but you’re right, sin is sin. And repentance can’t come if you just excuses. God bless everyone with a view of truth in that situation. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Thanks Nancy. We have discussed this before. I have used this distinction between values and standards while teaching my church youth group. These young people range in age from 11 to 18. Maybe they are really smart or I am just an inspired teacher but they got it! All you have to do is look at the “standards” of TV broadcasting over our lifetimes and it is easy to see the difference. What was wrong (sin) then is still sin today. You cannot redefine bad behavior as a personal choice by simply saying so. God will not stand for it. How do I know? He said so. Proverbs 6:16-19.

  7. Last year I decorated for Christmas mid-November, and I loved it! My house sparkled and shined for weeks!! So I will probably do it again; yes, it does seems to come out sooner and sooner, but there are worse things! 😉

    1. Wow, Johanna, you take advantage of the entire holiday season. I still like to wait until after Thanksgiving. Part of the rush is the stores trying to make money. But I also wonder whether some people lack hope and find it in Christmas. Hmm. Thanks and God bless!

  8. Values turning into priorities – that is an interesting thought. Values seem to be being lost, and priorities (like working out and eating properly) are taking over. Where the values of taking time off on Sunday, proper dress, and purposing not to use curse words are fading away.

  9. This really hits home for me. Work has been so crazy lately. Having a work family has carried me through some of the toughest times of my life. What an awesome reminder of the VALUE of friendship and family.

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