''Whatever'' refers to a loosely-defined approach to morality that says, ''Whatever you do is OK and whatever I do is OK as long as we don't get in each other's way doing it!'' This viewpoint considers moral choices as a personal matter having no relationship to a divine standard.
But there is a divine standard of morality. And children who learn to love it can find happiness and stability, even though they may face difficult moral choices.
Parents of course have an essential role in helping children take moral values to heart. God has provided the standard. Parents can provide a personal example of abiding by that standard.
God's standard comes to us through the Bible. In the book of Exodus we find the Ten Commandments, and in the New Testament Christ Jesus gives us the Sermon on the Mount. These passages are core statements of God's Word on moral living. Heartfelt obedience to this Word makes sure an ever clearer path to understanding and loving God.
The moral guidelines found in these two passages protect us, and in doing so, make us happy. They protect us by illuminating the pitfalls in human behavior - adultery, theft, covetousness, idolatry, and the like - that would block us from understanding God, or good, and that would lead to unhappiness, even poor health. Human existence is not safe without the moral protection given by God's law.
But this same law makes us happy as well! ''He that keepeth the law, happy is he'' n1 we read in Proverbs. In the Beatitudes, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus links the term ''blessed'' to such moral qualities as mercifulness, peacemaking, and meekness. Blessedness includes a happiness that results solely from our adoration of God.
n1 Proverbs 29:18.
Adoring God is the key to moral behavior. Why? Because He is infinite Love, the creator and preserver of man and the universe. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ''This Science teaches man that God is the only Life, and that this Life is Truth and Love; that God is to be understood, adored, and demonstrated; that divine Truth casts out suppositional error and heals the sick.'' n2
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 471-472.
God, perfect Spirit, has created man perfect, spiritual, free from all evil and destructibility. This spiritual fact of our nature underlies the demand to be moral. Through obedience to divine law we begin to express more of our true, totally satisfied selfhood as God's offspring.
Parents can of course show their children where to find the moral law in the Bible. But they can also respond to their children and to each other with such an unselfed moral tone that they give a clear message that they adore God, not in high-mindedness but in meekness and humility.
Such an unspoken example speaks volumes, particularly to young children. It speaks of love for God. It does its own teaching. In later years, actual parent-child discussions will go on as each family works out particular moral questions that arise. But these talk sessions bear more fruit when a strong parental example has been and is being set.
Recently a teen-age friend joined our family on a trip to a vacation ranch. While there, our friend kept her own hours and did as she liked, without parental supervision. One evening, while she was at the lodge, an older girl suggested that the two of them do something that, while not in itself immoral, could easily have led to immorality. Clearly, it would have been an unwise thing to do.
Our friend is a lively, happy individual, never one to avoid plain old fun. But she had early learned of the strength and reliability of the moral law taught in the Scriptures. And her parents had consistently set a strong example in the home.
She said ''no'' to her friend's suggestion. She said later that she didn't feel what was suggested was any big deal, but that it would just be better not to do it.
A healthy respect for right and wrong is a big deal, however, and a valuable possession for children. It is their right to gain such a respect through understanding God's law found in the Bible. When this law is understood, we see it, not as restricting, but as actively promoting our own and our children's happiness. DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. Psalm 19:8