Unethical Acts vs. Ethical Mistakes from Jesus’ Perspective

Jesus came to this world to free people from the Law of Moses by fulfilling the Law. Jesus raised the stakes as is evident in passages of scripture such as the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). These guidelines by Jesus established an ethical baseline measuring one’s thoughts and feelings rather than just actions (Fedler, 2006). This allows an individual to enter a more stringent process of growth and reflection of Jesus through inner development rather than the outward behavior. The intention would be that inner reflection of Jesus Christ in virtues and thoughts would yield an outer reflection of Jesus in actions and decisions. This is the foundation of ethical living and the determination between error and intent.

Ethical collapses by organizations happen when individuals are not able to clearly identify the bright line between right and wrong (Jennings, 2006, p. 35), but not all unethical decisions occur in the same way. There is a difference between an unethical act and an ethical mistake.

An unethical act is done with immoral intent (Rossy, 2011, p. 35). It is carried out with the full knowledge that is in violation of a legally, morally, or cultural law or regulation; these are done where everyone is aware, including the perpetrator, that they are wrong (Rossy, 2011, p. 35) An ethical mistake, however, is a decision that is unintentionally unethical and carried out with great remorse and regret by the party after the fact (Rossy, 2011, p. 35) Both are regrettable scenarios, however, one would seem more severe than the other.

This divide between unethical act and ethical mistake is reflective of Jesus’ fulfillment of the law, measuring the violation by taking into account one’s thoughts and feelings in regards to actions, and not just the actions themselves.


Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Jennings, M. M. (2006). The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse: How to Spot Moral Meltdowns in Companies… Before It’s Too Late (First Edition edition). St. Martin’s Griffin.

Rossy, G. L. (2011). Five questions for addressing ethical dilemmas. Strategy & Leadership, 39(6), 35–42. http://doi.org/10.1108/10878571111176619


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