Monday, January 14, 2013

On Societal Collapse and Other Such Trifles

Amidst the political and social turmoil we as American’s have been experiencing, I finally did what I usually do in a crisis. I went back to see what the Bible has to say about such things. “Does the Bible say anything about the collapse of a society of civilization?” you may ask. Well in my short 49 years of life I have found that the Bible has something to say about everything of significance (and in most cases those things of little significance) in life. Benjamin Franklin is known to have said:

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.- Benjamin Franklin in the Constitutional Convention

To which I reply. Is it possible for a civilization to fall without His notice? It may be that in cutting out the core of His influence we have already fallen in His eyes.  All that is left is the painful part.

Getting back to what the Bible tells us… I have for several months been in a study of the Two greatest Commandments. Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:36 what the greatest commandment was in an attempt by the Pharisees to trip Him up. At first I didn’t get it. I’m slow like that, but Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. He gave two in reply:

                Mat 22:37-40  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with                all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is                 like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the                          Law and the Prophets."

For all of my life I have assumed that Jesus was just giving us a little “extra” wisdom when He included the second commandment. I completely missed the subtle comment “And a second is like it” phrase for many years. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest command He told them but He included a second command for one reason. It cannot be separated from the first. I’ll explain as we go.

When asked about the greatest command I also overlooked the fact that Jesus was quoting from the Jewish book of the Law. Recently I heard a radio commentator give the references for these quotes. (God has to hold my hand through these things or I would never find them.) The greatest command is from Deuteronomy 6:4-6:
                "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God        with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you         today shall be on your heart.

The second that Jesus included with the first is found originally in Leviticus 19:16-18:

                You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against    the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.  "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you             shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take    vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Ah HA! Now I get it. Jesus was quoting from the sections of the Jewish Book of the Law where God is establishing Israel as a nation. Did your ears perk up Americans? When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus, knowing the whole of the Law, pulled out the core of it in, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. “ Fascinatingly, when He pulled this one out, like in a Barrel of Monkeys, another one came with it, inseparable from it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus said, “And a second is like it”. So did He mean that loving my neighbor as myself is like loving God with all my heart, soul and strength? After about a year of studying this section of scripture I am completely persuaded that the answer to this question is…Yes! And not just yes but absolutely yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, …

Let’s look at some other passages. I’ll try to limit the references. As my study went on the list became so extensive it will be impossible to include them all here.

The first and most striking in my mind is Matthew 25:34-40

Mat 25:34-40  Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

That’s pretty straight forward in my mind. When they were kind to others, God took it as a personally kindness to Him. This theme runs throughout the Bible. Look at John 4:20-21

              If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Again, this is pretty direct and clear. John didn’t put anything shiny on this to distract us. If you say you love God and you hate a neighbor you are a liar. Ouch! I have been a liar. There is a principle emerging here that I will attempt to diagram. (My MS Word skills are poor at best.) I have come to the conclusion that my relationship with God is not linear or one dimensional. My relationship with God includes you. I have come to believe that God views this relationship as one relationship not 3.

As we continue to look at this, many things begin to come clear. If when we are kind to others God says it is kindness to Him, then when we harm others we are harming Him (figuratively speaking).  If God see this 3 cornered graphic as ONE relationship then it makes sense what David said after he had Uriah killed and took his wife: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.  Ps 51:4. I agree that Uriah’s family may have disagreed with this but in God’s eyes it is true if He sees the relationship as ONE relationship.When we sin against "others" we sin against God.

Now the beauty of this diagram is that you can put anyone, any earthly relationship you want in the “Others” box and the Bible will confirm it somewhere.

Try employer:

                Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as    people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as                for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as   your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  Col 3:22-24

Catch that last phrase, “You are serving the Lord Christ.” It is one relationship with 3 individuals. When you are working for someone else you are working for God. 

Now put your spouse in the “others” box:

                 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife,                 as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be        not hindered.  1 Pet 3:7

Seems God doesn’t want to talk to us if we aren’t talking to each other.  God sees it as ONE relationship.

Put your employee in the “others” box:

                Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a           Master in heaven.  Col 4:1

Masters (employers in today’s terms) are reminded of the third person in the relationship in this verse.

Look back at Matthew 25… the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner…

The list goes on and on so let’s get to the nub of it. Can we even put those that are our enemies in the “others” box? Yes.

                And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them      which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.  And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Luke 6:31-36

God is on the line in every relationship. Loving Him requires loving everyone else. This is the foundation upon which a civilization can be built. Dare I say our Founders knew this? Christianity was the inspiration for our founding. Just ask the Founders. (see Original Intent- David Barton)

So when Christ was asked what is the greatest commandment He pulled out the heart of the issue. Love God but remember, in doing this you will have to love “others” as you love yourself. Those 2 were the heart and soul of all the Law God gave to Israel to establish itself as a nation. Jesus identified the spirit of the law to guide a nation well: Loving God accomplished by loving others. Jesus said it Himself, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” The closer a nation comes to following the spirit of the law the fewer “laws” will be required. Such were we as a nation.

Now I ask you liberals and progressive who are all about removing God from government, schools, court houses and public squares, what happens to that 3 cornered relationship when God is removed? What is the basis for your relationship with me? What happens when you cut a string of pearls? Chaos.  The connection between neighbors and “others” is lost in spirit. The pursuit of one’s own interests, in disregard to others, becomes the rule for conduct. Nietzsche’s philosophy is the closest articulation of this situation. Yes, the same Nietzsche that inspired the rise of Nazi Germany.

Let me submit to you that undermining the spirit of the law of a free nation will change its status. Freedom without moral guides, without a core moral objective (loving God) will only be free to destroy itself.

I would think even the most a-theist of atheists would want a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, a child, a neighbor, a president with the most impeccable of moral guides. God, who watches over the cause of the spouse, the employee, the employer, the hungry, the prisoner…the enemy would be the best guarantor of fair, no exemplary treatment.

Did we understand that removing God from our discourse would pull out the corner stone of our society?

Turns out facilitating society collapse isn’t that hard. Just pull out the core philosophy.

Here is my pitch, Americans. We are as a nation addicted to excellence. We know it and want it when we see it. Isn’t a life based on loving God and others as the core principle a better proposition than a life centered on self interest. Life based on self interest is, by definition, a small life indeed.

What kind of freedom does love bring? Who knows more about love than God who created, defined and embodies it? (By contrast, love is not the invention of survival of the fittest.) What kind of adventure and wonder-filled life would we lead if we based our interactions in life on the object of loving God through loving others? Now that is a liberating thought.


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