As we conclude this series on the goodness of humanity (Part 1 is here), I want to look at the obvious signs—all of the “bad things” that happen in the world—that point in the opposite direction of what I’m advocating. That is, if Jesus has really reconciled all things to God, then why aren’t things getting better?
For a lot of Western Christianity, the answer to that question would be, “Because of sin. We’re still sinful people. That this is who we are at the core. We will never be free from sin this side of heaven.” But, obviously, I disagree.
I remember being in a men’s Bible study group once. We were reading the “Sermon on the Mount” from Matthew’s Gospel. We had just finished reading this passage:
Matthew 5.38ff: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”
The question we were discussing is how viable is this to actually do? One person stated that he thought it was a goal, but it was an unobtainable goal. That was the general consensus with most of the other men. That’s the same position that people have with what I’ve been advocating in this series. “Sure,” they’ll say, “we should strive to be those things but, again, we won’t be able to obtain them this side of heaven.”
My response to both is the same, “Rubbish!”
Another interpretation of this passage is that Jesus is talking about preaching the gospel or standing up for Christ, you know, missionary work. When you encounter hostility from someone while doing missionary work, “turn the other cheek.” That this only relates to individual safety concerns.
The context is clearly about what’s expected from people—of how they are supposed to act, to be—when following Jesus. In this passage, Jesus is seen as the New Moses (John 1.45; Acts 3.22ff), sitting on the mountain, giving out the laws of the New Covenant. These laws, like the Law of Moses, are not given to prove someone is worthy of rescue. No. They’re given to a people who are already rescued. Therefore, it would be ridiculous for Jesus to tell us to do something if we aren’t expected to do it.
Furthermore, as we saw previously humanity has been perfected and sinless (Romans 6.22; 1 Corinthians 6.11; Ephesians 5.27; etc.), so that’s clearly not the case anymore, not if we take the work of Christ and the Scriptures seriously. So what gives?
I’m reminded of something my wife says, “We find what we’re looking for.” So, if we’re constantly telling people they’re evil, full of sin, wicked, enemies of God, ad nauseum, what do we expect we’ll find? Of course they’re going to act that way!
That, in turn, reminds of the Native American story about two wolves:
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
From television, to news, to movies, to video games, etc., we are continually “feeding” the evil wolf—reinforcing the notion that we are desperately wicked. Take news as one example. What used to be an occasional story of something horrible happening, thus pointing out that certain types of human behavior are exceptions, we’re constantly showcasing those types of stories—sensationalizing the stories to get better ratings (also known as “yellow journalism”). And because of that, we expect people to be thieves, rapists, murderers, etc. However, when a story of a “good samaritan” is ran, we’re left saying things like, “I’m glad there are a few decent people left in the world.”
Any psychologist will tell you that if you incessantly berate someone—“You’re stupid! You’ll never amount to anything! No one will ever love you!”—one’ll start to feel that those words are true. It may take years to recover a good sense of one’s self after a lifetime of abuse. If one’s lucky. Some people are so damaged that they never truly recover. And that’s what’s happening to society. We’re objurgated at almost every turn. It’s no wonder we think our neighbor’s are axe murderers! We look with suspicion at the people we encounter every day. We simply don’t think the best of them; we think the worst. Yet, as we’ve already noted, Paul wrote:
Philippians 2.1-4 (emphasis added): Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.
The only way that Paul could write such a thing is because he is seeing humanity through the resurrection of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5.13-17). In the Lindisfarne Community we seek to find Christ in others (Understanding 1). And we find him. The way I interpret our first Understanding is, because of Jesus, we strive to see the world differently. To see that the Realm of God is ever growing, ever increasing, until the time when God’s Realm and our realm become one (Revelation 21.1-5). Instead of focusing on the falseness that still manifests itself, we should be focusing on seeing the way Yahweh sees the world—already complete. Already One. For that’s the way it truly is.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC