Of what is Tom afraid? When I was little, I feared as nameless horrors hunger and pain. The warm hugs of my mother and the sometime too distant strength of my father brought some comfort. Yet in time I learned that Daddy and Mommy were just bigger and older versions of my brothers, my sisters, and myself. I began to understand that they too could fail.
As I grew older, my fears multiplied. Fears reality could not provide my imagination amplified. I remember that as a little boy I watched a movie in theater about Hercules and the monsters he fought. By today’s standards, I doubt most would think that movie terribly frightening, but I was only a little boy. So I walked out, too disturbed to continue watching.
As an adolescent, the son of enlisted soldier, I went to numerous schools, and I got used to being the new kid in school. In new school after new school, I began to perceive how greatly our idealized world diverges from reality. In the ideal world, good boys beat up the bullies, or the authorities step in to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. In reality, good boys endure and do their best to keep body and soul intact, and they set aside their pride when sanity demands fleeing before the enemy. So it is that as an adolescent, I began to learn that the authorities who ran the “system” could not be trusted to make that “system” work.
Because the “system” works poorly, I began wondering why and how it could be fixed. Because of such wondering youngsters (and adults), there are endless streams of news articles, books, magazines, and programs in the broadcast media, and I read, listened and watched. Hopeful, I studied hard. Perhaps I could do my part to help the “system” evolve. Eventually, I joined the military. With the enthusiasm and innocence of youth, I began working to fix the system and to provide for myself and my family.
What have I learned in the years since then? At first my fears grew. Our Creator made this world far more differently than I understood as a child. Instead of informing us, knowledge and experience reveals our ignorance. Wise Socrates put it this way.
When I left him, I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know. (from here)
If wisdom consists in admitting our ignorance, what good is knowledge? Are not the ignorant are powerless? Socrates was powerless. Faced with insurmountable public criticism, he drank a mixture containing poison hemlock. Rather than wise, Socrates’ “solution” struck me as fatalistic, but isn’t death inevitable? Should we just accept death? Perhaps Socrates, growing old, saw nothing ahead but the infirmities of old age.
When I was a young man, what was my solution for the problem of death? How did I hope that I, my family and my friends would survive death? As a devotee of science fiction might, I imagined that somehow future generations would discover the secrets of the universe. Perhaps, if we pioneered the way, future generations would find a way to save us.
Having given up on the Creator, I had made mere mortal man the hope of my salvation. In retrospect, that was silly. Look at a list of our presidents, our great leaders, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan…. Even the best of them — take your pick — did not know how to conquer death. They did not even know how to begin to solve that problem, and the worst them simply craved fame, fortune, and power.
Faced with this seemingly irresolvable dilemma, I did what most people do. I pretended the problem did not exist. I went on as before. Perhaps Socrates would have understood. Nonetheless, I eventually did something I should have done long ago. I started reading the Bible, and I discovered the problem I was desperate to solve had already been solved long ago, before Creation.
The Bible defines the problem of death as the consequence of sin. Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3). Therefore God cursed the world for their sake and our sake. God also promised a savior (Genesis 3:15).
As I read, I discovered the Bible is the story of how Jesus Christ redeemed mankind. To help us understand, Hebrews 9:23-28 provides a brief summary. This passage begins by describing what Jesus does in the true temple, where He presents His sacrifice on our behalf.
Hebrews 9:23-28 New King James Version (NKJV)
Greatness of Christ’s Sacrifice
23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
So what are we to do? Not much, apparently. Jesus Christ did what we — what no man could do. He died for our sins. We must only repent, accept His sacrifice, be grateful, and strive to obey His commands.
Obey His commands? What was the primary thing Jesus commanded us to do? ‘
John 13:34 New King James Version (NKJV)
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Even the Old Testament commanded the Jews to love their neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). So what was new about this command? When He lived among us, Jesus provided a perfect example.
How did Jesus love? Rob Barkman is in the midst of a wonderful series, “To Love As Jesus Loved.” The series provides a detailed Biblical exposition of 1 Corinthians 13. Here are links to what has posted thus far.