11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus had yet to die on the cross. He only just begun to teach. He had performed miracles, but just who was He? Nevertheless, His followers soon saw the truth in His words. Christians did suffer for their faith in Jesus and still suffer from insults, persecution, and false accusations.
Here in the United States we are supposed to consider the persecution of Christianity a minor thing. Yet it is not. It is just more subtle. So we get articles like this:
All this sort of talk is silly. What is at issue is whether our we can fulfill our Christian obligations, whether the society we live in tries interfere with our duty to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
Consider two examples.
Do we want to educate our children in the Christian faith? Is it not obvious our government now hinders us in that effort. Over the decades, government has secularized our schools. They have practically banished the Bible, and they teach religion causes wars, including the Christian religion. Why would the leaders of our government do that? Christianity, which promotes individual rights, is an obstacle to the growth of government power, and some of our leaders crave more power.
Do we want the right to speak freely about our faith in public? Once that was commonplace in America, but over the years the mass media, desirous of selling sex and violence, has constantly pushed the envelope of decency. So it is that many corporate executives in the mass media, now dominated by sales people who want to use indecent behavior to mass market goods and services, feel obliged to repress Christians, who teach modesty, abhor gratuitous violence, and promote frugality.
Because sin is popular in all societies, even the United States, anyone who strives to follow the example of Jesus Christ will experience some degree of persecution. There is no point in pretending otherwise. The only issue is whether what we choose to do about it honors Jesus Christ.
We have been going through Ortberg’s book two chapters at a time. Since Election Day is just before us, I had hoped the next two chapters would be relevant, and they are. Chapter 5 concerns how we should regard knowledge of the truth. Chapter 6 is about Jesus’ example of grace and humility.
Everyone Needs To Know The TRUTH
Chapter 5 begins with these words.
Jesus spent most of his life as a blue-collar worker, crafting benches and tables. Then one day he decided to change jobs.
Imagine. You are a carpenter, an ordinary carpenter in a poor village. Then you decide to become a rabbi, but not just any rabbi. Imagine as Ortberg describes the results of your first sermon.
Sitting down is the traditional teaching posture of the rabbi — the scholar-teachers of Israel. When Jesus sat down, he was proclaiming his new occupation. He claimed in his first message that God is a Gentile-lover ready to embrace anybody. Jesus claimed to know this. By the end of his sermon the congregation was so furious that they drove him out of town and attempted to throw him off a cliff. They resisted his knowledge.
Ortberg goes on to explain the importance of rabbis in Israel. The Jews had become the People of the Book. That book held the Jews together as a people, and the rabbis taught the Book.
As if He had written it, Jesus taught from the Book, and his disciples — His apostles — made His teachings famous. They added new chapters. They explained the Book was about Him.
Jesus taught to change lives — to change hearts — and He taught everyone. Unlike what our education system does in our secularized age, Jesus sought to instill values and morals, not just knowledge.
Ortberg cites Jesus’ final command to his disciples.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
So Jesus’ followers did something unheard of. They taught everyone, both men and women, slave and free.
Moreover, Jesus’s followers expanded their search for Truth beyond the confines of one small Book, believing as Augustine did, “All truth is God’s truth.”
In their search for knowledge of God’s truth, Christians made their monasteries into universities. Even in America, our first universities were Christian seminaries.
America’s education system originated in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yet oddly enough, these very same universities now have almost nothing to say about Jesus. Why? Where did we go wrong?
What Makes Someone Great?
Chapter 6 describes the difference between aspiring to greatness (in human eyes) and attempting to serve God.
There are two ways to think about a meaningful life, says Georgetown University professor Francis Ambrosio. One is the way of the hero; the other is the way of the saint. In the Greco-Roman world, what was admired was the hero. A hero is somebody who overcame obstacles to achieve his full potential or excellence and therefore to receive status, honor, and recognition. Life is a striving for this recognition.
Ortberg, using comparisons we are with familiar with today, describes the Greco-Roman world as thoroughly hierarchical and status conscious. Christians were an affront to such people. Their hero — their Redeemer — died ignominiously crucified on a cross, and Christians proudly served this Redeemer, slaves to a slave? Thus, the way of the saint competed with the way of a hero. In fact, even today that competition continues.
Can you imagine how Jesus’ disciples reacted to these words?
26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The way of the hero is our natural inclination. That God would die a humiliating death upon a cross for our sake defies explanation. That’s what it means to be The Savior? Even Jesus’ apostles balked at the idea. Only after the resurrection did they believe.
Who wants to be a great slave? Yet Jesus taught that we should gather titles only as opportunities to serve, that true heroism involves sacrificing our self for others, not for our own self-aggrandizement.
A Thought For Election Day
What passes for conventional wisdom from the broadcast news is that we vote based upon pocketbook issues. Perhaps that is true, but such narrow-minded foolishness is destroying our constitutional republic. When Christians vote, we have an obligation to vote for the good of our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen. If our leaders have to twist our Constitution into a pretzel to get what we want for our self, then what we want is wrong. If we have to rob our neighbors or even our own children to get what we want for our self, then what we want is wrong.
When we require our leaders to lie and steal for us, our government will not protect the rights of our family, friends, neighbors and countrymen. That kind of government will only make beaten slaves of us all.
Jesus gave us an example of what a leader should be, full of truth and grace. He taught and served both the great and the humble with equal grace and humility. He gave of Himself. He did not steal and give what belongs to others. He gave His own life, not the life of another. When we vote, we must remember we have a duty to imitate our Savior. We can be charitable following the example of Jesus only if we give from our own heart.
We actually have as part of our heritage a document that clearly states the purpose of government, the Declaration of Independence. Here are the key words.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
Unfortunately, when we take the passage above out of context, we forget why men came from all over the 13 original colonies to draft and sign the Declaration of Independence. We forget that at the risk of their lives and their fortunes they were preparing to battle to strongest military power of their age. We forget they were about to embark upon a long and miserable war, and we forget why. Instead of protecting his subjects, the government of King George III just saw the wealth of the colonies and wanted to exploit it. Hence the colonists responded forcefully: “no taxation without representation”.
Do most of us (Americans) still believe that God gives us our rights, or do we believe that government gives us our rights? Given how our government spends our money, it does not seem likely. Most of the Federal budget goes to cover “pension” expenses like Social Security and “health” expenses like Medicare (see here). Since everyone likes being taken care of for “free”, there is a huge constituency such “entitlements”.
Because nothing is free, our national debt is out of control (see here). Yet, ironically, many of the same people who want the free “entitlements” blame the deficit on defense spending, something the Constitution actually authorizes Congress to do. Those foolish people are wrong. Defense is only 21 percent of the Federal budget (see here again).
So what is the problem? Few of us spend much time studying what the Framers of our Constitution studied. Few of us bother to read what they wrote.
In more recent years, government responsibilities have extended to the economy and public service. An early principle of capitalism dictates that markets should be free from government control. But when economies spun out of control during the 1930s, and countries sank into great depressions, governments acted. The United States Congress created the Federal Reserve System in the early twentieth century to ward off inflation and monitor the value of the dollar. Franklin Roosevelt and his “Brain Trust” devised New Deal programs to shock the country into prosperity. (from here)
The economies just spun out of control? Don’t economies spin out of control when people are encouraged to borrow recklessly, nations put up trade barriers, and government taxing and spending saps the strength of the economy? That is the fault of capitalism spun out of control?
When you try to figure out the purpose of government, you can easily get bogged down in all of the many things a government does or should do — from defending the people to managing the federal budget. And if you ask a dozen people what the purpose of government is, you’d probably get a dozen different answers, depending on individual point of view.
That’s because everyone — and I mean everyone — has a different view of what a government should and shouldn’t do. Some think the government should control everything, while others think government should have a limited role in people’s lives. Some think that the government should be run by one person, as in a dictatorship, while others think the people should have the right to elect their representatives and leaders, as in a democracy. In fact, the purpose of government has been at the root of philosophical and political debates for many hundreds of years. Just think of any presidential debate you’ve seen: If you boil down what the candidates say, you basically end up with their views on the purpose of government. And, of course, their views usually differ quite a bit! (continued here)
What about the perspective of a journalist of renown?
Call me old-fashioned, but I still hold with the ancient Greeks who said government has only one purpose, to improve the lives of citizens. If it doesn’t, there is no reason for it, no reason at all, which is why I was a little surprised that with the nation at war, our intelligence services in a complete mess, as we just heard, the deficit soaring and jobs going overseas, the Senate decided the most important thing it needed to do was debate a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The House will soon follow. (from here)
Bob Schieffer provided that back in 2004. That was back when the mass media had just begun to work up to a full-throated roar for “same-sex marriage”.
Still, we began as a nation with an answer. We knew the purpose of government. At least, we once did. So with some effort we can still find websites that speak to that purpose.
So what about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? What I suggest is clicking on the links in their names and visiting their websites. Then read the quote below.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51
Which candidate do you think would most concern James Madison? Which candidate is more concerned with the acquisition of power? Which candidate is most interested in protecting our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Which candidate causes you to fear more for the sake of your children?
Note that President Obama starts his speech about 22 minutes into this video.
Do you still believe this guy? According to him, Obamacare is a great success and affordable. He doesn’t have a good record of telling the truth, unfortunately. Yet one of the candidates supports what Obama has done (She belongs in jail for lying, among other things.) and the other candidate doesn’t.
According to Hillary Clinton, health care is a basic human right (from here).
That sounds great. Hence, we have a weeping, but gullible lady. What she does not see is a devil in the details. Someone has to pay for this right. When we force other people to pay for our “rights”, we have to enslave those people. That’s why there is nothing in the Constitution that says we have a basic human right to exploit other people to satisfy our own ends.
Think about it. Where do basic human rights stop? Food? Clothing? Shelter? Education? Job? A car? An Obamaphone? A fabulous vacation? Nevertheless, H. Clinton wants to build upon Obamacare.
As your president, I want to build on the progress we’ve made. I’ll do more to bring down health care costs for families, ease burdens on small businesses, and make sure consumers have the choices they deserve. And frankly, it is finally time for us to deal with the skyrocketing out-of-pocket health costs, and particularly runaway prescription drug prices. (continued here)
With respect to the notion that health care is a basic human right, Donald Trump is not a Conservative. Nevertheless, he recognizes that Obamacare is a disaster.
So what does H. Clinton propose? It is the usual Liberal Democrat solution. So that they can fix the mess they made, she wants us to give incompetent and power mad leaders more power (see her factsheet).