Archive for July, 2012

Power By Default

July 14, 2012

Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.  Ecclesiastes 7:19.

 

Have you ever worked with those in leadership, say in a church setting or city counsel, and realized you knew more qualified people pumping gas at your local station?

Wisdom, knowledge, discernment, compassion, empathy and sympathy are not relegated to those in charge.  I find it ironic how many people in government are highly educated, well connected and powerful yet still make a mess instead of helping things run smoothly.  Oh, sure, they might have started out with grand ideas but once they settled in and realized how little gets done in a democratic machine, decided to work on their retirement instead.

It isn’t the educated, wealthy or powerful who always deserve to be in charge or are the most qualified either.  The history of European monarchies should dispel any grand notions about that being true.  The monarchs and rulers of Europe oppressed their people pretty badly yet were some of the most highly educated (and in that age only educated) of the day.  So education doesn’t guarantee wisdom.

I’m politically and socially skeptical.  I believe human nature tends to mess up good things; things that would work far better if we just let them happen without interference.  Unfortunately, there will always be someone who thinks they know how to run yours and my life better than we do.

It would seem to the casual eye that wisdom and cunning are two halves of the same coin.  The two, however, are not even close, for cunning is wisdom turned sinister, where those who take what wisdom has to offer and use it to gain from it no matter who it hurts.  In other words, a person who understands human nature turns that nature into a profit machine disregarding the outcome.  Cunning uses others as tools for some self-serving goal; wisdom uses its tool to benefit all.  Lying, cheating, double crossing, and using others is not a product of wisdom but of self-centered thinking.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then adhering to strictly political party will be impossible.  Why?  Because social welfare is at the heart of the Bible’s message.  Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t punished just for their sexual sin but their disregard and oppression of the poor, fatherless and widows.  (See Isaiah 1 where God compares fallen Judah with Sodom.)  The NT is replete with instructions about what to do with the church’s funds, very little of it was to go to administration opting rather to help those who could not otherwise help themselves.

Yet wisdom refuses to be duped.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul makes a bold statement, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”  The public assistance programs of any government not conforming to Christ will not understand this maxim.  Wisdom teaches us not to argue with fools, which in Proverbs points to one who is spiritually and morally bankrupt.  Trying to explain spiritual truths to those who refuse the Spirit of God’s input is futile for the unspiritual mind cannot grasp them.

It isn’t that a person lacks an understanding of the argument for spiritual things as a POV but that they are unable to see any advantage to them.  If a person doesn’t accept Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life, explaining any principle which adheres to such an ideal to them will fall on deaf ears because they see it as foolish.  The message of the gospel is foolishness to those who seek worldly wisdom and a stumbling block to those who seek works as their way to God.

Wisdom instructs us to avoid arguing about incompatible ideologies.  One who refuses to accept the authority of the Word will never accept an argument from it.  We live this way because we accept its authority; they live their way because they don’t.  It’s as simple as that.  Forcing them to live contrary to their own philosophy by making laws which corner them into acquiescence is oppressive, evil and outside of the character of Jesus.  The Golden Rule (a Christ declaration) says, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  If this is the maxim of Jesus, then making laws which outlaw another’s lifestyle, religious preference, or anything else is a place to tread carefully.

I don’t have all the answers to the complicated questions this discussion brings up.  What I do know is the only way to work through them is to keep the wisdom of Christ in full view.  In order for people to live together in relative harmony, ideologically specific rules must be left to those who follow the ideology.  The societal maxims we agree on should become laws of governance.

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The Expectation Upset

July 12, 2012

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:  a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.  Don’t be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?  Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time?  It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.  The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.  Ecclesiastes 7:15-18.

 

In Solomon’s time the “guru hermit” or holy man on the mountain was just beginning to become really popular—or may be it already was and we just don’t have records of it.  Whatever the case, purity of spirit and action has obsessed the human race for eons.  That need to be sinless (which means slightly different things in each culture) drives many to solve it by separating themselves out from the common rabble of humanity in order to seek oneness with God or holy living.

It doesn’t work very well, for almost without fail you can take the sinner out of the temptation but you will never by this means take the sin out of the sinner.  Yet we keep trying almost desperately to work the method just right—if we can just purify our thought patterns enough, or live in the right community of people, or meditate only on holy things, or make better laws…You get the idea.  Christianity took this idea and turned it into monasteries where men and women lived separately in order to quell the “sinful” urge to have sex or be tempted by the flesh.

I hate to repeat myself (I really do hate repeating myself but do it all the time) but it didn’t work very well.

Several years ago I heard about two monasteries—one for monks and one for nuns—a short distance apart where archeologists discovered a tunnel running from one to the other.  In a freakish revelation they found the bodies of aborted and birthed babies at the bottom of a well in the nunnery.  It turns out the monks and nuns were taking care of business while forbidding everybody else from following their own urges.  And it’s not that everyone is living a lie either, necessarily, rather the problem we face denying our own created reality turns our lives into one big long stressful failure to measure up.

Our created reality requires us to eat, sleep, cultivate our environment, develop personalities, establish character, grow hair in places we’d rather not, see color, taste food, have preferences which differ from others in our own family, be adventurous, be quiet, and I could go on.  Yet one of our worst faults is how we approach these subjects.  When we look at our sexuality as if it’s sin by default, resistance will be futile since we are built to reproduce.  Not only are we designed to reproduce but also to experience pleasure while doing it.  To use another example, food tastes good to us because we have taste buds.  We have taste buds because God designed us to enjoy food—or, if you prefer, evolution wanted us to survive so made food taste and smell good so we’d eat it.

Whatever the reason we do these things, they exist.  Considering them a product of sin only sets us up for sin since we not only have the urges for smell, sex, taste, touch, etc., but the capacity to enjoy them.  Our problems come from overindulgence.  Almost every time there is issues surrounding one of these pleasures cum necessities.  We don’t have to search far before we see narcissism in the background.  When pleasure gets misused, we tend to blame the pleasure over the person’s lust for it.

Drugs for numbing pain are good while healing; used as a form of recreation they become dangerous.  I don’t object to them being used as recreation because in and of themselves I see no problem with sitting back to enjoy a nice ride. But, when they are used as a means of escaping responsibility, dealing with our problems or daily lives, they are harmful.  Let’s be clear on something:  Objects are neither good or evil, happy or sad, useful or useless, until we apply some tangible goal to them.  The moral value of anything comes in how it’s used not in its existence.

Even circumstances hold only the value we give to them.  For instance, let’s say I lose my job due to the economy but it spurs me to start that business idea that’s been knocking around in my head for years.  If I look at the loss as something to grieve over (which it is a loss), then I may not do anything else.  But if I see it as an opportunity, then a world of possibilities open up.  I’m not suggesting that losing a job is good or something celebrate, rather often it’s our attitude about our abilities and lives which make the difference in how we respond.

Bringing more of my perspective to bear on this subject:  I believe the fall put a hole in our hearts and spirits we will forever be trying to fix.  Jesus gave us the fix, claiming (audaciously enough) that it was Him, but something went wrong.  I think Solomon answers our problem quite nicely when he writes:

 

This only have I found:  God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.  Ecclesiastes 7:29.

 

Humanity’s paranoia grows out of our separation from the head, which is Christ.  Of course many who don’t hold to Jesus as the Way, let alone God incarnate, object to my conclusion.  But that just illustrates this truth more poignantly.  We can’t deny the reality of what’s lacking in our own psyche when the entire human race is one big piece of evidence to prove it otherwise.  Even modern Christianity demonstrates it doesn’t believe its own teachings (remember the Golden Rule) by attempting to make laws for everyone based on tenets the others don’t agree with in the first place.  When we talk abortion, health, addictions, ethics, and a host of other topics, we have to be careful not to require Christ-like laws out of those around us who believe in something else.  The early church was comprised of a motley crew of slaves, poor, a few wealthy people and Jews.  Very, very few of them politically connected, and still less who were extremely wealthy.

The American view of truth is just that—the American view.  The Bible was written in an Eastern mindset, which means for us to grasp the truths in it we have to understand the culture, times, traditions, practices and other things before many of them will be clear.  Applying our own culture to an agricultural based society means we will definitely make some mistakes with our conclusions.  As another example, men or women who use their own POV to explain the opposite sex’s motives 9/10 get them wrong because we think differently about some stuff.  It isn’t that we are completely different in our needs, we just go about meeting them differently.  For instance (not to get sidetracked too much), men are emotional creatures and cry too, we just don’t do it for the exact same things all the time.  I have a friend whose son got married a few years back.  I knew how tied to his kids he is, so I teased him about the boy moving out and he told me to stop or he’d start weeping openly.  This is a man’s man.

No, we all have the same needs, it’s the customs and traditions we develop to meet them that are different.  Essentially, however, each of these customs and traditional guidelines or laws set up avenues to meet our needs as a society and protect the individual in some way.

In Christ the only way to holiness (a holistic lifestyle dedicated to God) comes through being attached to Him.  He’s the vine, we’re the branches.  We don’t bear fruit because we have the ability to do so but because we’re attached to the vine which gives its nutrients.  No one will become holy by separating themselves out from society.  What has a “wise man” (or woman) got to say about marriage if they’ve never been married?  Have you women who’ve raised children had friends who never had kids try to give you advice about them?  It’s annoying because they usually don’t have a realistic viewpoint let alone perspective.  No, true wisdom on any subject grows out of exposure to that subject in either personal experience or being involved in it through others.

Monastic living is religion in denial.  Denial of our reality is a setup for failure.  Failure brings despair and futility, along with anger, envy, depression, self-hate, and a host of other negatives.  The only way to find success in living good lives is to accept the evil in our natures while holding onto the good we find in Christ.  Yes, it makes us feel split in half, but the only way to heal a wound is to acknowledge we have one in first place.  Our souls/spirits are wounded by original sin and our own developed sense of it.  Keeping this truth in mind, while submitting the whole mess to Jesus to clean up, guarantees success.

For The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.  Or, as another version interprets it:  The man who fears God will hold onto them both.