God Help Us

“But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

Jesus did not need anyone to tell Him that mankind is broken. He did not need anyone to tell Him that we are fickle. That we are so very inclined to put ourselves first and others second. Or that we have a problem with God telling us what to do. Or that we have spent thousands of years killing, hurting, neglecting, ignoring, and cheating our selves and each other in the names of God, country, tribe, clan, race, political party, and most of all, in the name of self.

Jesus did not need anyone to tell Him how rotten we all are. I am not saying anything that is any more shocking or negative than the Holy Spirit said in Romans, chapter 3:

“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.
THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING, THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS;
WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS;
THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.
THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

From the obvious, violent crimes such as physical assault and murder, to the subtle effects of indifference and self-centeredness, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

I say all this to emphasize one simple point: we must look up. We must listen to the God who is above us; submitting to His instructions. We must “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord,”(James 4:10). We must accept His boundless, scandalous grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), and then we must walk in His light (1 John 1:7). We must continually rededicate ourselves to His service (Romans 12:1-2).

We cannot intellectualize ourselves out of wickedness in the academy. We cannot legislate ourselves out of wickedness on Capitol Hill. We cannot bomb ourselves out of wickedness on a battlefield. We cannot lock up all of the wicked people in a jail somewhere. We cannot spend our way out of wickedness at the mall. We cannot diet our way, or entertain our way, or sanitize our way out of wickedness in our homes.   For that matter we cannot even discipline our way out of our own wickedness if we will not look up.

Man cannot help us.

God, help us.

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The Christian and the Media

The contemporary world is one absolutely saturated with media. It seems that in almost every pocket, living room, bedroom, bar, and classroom in America there is a piece of technology that connects us to the media.  By “the media” I mean simply the public broadcast of rhetorical or entertaining material. There is really no historical precedent for this level of media saturation.  Historical peoples have had circuses, horse races, theater, or the opera.  But these pastimes were not available 24/7, on demand, on private devices. I’d like to give a perspective from neuroscience, from sociology, and strait from the Biblical, to help us understand how to feel about these strange times.

Neurology: Mirror Neurons
Mirror Neurons were not discovered until the early 1990’s, but they have incredible implications concerning our social behavior.  Scientists have discovered that when we observe behavior performed by someone else, our own brain activity mirrors that of the actual participant. This is what can make video-based media so engrossing.  When we see someone smile, our own brains behave as though we were smiling.  When we see someone using a hammer, our own brains behave as though we were using a hammer. The same principle applies when we see sexual acts or instances of graphic violence or revenge in the media.

Sociology: Distortion of Perspective
Media sends messages to us about what is important. Malcom Muggeridge put it this way: “Now can this really be, as the media continually insists, what life is about–this worldwide soap opera going on from century to century, from era to era, whose old discarded sets litter the world?”
Essentially, the media tells us that everyone else, “the public,” is very concerned or interested or entertained by exhibit A, and that we should be, too. There is an intense focus on violent crimes, the latest celebrity gossip, etc. In this way, it inflates the importance of subjects that only distract us from our own personal talents and responsibilities, and the work to be done in the Kingdom.
Bible: Intentions of the Heart
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Jesus is pointing out for us that something as simple as visual a stimulus is capable of opening the door to very damaging mental processes. He goes on to tell us later in the sermon that “the eye is the lamp of the body.”  Jesus knew what contemporary psychology and neuroscience is telling us, that what we see has a profound impact on us.

I urge Christian readers, consider the motives behind your consumption of media.  Consider the effects that television and movies may be having on your values.  And I urge us all to meditate on great themes and do great things in this world.  Do not sacrifice your mind to the media.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Jesus of Nazareth preached to the crowds: “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  From this we can see that both Jesus and God the Father esteem those who diffuse tension and bring understanding between conflicting people or groups.

On another occasion, Jesus told us “you have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Make no mistake about it, we certainly recognize on a personal as well as a national level that peace is not a state so desirable that no sacrifice is too great to achieve it.  There are more important things than peace.  We cannot sacrifice truth to obtain it.

One of my professors put it this way: turning the other cheek is not a prescription for how to respond when children are being murdered, it is an example of how we should respond when our honor is called into question.

And we, like all peoples throughout history, certainly do value our honor.

Yes, Jesus acknowledge that His message would at times result not in peace but the sword.  He even acknowledged that family members would turn on each other because of Him (Matthew 10:34-36).  But His word makes it clear that we must do all that we possibly can to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18).

This would include, as already mentioned, responding with dignity and nonviolence rather than retaliation when out honor is challenged.  It would also include being wise about when, where, and how we share the truth.  Consider these Biblical principles for dealing with conflict:

The way in which a truth is spoken can affect how it is received: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Our speech should never be lacking in grace: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all: “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Even a friendly “good morning” does more harm than good when poorly timed: “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him.” (Proverbs 27:14)

May it be the prayer of all Christians that we can speak the truth in love.  To sacrifice truth is to misrepresent Christ to ourselves.  To sacrifice love is to misrepresent Christ to those we would seek to persuade.

Peace Handshake