In the post immediately proceeding this one, I shamed people who respond in knee-jerk fashion to whatever the new national outrage is. It was a general tirade that applied to all who were guilty. However, some additional thoughts directed to the Christian are in order, for they, more than anyone, should not so easily fall in with the outrage du jour. As with that post, this one is also not to be read into whatever today’s outrage is, and should be seen as applying to all of them. The intended audience for this post is specifically Christians.
The Scriptures tell us how to direct our thoughts each day, and it isn’t based on whatever is highlighted on Good Morning America or even the Drudge Report for that matter. Surely, we’ve all seen how the shape of our day’s thought-life can be shaped by things we see in the media. The agenda for our mind should not be determined by the world, and all the more when there are agents in our society who have the intentional goal of determining what we think about each day.
As for the Scriptural side of things, we could begin with this passage:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
I don’t suppose I have to work too hard to persuade the reader that most, if not all, of the things we are called upon to think about by the world, are not honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, praiseworthy… and need I say, it is rarely true?
There are some important reasons for Paul’s list here. Obvious ones include “You are what you (mentally) eat” and “Why are you letting secularists manipulate you as if you are Pavlov’s dog?” But Paul already gave us the more important guiding principle:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)
This world and all it consists of is passing away. To the extent that there is anything within it that we should give attention to, it should be done very carefully. We most certainly should not let non-Christians set the terms of engagement. If something is important to a non-Christian, does that mean it is important to us? Maybe it isn’t important at all, but because the non-Christian has no other horizon to look to besides this earth’s, it is the best they have?
In our present climate, this is particularly true on the question of ‘justice,’ which they are all abuzz with–and by abuzz I don’t mean bees, but drunkenness. The best of them are drunk on the idea of ‘social justice’ but neither for reasons that we Christians are interested in justice nor the same measures of what constitutes justice.
On any sane, informed, view, grave injustices have plagued our globe throughout its entire history and plague it now, and will always plague it. You will never be able to make the world ‘just.’ NEVER. You may, however, live justly yourself, and possibly bring justice to your own narrow sphere of influence.
But the worldly approach to such issues is not satisfied with such limited aspirations, and in the name of ‘justice’ is quite pleased to inflict as much injustice as they feel necessary “for the common good.” The Christian is not permitted to harm one person or group in order to help another (ostensibly). A Christian can, however, ‘harm’ himself for the good of another.
Along these lines, another dynamic that we Christians cannot ally with is the inclination towards ‘statism’ and the feeling that rectifying an injustice must be done at all costs because otherwise a person might not experience a remedy in time for them to benefit from the remedy. For the statist, after a person is dead, it is too late for them to have justice. For the Christian, it is understood that 1., At the end of all things, there WILL be justice, but it will be God to enacts it and 2., acting unjustly in the name of justice is still injustice and 3., you’re never going to eradicate injustice anyway, no matter what powers you give to the state, and 4., humans being what they are, if you give the state more power, the state is likely to abuse that power, but your power to curtail the abuse of power is proportionally less.
But for the worldly, the ‘state’ is all there is.
But do not be fooled. Many of those who say they are trying to bring justice are still being guided by the ‘god of their belly.’ First of all, most obviously, they may be profiting gloriously from their ‘efforts.’ You can often recognize these by the fact that even though they say they are against such and such, all their efforts seem directed to ensuring that such and such continues. Why? Because if the problem they say the are concerned with is solved, they are no longer needed. And if they are no longer needed, they will be deprive of their position and of course, their money. Secondly, less obviously, some people say they care about helping others, but actually, what they care about is the good feeling they get when helping others. In other words, its not about the people being helped so much as it is the feeling they get in their ‘gut.’ Once again, if they were to actually succeed–eg, if overnight there were no poor people left to feed–they would undermine their own self-importance.
If a Christian wants to help someone, they do it because of the intrinsic worth of that person, not because it makes them ‘feel’ good.
But most worldly ideologies deny that people have intrinsic value.
I have touched on the idea of ‘social justice’ here only to highlight how differently a Christian might engage an issue as opposed to how the worldly person might engage it. These different mindsets would naturally create different priorities and different things that rise to our attention. The things the world thinks about each day, and how it thinks about them, are not necessarily what the Christian is supposed to think about, nor is it likely that we are going to think the same way about them. So, why is it that we let ourselves so easily get sucked into the day’s national outrage?
This world is going to pass away. In the eyes of much of the world, the people also will pass away. As Christians, we know that it is not the State that will remain, but rather the people.
When we are told to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ it was not a devotional platitude.
It was an order, and for good reason.