Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: honour

True conservatism

The conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order.

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

-Russell Kirk

Thine be the glory

Numbers 14:11-12 — And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

These people had seen the plagues by which God punished and tormented the Egyptians, had been miraculously led through the Red Sea, eaten the manna which appeared each morning, seen the glory of God on Mount Sinai and been led by the visible presence of God in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. And still they could not believe that God was able to lead them into the promised land. No wonder He was ready to disinherit them.

The promise to make of Moses an greater and mightier nation than the Israelites must have seemed almost irresistable. Yet Moses’ immediate reaction was to refuse it and to intercede for Israel.

Numbers 14:13-16 — Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)  and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.

Notice that Moses’ concern for the glory of the LORD completely overshadowed and obliterated any temptation he might have had to accept the glory that God proposed to him.

Can we do any less today? If we want to be known as men and women of God, our sole concern must be His glory. In chapter 20, God tells Moses to speak to the rock and it would give water for the people. But Moses became impatient with the people: “and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also” (verses 10-11). God still provided the water, but for this one act, where Moses spoke as though he was the one providing the water, God would not let him enter the promised land.

We are treading on dangerous ground when we begin to feel that we deserve some of the glory for the good that we do. God alone must receive all the glory.

Cultural perspectives on youth and old age

Closely related to the North American orientation toward the future is the strong emphasis on youth. This can be seen in commercial advertising and entertainment — the old are rarely represented. At work the young are often thought to be more active and productive, and to hold more promise than do the elderly, despite their experience and sense of responsibility.

There are few attempts to involve the aged in the mainstream of the society. Once they retire, they are viewed as having little to contribute. And when they can no longer care for themselves, they are often placed in nursing homes, isolated from their offspring and cared for by non relatives.

This emphasis on youth is the exception rather than the rule around the world. In most societies old people are viewed positively as wise and experienced. They are shown respect, given places of honour and consulted about family and community decisions. There is no retirement from public life. In fact, retirement as we conceive of it now is a twentieth-century phenomenon found mainly in the west.

Paul G Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries © 1985 by Baker Books.

Christian celebrities

Can someone please tell me how it is a validation of the saving grace of Jesus Christ to extol well-known public figures who are Christians as testimonial evidence?  What does it do to the public’s perception of Christianity when these people stumble?

It’s not that it is impossible for people in the public eye, such as athletes, entertainers and business people, to be Christians.  But why are we looking for heroes?  Does our personal faith rest on such a shaky foundation that we doubt the saving power of Jesus Christ unless we have the testimony of these celebrities to reassure us?

If that is the case, I am afraid that we have something backwards here.  Jesus tells us that: “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”  (Luke 16:15)  These celebrities are receiving the acclaim of the public for something else than their faith.  There is always the danger that the applause of the world might become more important to them than the approval of their Saviour.

We make heroes within our Christian circles, too.  Someone has led a selfish and sinful life for years, then one day the call of God breaks through to him and he is converted.  Soon he begins to receive invitations to tell his story to far away congregations and other Christian gatherings.  We love to hear such stories and praise God for His wonderful work.  There is a very real danger that the one giving the testimony may feel that he is the one being praised.

A preacher may labour humbly for years in the power and grace which the Holy Spirit gives.  Eventually he develops a reputation as a powerful evangelist, a resolver of difficulties, a repairer of the breaches in the church.  Well-meaning Christians begin to see him as one with a gift that exceeds all others.  Eventually he begins to believe this himself.  The Holy Spirit senses that He is no longer the one receiving the honour and begins to withdraw.

Jesus asked: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”  (John 5:44)

Someone else may give unstintingly of their money, time and talents, all the while needing the validation that others see and approve.  Jesus said: “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).

On the other hand, there are those who see the dangers lurking everywhere and avoid contributing much effort to the work of the kingdom for fear of becoming lifted up with pride.  They consider their reticence to be evidence of humility.  It is not.

Every Christian should devote him or her self to working for the cause of Christ as much as time, resources and opportunity will permit.  But we must not do it to receive honour from the people around us.  Someone has said that there is no limit to the amount of good that one can do, if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.  If we are looking to receive some part of the credit, then our efforts will be tainted.  Only God is worthy to receive honour.

To go back to the question at the beginning of this post, the example of celebrities and heroes is not a validation of my personal faith.  That validation must come from God Himself.  “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).

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