Most Christians, and those who live in "Christian societies" are familiar with the ten commandments. Don't steal, don't murder, don't covet, etcetera. But the ten commandments are just a small representation of the Bible's laws. You may not know that the Old Testament actually contains over 600 laws for the people of God to follow. In the New Testament, Jesus does us a favor and condenses all of the laws to two: love God and love your neighbor (Mt. 22:34-40). If we simply do those two things, then we'll never break any of the other 600 commandments. If we loved others, how could we murder them? If we loved, how could we covet what another has instead of being happy for them? If we loved God, how could we choose to avoid Him by not gathering together with other Christians to worship Him? Love is absolutely central to the Bible and to followers of Christ. In fact, Jesus tells us that it is a Christian's love which will distinguish them as a true follower of God (Jn. 13:35).
John Lennon, singer and song writer for the Beatles, was one of the most popular musicians of all time. But Lennon didn't just write music. He was a lyricist who incorporated his philosophy into his music. On the topic before us today, love, one of Lennon's more popular songs entitled "All You Need Is Love" declared just that. All we need is love. Lennon wrote another very popular song entitled "Imagine," which was a vision of how we could build a world saturated with the love Lennon thought we needed. Lennon says, "Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No Hell Below us. Above us, only sky... You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us. And the world will live as one." In Lennon's mind, religion was an impediment to love, not a conduit. If we could just get rid of religion - if we could just get rid of the division religion causes, then the world could finally be free to love.
Unfortunately, Lennon was a far better musician than he was a philosopher. But despite his poor philosophy, his beliefs have been peddled to hundreds of millions of listeners throughout the decades, and his beliefs have unfortunately gained popularity. Like Lennon, many today believe that love would be in a much better condition if we could just rid it of the burden of religion. However, I am here to tell you that without religion - specifically without a religion like Christianity which has a relational God at its center - love is dead.
Masculinity. That's a term I don't really care too much about. I don't care very much right now about definitions, cultural shifts, political agendas, or anything else out there in history, or out there in the modern world which is being used to dismiss injustice. Like Adam, we Christian men are far too good at shifting the blame, and all of the aforementioned areas are places which are all too easy for us to use in order to avoid the negative spotlight. We desire our egos stroked, we seek praise, we seek accolades - but God forbid we self-reflect and find truth. So men, forget about any other moral agent or agenda that exists right now and simply focus on yourselves.
But really, such a condition of self-absorption isn't a man's condition alone. It's a woman's condition as well. Like Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and failed to take responsibility for herself. Like Adam, Eve became a self-centered being as well. Self-preservation and self-acclaim are not something unique to any gender. However, men are currently beginning to come under the microscope in our culture (and rightly so), so I want to take a look at the human condition and human responsibility from a man's perspective. Just know that these applications can be applied more broadly to all humans in their differing power structures and situations.
Ice age upon catastrophic ice age of selection
And only one result has trickled in
The house wins, oh, the house always wins
If evil were a lesser breed than justice after all these years
The righteous would have freed the world of sin
The house wins, oh, the house always wins
You don't have to be alone to be lonely
You might as well give in
You don't have to be sick to be dying
You might as well give in
You don't have to have lost to be lost
Oh, give in
Most consider *lunatics to be poor, helpless individuals who are constrained by their natures. Yet we must note that their nature is actually one of utter freedom. There are no volitional constraints upon the lunatic. Every option is available to them. Society may bid them conform, but the lunatic is oblivious as he chooses to disrobe in public. Science, philosophy, and logic bid the lunatic to conform, but the lunatic defies them as he chooses to "fly" from a third story apartment. And while to the observer of this flight the lunatic clearly fails in his attempt, observation and experience hold no constraints on the lunatic, as his endeavor to fly, in his mind at least, was a smashing success. We consider the lunatic chained to his aberrant nature, and in one sense, this is very true. The lunatic's freedom is often quite catastrophic to his well-being. Yet we must also recognize that he is really more free than are we, at least if the ability to choose is what defines freedom.
"*Jean Claude! *Fran!" I yelled through the cold, morning air. I was yelling because my voice needed to travel through the haze from the still smoldering campfires and all the way through the slats in the small, wooden shanty to the seven occupants who resided inside. Without a door on the shack and with only blankets for windows, I didn't need to yell all that loudly for them to hear me. But my voice was the "doorbell" to make my presence known, and I wanted to ensure that I was heard. I didn't want any of my future visits to end up like my first, unannounced visit, when *Sam, Jean Claude's older brother, took me into the shack while the rest of the family were all still huddled in the same bed trying to keep warm.
Catalina and I have a somewhat unconventional way of handling property issues with our children. We developed it after reading a parenting book which highlighted our often pharasaical approach to parenting. Whenever a property dispute used to arise between our children, our immediate question had always been, "Who had it first?" But this didn't teach our children anything except that power and dominance came by a speedy and selfish appropriation of property. While we had a clear method for resolving the issue, our parenting did not at all address the idolatry of control, selfishness, a lack of consideration of others, and other issues of the heart. After realizing this pitfall, reading articles and books, and talking with those who were much wiser than we were, we decided to institute "Toy Jail."
The story of "The Prodigal Son" is a seemingly familiar story for most of us. However, as our men's group goes through this story again, guided by Tim Keller's book, "The Prodigal God," I am finding it more beautiful and convicting than ever before. In the first place, simply reading this story in Romanian has illuminated the passage. In our culture, the notion of "prodigal" has always (at least in my mind) meant "wayward." A prodigal is someone who has lost their way. However, in Romanian, the story is of the "wasteful" son. That makes sense, as the son wasted the love of his family and his full inheritance on that which was fleeting and meaningless.
This revised understanding of the meaning of "prodigal" opens up Keller's book title as well, as we understand that Keller wants to clue us in to the "wastefulness" of God. At first this notion perhaps comes across as blasphemous. But as Keller expounds on the story of the Prodigal Son, highlighting Christ's audience, Christ's character, and the overly generous love of the father, it becomes clear that God is "wasteful" in his love, at least in the eyes of the world. The Pharisees couldn't understand how Jesus wasted his love and attention on the sinners and tax collectors. Such a message is just as important for us today, as we likewise horde the love and forgiveness of God which we believe we have obtained through our merit, refusing to dispense any of it to those who we perceive to be less than us.
Our world is fed two narratives when it comes to democracies - either you vote and uphold patriotism, honor, duty, and morality, or you abstain from voting and refuse to participate in the world in any meaningful way. While I will acknowledge that many who abstain from voting likely do so because they are either lazy or uninformed, I believe there may often be a good rationale for Christians to abstain. I want to provide a few of the reasons which stand out most to me, and provide you with a few other resources to ponder if you decide to consider this option further.
*This is a very rough draft of a strange rebuttal I've developed against the Violinist Argument for abortion. I'm putting it out there not because I'm certain it's solid, but for honest critiques. If you would like to a more comprehensive and solid rationale for the intrinsic valuing of all human life, you can find that here. You can also find a more mainstream rebuttal for the Violinist Argument.