Recent Posts

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why Christianity Is So Difficult

There is one aspect to Christianity that sets it apart from all other religions, and requires more of us than most people can give, and it is this: You must forgive your enemies, love, and pray for those who have wronged you; just as Jesus did:

Luke 23:34 : "And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide up his garments."


Matthew 5:44: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."


This love and forgiveness requirement is not present in other religions. There's no requirement in Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam to love any person. Love is seen as a good thing in most religions, but within boundaries. Loving one's enemies is counter-intuitive, and flies in the face of self-preservation, which is hard-wired into our brains.  All forms of living things will struggle to defend and preserve their lives. So how is it that the Christian God, presumed to be the same God worshiped by Jews and Muslims, came to make this a requirement? 


It is proof that Christ was the Messiah, the secret of His power and uniqueness, a quality of God we never saw until Jesus came, and the main reason why his life has inspired people for two-thousand years. Luke 6:32 to 42 explains in Jesus's words:


Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye."

The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis suggests how we can make a good start: “Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor [or enemy]; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”

Looked at the right way it makes perfect sense to forgive an enemy, because we often don't know who our enemies really are. Benjamin Franklin - a genuine Christian at heart, though not churchgoing - was very generous in his assessment, saying, "Our enemies are our friends, for they show us our faults." Someone we like or love may criticize us, and it hurts. But if they're right, and we correct our fault, they have given us a gift. How many times have we ignored the advice of friends, thinking they were ignorant or self-serving, and lived to regret it?  Flatterers can be our worst enemies, ingratiating themselves and gaining our trust only to betray us later, as Iago did in Skakespeare's Othello. Iago provokes Othello to murder his innocent and loving wife Desdemona.


What about those who really do gravely harm us? Some crimes will haunt us forever; the murder of a child or spouse; the theft of life savings, and so on. We must come to terms with these, somehow, and holding onto grievances can eat us up inside. Forgiveness - to some extent - will keep us sane.


It seems superhuman to be able to do this, and it is. But we can be superhuman if we choose. It is very hard, and here's why: Grievances are a powerful tool and a weapon. You can extract favors and money; you can make people feel very guilty, and even ruin their lives by holding onto grievances and bludgeoning them. Many people don't want to surrender this power. 


That's the whole point. Sacrifice. It's the ultimate litmus test of character; selflessness, and generosity. It's also the secret to escaping this world and the sentence of death we're all living under. 


The Martyr's Path


Here's another reason Christianity is difficult: Although it's rarely discussed, there are at least two different paths faithful Christians can follow in their lives. Jesus and his disciples chose the path of martyrdom, and expected to be persecuted and killed for their faith. The greatest rewards in heaven are promised to those who can. But by no means are all people required to give up their lives and everything they own. We mustn't beat ourselves up or feel like failures if we can't make the ultimate sacrifice. Few people can.


Even Pope Francis has refused the martyrs path; as have all previous Popes. One might think - considering he's seen by Catholics as a "Vicar of Christ", the closest person to God on earth - that he would gather up some of his bishops and cardinals and make a pilgrimage to Iraq or Lebanon. Imagine how powerful a statement of faith it would be if he went to a mosque in any holy city of Islam and challenged the High Imams to a debate, as Jesus did at Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. Of course they would have him crucified, but he would receive the highest honor a Christian can achieve in this world. It would be transformational event in world history, and a proof of faith.


The fact that the Pope won't do this proves something unspoken. No nation or state would survive by granting such forgiveness. If we take Christ's admonition literally - as in Matthew 18:22, "I tell you, you must forgive... seventy times seven" - we must disband our police forces, release all prisoners from jails, and dissolve our military. Not only would our nation be overwhelmed by criminals and invaders, but our families and future generations would be destroyed. Still, we would be obligated to love the invaders and destroyers, and pray for them. This is too much to ask of mortal men and women. The few who could do this are saints. You know who they are, and how rare a quality that is. 


We all must follow our hearts in this decision. If our hearts say we must be a martyr, we must be one. If it wants to be a soldier, banker, or politician, we should should do that instead. "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Luke 12:34). Success and satisfaction in life depends on commitment, and only heartfelt work endures. Know yourself.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Pope Francis in the Crosshairs

What a difference it makes when you discover that a vicious and organized enemy wants you and everything you hold dear destroyed. It will keep you awake at night, and make you change your mind about a lot of things. Such is the state of mind of the world leader of Catholicism.

As recently as July, Pope Francis was railing against "unfettered capitalism" as the greatest global threat to world peace and the lives of the poor, believing that the poor and disadvantaged become leaders of violent revolutions. He ushered Liberation Theology back into the Vatican, a belief system akin to Marxism that seeks to force the redistribution of wealth by governments, or almost any other means necessary. He ignored the advancing armies of IslamoNazism, like ISIS, which were systematically killing, raping, and destroying the oldest Christian communities in the world in countries like Syria, Turkey, and Iraq:

http://www.religionnews.com/2014/08/04/liberation-theology-miguel-descoto-pope-francis/

The truth is that the most violent and brutal enemies of human dignity, liberty, and civilization usually come from the middle and upper classes. Marx, Lenin, Hitler's top ministers, Tojo and Emperor Hirohito, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, the Kims of North Korea, Osama bin Laden, et al, were from childhood onward well-off or rich, and unfamiliar with poverty.

But now Pope Francis has discovered that much of Islam has morphed into a savage enemy of everything Christian, Jewish, and genuinely liberal. Western civilization in its entirety will be annihilated if ISIS and other groups like Hamas, Hezballah, Boko Haram,  and the Muslim Brotherhood have their way. They're building a new nation, the long-dreamed-of Caliphate, in the Middle East. Christians there have been charitable, generous, peaceful, and kind for two-thousand years. But that's irrelevant now that the worst psychopathic killers in society are leading the Muslims. The Pope has a contract out on him, and the Italian government has had to step up Vatican security:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/28/italy-steps-up-security-over-alleged-isis-plot-against-the-pope.html

For the first time in hundreds of years, a Pope has called for the use of force to eliminate these threats:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/pope-francis-force-iraq_n_5688628.html

We're entering a new age of religious wars and violence on a scale that hasn't been seen on earth before. The good news is that this type of Armageddon was predicted in the Book of Revelation two-thousand-years ago, and it's the precursor to very great and wonderful things to come. But a great deal of faith is required of us, because all will seem lost as the days and months pass.  From the New Testament, Matthew 24:3 - 48:


"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come...
“Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house.  Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak...  For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.  At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.  Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man...
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’  and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."