Vengeance, Justice, Mercy

The news story and the auction.

“When a man takes revenge, he becomes equal to his enemy, but when he passes it by, he becomes superior to his enemy.”

This is the difference between seeking ‘justice’ and granting mercy. I think even Christians get drawn into this pattern of thought. Someone wrongs us, someone slights us, and we want justice. More than that, we want our dignity returned to us. We’re angry, we’re hurt, and we just want things set right. I think sometimes, people get their desire for justice confused with their desire for revenge. I know I do. Someone messes with me, and while I phrase my desire in terms of justice, what I really want is payback. The trouble is, I forget that Christ urged his followers to turn the other cheek. He Himself countered anger, bitterness, and personal slights with love, mercy, and compassion. It took a lot to make Him angry, and I know that I become angry all too easily and at the smallest personal injury. He was a man who died painfully, accused of some of the worst things, and yet He remained silent, speaking only to offer forgiveness. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and justice is His, as well, to mete out. I should content myself only in showing God’s love and tender mercies to those who hurt me, even (especially?) when it pains me further to do so. I mean, how else are we, as Christians, to make an impact on this world, if not in doing this?

Jesus, a Humanist?!

I track another forum for a game that I sometimes play, and a comment was made that Jesus was almost certainly a humanist. Well, I did a little digging around, just to make sure that I actually knew what I was talking about, and found several definitions of humanism. And once again, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus was most certainly not a humanist. The basic definition of humanism posits that it is a rational philosophy that is free of supernaturalism where the basic values of life are determined from common human experience and culture alone. (That’s the really watered-down version.) See, the trouble with saying that Jesus was a humanist is that He doesn’t fit this definition in the slightest. Everything about Jesus was supernatural, from his birth to his earthly works and ministry right up to his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Furthermore, the values that He preached weren’t derived from human experience but from Godly dictates. At the most basic level, the difference between Jesus and the humanist philosophy is that Jesus was most focused on things in Heaven and in relation to the Father, and humanists are most focused on things on the earth and in relation to their fellow man.

I think that making this distinction is very important because of the differing emphases. Humanists believe in the power of Man to better themselves and the world, while Jesus (and hence all Christians) believed only in the power of God to save Men from themselves and to ultimately one day renew the whole of the universe for His pleasure.

Discussion Forum?

“Rise, forum! Arise!”

A dreamchild of mine for several years now has been an online discussion forum geared primarily toward Christians. I’ve had a number of excellent discussions with fellow believers via email, Xanga, and other discussion forums around the Web. The trouble is that doing so often means spending a significant portion of time traversing the Web, logging into and out of different sites, and so on. I keep thinking somehow that creating a specific forum designed to consolidate a number of these discussions would be useful. My intent would not be to take away from the traffic of these various other sites; rather, my intent would be to make it more convenient for
any and all interested in such discussions on philosophy, theology, ethics, and various other issues by adding to these discussions in a central location.

I’ve already begun testing the waters via email with a few select people as to what sort of interest there would be in such a discussion venue. I will further test the waters by asking how many of you who read my periodic posts what interest you would have in this forum. I would appreciate any feedback you give on what your level of interest is as well as what sorts of things you would enjoy discussing (to help me with the design of the forum should there be
enough interest for me actually start work on it).

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Oh, and believe it or not, I actually have four or five new posts floating around in my head, so hopefully I will get around to writing those up soon and putting them up for your consideration.

Delusions of the Religious Variety

I briefly caught some of Larry King’s coverage of the Andrea Yates story last night, along with some of the interview that officials had with Andrea. It was interesting to hear how she believed that Satan was telling her to kill her children and how she drowned three of them, believing that was saving them from Satan’s grasp by sending them to heaven. At first blush it sounded a lot like the delusions of someone suffering from schizophrenia (something that only a further detailed investigation would confirm).

There are quite a few mental disorders that manifest themselves in the forms of delusions pertaining to God, angels, Satan, demons, etc. Two that come to my mind immediately are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, both having some form of delusional behavior. I have to wonder why so many (though not all, by far) present with the sorts of delusions above. I’m sure background plays a role in it, though I wonder just how much of a role it plays. Do people with
such delusions come from particularly conservative and/or religious backgrounds? Or is it something else? I would definitely be interested in seeing some numbers on this — the number of religious/spiritual delusions that counselors see over the course of a year; what proportion are schizophrenic, bipolar, depressive, etc.; what proportion of delusional clients come from religious backgrounds and what proportion of non-delusional clients come from religious backgrounds, etc. I may actually have to conduct a study on this at some point, if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity.

Struggling

What do you do when you have come to believe that struggling to change people for the better and influence them for Christ is a lost cause? What do you do when you have become so cynical and jaded that your own Christian walk has stopped — not regressed, but not gone forward, either? What do you do when you feel so bitter toward people that you want to just be left alone? What do you do when you want to do something about it, when you want to change and get back to a vibrant relationship with Christ, but when you also want to just say, “Forget it — it’s not worth it?” What do you do when you feel like you have no one close to look up to, no mentor, no older and wiser and more mature Christian into whose footsteps to fall? What do you do when the conflict and tension inside is so great that it feels like you are goign to burn alive and that it feels like you are going to explode? What do you do?

Hatred Toward Christians

QUOTE
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“If all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

I was talking with a colleague the other day, and she was telling me about the professor that she has that has made his dislike for missionaries clearly known. In fact, he works a statement of his distaste into nearly every lecture. This bothers her because she has a missionary background, and her professor knows it.

Similarly, I’ve had discussions with others about why they despise Christians and Christianity. The reasons they’ve given me are legitimate and just — Christians can be some of the coldest, most judgmental, most condescending people on the face of the planet, both to unbelievers and to one another. Naturally, this turns a lot ofpeople off to Christianity.

To be honest, this is something I have struggled with and continue to struggle with. Why are the very people who are called to a higher calling and who claim to be the people saved by grace unwilling to extend that same grace to others? It makes me ashamed sometimes to be called a Christian and to be associated with others who call themselves Christian. I find it so much more difficult to share my faith when the initial reaction is one of disgust, hatred, and
bitterness. I admit, I’ve become cynical toward Christians. At least unbelievers are honest regarding what they are about.

Forum

I know there are at least a few of you who enjoy good theological and philosophical discussions. For those who do, I encourage you go to:

http://www.forums4free.net/thinkings/index.php?

and register. This is a forum set up by a friend of mine (I think he has to approve all new registrations, so once registered, it might take a few hours to actually gain access), and it is a pretty good place to go for some interactive discussions. And if you know of others who enjoy such discussions, share the link with them. I’d love to see the forum come alive with good discussions.

Spiritual Disciplines

Mastering the spiritual disciplines begins, for me, with the physical disciplines. I’ve gained another 20 lbs. or so the past few weeks (even though my lifestyle and eating habits have not changed over the past year or so). As a result, I believe, I feel fatigued much of the time and my mind is constantly foggy. My goal is to exercise an hour a day at least four days a week, drop roughly 50 pounds, and get back near my ideal body weight.

I believe that to fully master the spiritual disciplines, one must also master the physical disciplines. It’s necessary to master one’s own body, to bring it into subjection, making it the temple of the Holy Spirit that it was meant to be. I need more discipline in my own life, and the best place for me to start at this point is disciplining my body. It’s going to be tough because I’ve grown used to the lack of activity, but in the end, it will all be worth it.

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On another note, I’d like to throw a question out to my handful of subscribers. I have been told numerous times from numerous sources that I am a gifted writer, that I am very eloquent in presenting my thoughts, even in a rough draft. As a result, I’ve been kicking around the idea of beginning a newsletter to share some of the lessons of life as I learn them. (If anyone is familiar with Scott Garber’s Unconventional Wisdom, it will probably be something similar to that.) The question is, if I were to do that, would anyone be interested in subscribing? At this point, I’m just curious as to what the interest levels might be, as it might be a while before I would such a project off the ground. Also, if there is enough interest, I’d be interested in getting ideas for titles for the letter.

Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of Words