The New World

The Old Testament reading for today (Isaiah 11: 1 – 10) has been used by many to describe a world at peace. It is clearly not an image of the world today nor is it an image many people think is even remotely possible. Too many people feel that war is an inherent part of society and it is best to deal with war rather than try and eliminate war.

I believe that war can be eliminated and that is must be eliminated. But to eliminate war does not mean to just remove the instruments of war (as described in last week’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah 2: 1 – 5 ). To eliminate war you must eliminate the causes of war. When Jesus came and began His ministry, he proclaimed that the sick would be healed, the lame would walk, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the homeless would find shelter, and the oppressed would be set free.

Sickness, homelessness, and oppression are and have always been the root causes of war. IF we do not remove the causes of war, then we will never eliminate war.

In his 1961 speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, President John Kennedy said, “today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be inhabited.” (John F. Kennedy, Address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, September 25, 1961) At a time when the threat of nuclear war was clear, President Kennedy understood that the initiation of nuclear war by any country, be it the Soviet Union, the United States, or some unnamed country, would lead to the total devastation of the world.

Today, we may not live under that same threat but the threat of the destruction of this world is still a possibility. It may be by nuclear weapons, biochemical weapons, or terrorism. It might be through global warming or through some other unknown destructive threat. But it is clear that we cannot live in a world where each country views its own interests and values as more important than any other country’s interests and values.

If we are to live in a world of peace and free from the threat of destruction, then we must work together as countries and as individuals. That is not to say that we will have one country that occupies the whole world. The nations that inhabit this world and the many cultures represented are too complex to even think that this is a possibility.

Of course, there are those today who say that it can be accomplished under the auspices of one of the great religions. We constantly hear from many fundamentalists how they wish to establish a kingdom of God under the auspices of their religion. I am not one of them.

The establishment of such a kingdom requires that we establish that our religion is the single true religion and that all other religions are false. One of the reasons Paul wrote what he did for this week (Romans 15: 4 – 13) (amazing how he knew that it would be read this week) was because he wanted to point out that Christ’s message transcended the boundary of the religions of the time. Christ’s message was for all, not just a few.

But what happens if a person has a valid belief system and leads a life that is set by that system. Are they condemned? Some might say they are but that would require that our rules be used to determine the outcome of an entirely different system. It would be like we used the rules of European football (i.e. soccer) to determine the outcome of an American football game. It won’t work.

Any individual has the right to believe as they wish, provided that their belief is based on a valid system. There are, of course, many who create their own belief systems, picking and choosing from other systems in order to get the best of all systems. But such an artificial belief system is an incomplete system. You cannot select what you want from one system and something from another system solely so that you can justify what you do. You may disagree with parts of a system but you cannot cast that part aside just because you disagree with it. It would be like saying that you follow Christ but you wish to hold onto all of your wealth and allow no one to share in it. Christ’s commandment was very clear; to follow Him require a total commitment, not a partial one. I am sure that a study of other belief systems would lead to the same conclusion.

There are those, of course, who say they are believers but their actions belie their words. When John the Baptist calls the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to hear him preach “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 3: 7), it was because their words and thoughts were not backed up by their actions.

The Pharisees and Sadducees proclaimed that by their position and name that they had received salvation. But, as John the Baptist pointed out, salvation comes only when you change your ways. Repentance is an act, not a statement. You cannot say that you have repented; you have to change what you do.

The result of repentance is that things change. The world cannot and will not survive if our words are contrary to our actions. We cannot say that we believe in peace when we continue to build the instruments of war or seek to provoke the initiation of war. We cannot say that we are a nation of plenty when people go hungry and countless others have no home in which to live. We cannot say that our healthcare system is the best there is if people have no medical insurance and are told that the emergency room is sufficient for many illnesses.

We cannot expect the world to change when the gap between the wealthy and the poor grows each year. We cannot expect the world to change when people believe that those who have wealth will receive glory in God’s Kingdom and those who are poor are sinful and are to be cast aside. And we cannot expect the other countries of this world to act any differently if we cannot do what we say we believe.

Isaiah concluded his prophecy by saying that the root of Jesse’s tree will stand as a signal to all the people and all the nations. (Isaiah 11: 10) The birth of Christ is not just a day; it is the beginning. We have a world that may not survive because there are too many threats to its survival. We have a chance through the birth of Christ to have a new world, a world in which the Gospel message becomes true and more than words in a passage of a book.

As we progress through Advent, we prepare for the Coming of Christ. We also prepare for what happens after He comes. If we are to have a world of peace, it will because we have repented of our old ways and began to live a true life in Christ.

7 thoughts on “The New World

  1. [If we are to have a world of peace, it will because we have repented of our old ways and began to live a true life in Christ.]

    That’s kind of a childish world view, don’t you think? I mean, all this belief in the supernatural is completely antithetical to logic and reason.

    • So, I presume the adult world view is too just accept the idea that war is a part of life? I haven’t quite figured out how to respond to your other thought except to wonder where good and evil are in the world of logic and reason.

      The key thing is that faith is not necessarily a part of logic and reason nor are logic and reason necessarily a part of faith. Do not presume that I hold to one view when all of my writings say that you have to have both faith and logic/reason in order to exist.

      A world view that says that war is inevitable defies logic and reason if nothing is done to remove the causes. That is the world we live in right now and that is the world that I seek to change.

      • [So, I presume the adult world view is too just accept the idea that war is a part of life?]

        Most wars seem to be started in the name of religion. George W. Bush thought God told him to invade Iraq. The 9/11 attack was a jihad. Most terrorist attacks these days are in the name of God.

        [I haven’t quite figured out how to respond to your other thought except to wonder where good and evil are in the world of logic and reason.]

        We don’t need religion to dictate the concept of good and evil. Most of us have an inherent sense of right and wrong, as do many animals. It’s something that has helped us survive as a species. Those who lack that attribute are called psychopaths.

        [A world view that says that war is inevitable defies logic and reason if nothing is done to remove the causes.]

        Many wars could have been avoided. We should have never invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. If we had a better president at the time, we could have dealt with the 9/11 attack in a more pragmatic way and it would have caused less damage to our country. A major factor in going into Iraq was oil. We had a president who thought we could just go in and take over the oil wells. The Vietnam war was primarily political. Johnson lied us into war for political gain. Nixon continued the war for political gain.

      • You won’t get much of argument from me concerning the avoidance of war and the reasons for war. I would also agree with you when it comes to the arguments for the war in Viet Nam and our current endeavors. But to say that wars are started in the name of religion runs against those statements.

        I have always thought that those who use God in their argument, such as “The Shrub” did so for political, not religious reasons. The same is true for the many and various groups who fight in the name of God. Their’s is a argument that runs against the very thing that they profess to believe is.

        On an entirely different line of thought, we may not need religion to dictate the concept of good and evil. It is true that we may have an inherent sense of right and wrong but where did it come from? If it is internal and genetic, one can easily open a can of worms that is far greater than anything Pandora ever let loose in this world. If it is not genetic (and I would hold to that notion), then where did we get it. Religion provides one way to find that answer.

      • [It is true that we may have an inherent sense of right and wrong but where did it come from?]

        Most scientists believe it came abouts through evolution. People who acted in ways that weren’t conducive to living in groups and were ostracized, so a sense of right and wrong became dominant in civilized societies.

        There was a Nova special on how dogs came to be. They actually bread dogs from wolves. They selected the least aggressive wolves and bread them. After a few generations, they started to change in appearance and started to look like dogs. While that’s not natural evolution, it demonstrates how evolution works.

        And moral values existed long before the advent of Christianity and Judaism. Read some of the teachings of the Buddha. He lived some 600 years before the beginning of Christianity and taught that people shouldn’t lie, talk bad about other people, shouldn’t hurt or kill people, etc… just like with the 10 Commandments. Those things were common in a lot of religions before Christianity.

      • I can’t say whether an inherent sense of right or wrong is a product of evolution; perhaps it is. But is it part of the genetic makeup? I don’t believe that questions has been answered.

        And yes, other cultures and religions have developed prior to Christianity and Judaisim. I have read some of the teachings of the Buddha; there is always the question as to where Jesus went between the time he was 12 and the beginning of his ministry at 30. But whether one speaks of the Buddha or God, one is trying to explain one’s own existence in this world. I contend that it goes beyond logic and reason; there is always that element of “why” that cannot be answered except by faith.

        I have always contended that there may be other spiritual paths in this world but if you choose to follow one, make sure that you follow it and not try to modify it to your own desires and thoughts. I have chosen my path; I trust that you have chosen yours. I will not try to make you follow mine nor should you try to make me follow yours.

  2. Pingback: “The Meaning of the Season” « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

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