Monday, November 12, 2007


One of the classes I've been taking this semester is "Cultural Heritage of the West", or CHOW for short. We read the works of all the greatest (and sometimes the not-so-great) Western minds and in turn write about them, all in an attempt by the administration to bring "culture" to the Covenant student population.
We started the semester reading Greek and Roman writers like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, and Marcus Aeurelius. Our textbook also included passages from the Bible, and when we got to Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount, here's what I wrote for one of my journal entries. I'm not trying to be too theologically deep about this; but if perhaps this is not a restatement of the obvious for you, as it was not for me, there could be a chance you enjoy it.
As a point of interest, I wrote all my journal entries in pencil (and I always write in pencil anyway) until I got this particular entry back, graded, with a note at the top from my professor: "What do you have against pens?"

While I find it nice to be back in familiar literary territory, I'm reeling from the abrupt change in worldviews. At least the Greeks and Romans differed over little nit-picky details; this is different in a huge way, like going from walking through sand to walking on a juiced-up moving sidewalk. Reading Matthew in light of studying Homer and Plato and Virgil is a shock -- Who is this Jesus guy, anyway? What's he trying to tell us? We've never heard anything like this! One God? Blessed are the meek? Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? What kind of teachings are these?

But that's the message -and the impact- of the Gospel, isn't it? No to say the intention of the Sermon on the Mount is to just bring shock and awe... rather, it just naturally shocks and awes anyone who comes in contact with it, and with anyone whose life is the portrayal of the teachings of Jesus. And in the time of Christ, his words were not only freakishly new and different to the Greeks and Romans, but also the Jews and those who followed the Law of Moses. When Jesus takes all the "don't"s and pulls out a list of "do"s (or more precisely, "Blessed are those"s, I guess) and adds a new perspective of "inward" religion to a legalistic society, it absolutely blows the mind. "Eye for an eye" becomes "turn the other cheek"; "Love your neighbors and hate your enemies" becomes "love your enemies and pray for them"; "Do not commit fill-in-the-blank" becomes "do not commit fill-in-the-blank in your heart", much to everyone's (and I mean everyone's) surprise. His way of thinking was nothing short of revolutionary.

To take a quote from Back to the Future: "That's heavy, Doc." Very heavy indeed.

I guess I believe in a revolution, then. People could look at this Jesus Revolution (I randomly coin a term that reeks of oversimplification, but I'll save that argument for Doctrine class) and say, yes, this is the most peaceful, nonviolent kind of revolution. But it's only peaceful to those who choose to remain unaffected by it. To be truly immersed in this internal revolution is to see your own selfish thoughts and desires, your own sinful heart and mind be torn apart in the most painful and wonderful way possible. It's an internal one-eighty that I'm fairly certain the rest o the world could never understand.

Nonviolent? Possibly. But peaceful? Hardly. Not "peace" as the world sees it, anyway; it's internal turmoil that most could honestly do without, if given the choice. But from this struggle with sin comes a peace that surpasses human understanding.

So here's to the revolution: the revolution of the Gospel.

That's still heavy, Doc. But no one ever said a revolution was easy.


Jobber said...

Quite so!

When Chaplain Messner asked if we were at war yesterday, while I understood his caution not to miscommunicate, my reaction was an emphatic "Of course we are!"

There's a war inside me every day between the new man and the old -- the blessed man given true, revolutionary life in Christ's resurrection and life, and the cursed man who died with Christ but is still holding out and sometimes seems to be winning. Thank God, we know he will not in the end.

I felt that the third paragraph from the end does a particularly good job of catching the nature of our daily experience.

Elizabeth said...

Well, I've always been told to "write what you know"...

There's an FFH song that captures it even better, I think: ~It hurts as You're remolding my dreams ~And as You're reshaping all my attitudes; ~It's hard to bear, but every change means ~That little by little, I am more like You~

I'd say it's a process that hurts like anything, but really, I think it hurts like Heaven.
(The immediate expected response is, "But Heaven doesn't hurt!" Well, no, it's not supposed to. But getting there sure does, doesn't it?)

Jobber said...

Yes. Still, Sunday is my favorite day of the week, and it's supposed to be the most like Heaven.
Relatedly, do you think it should be said that Christians suffer more than unbelievers? I think it is, but only with the complementary statement that we also get more of Heaven, in some ways now, and fully later.

"Hurts like heaven." I particularly agree with this in the context of Romans 8:whatsit: "The sufferings of this present time are not with comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." The suffering gives us some idea of how amazing heaven will be in order to not be worth comparing with it.

Elizabeth said...

Aha. Perhaps my attempt at a clever turn of a turn-of-phrase was abundant in far too much "attempt" and not enough "clever".

Do Christians suffer more? It probably depends on what our definition of "suffering" is, don't you think? If we say that suffering is experiencing and dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy, then I would say Christians do not suffer more than unbelievers. Tragedy happens to everyone; as for the recovery and aftermath, people and situations differ all across the board, and I would be hardpressed to make a judgment call based on statistics I don't know.
But if "suffering" is the description of the innate struggle with good and evil... just as I must remind myself that we were all brought down into wickedness by the Fall, I must also remind myself that we are all made in the image of God, so I think that we have two conflicting natures within us whether we are Christian or not. However, those who are living in ignorance of their sins are less likely to feel convicted about them; agreed?

To rephrase from my post, I think Christians experience more inner turmoil... the only difference is, they understand why.

Y'know, there are a lot of people who believe Christians have masochistic tendencies because "they enjoy suffering". How's that for the wisdom of the modern world?

Jobber said...

Your points on inner struggle are well put; it doesn't take any masochism for a person freed from slavery to be willing and even glad to go through whatever is necessary to get rid of the remnants of it.

The conscience, while breakable, is still pretty good at throwing guilt your way even if you don't believe what you're doing is wrong. Certainly, it works better for a Christian, is hopefully not supressed, and is certainly used better. So I think Christians feel both more and less guilt. :)

When speaking of suffering, I was particularly thinking of inner suffering brought on by exterior circumstances; the Bible says we will suffer for it if we follow Christ. And the Lord disciplines those He loves. Still, we won't be suffering as much of the natural consequences of sin, since (hopefully) we won't be doing so much sinning!

But don't take the last paragraph as a "six of one, half a dozen of the other" statement. The benefits of God are incomparable.

The Sheep said...

Man, I came into a deep conversation here! I was originally going to post a silly comment about the new look of your blog (which is very nice, by the way), but in light of this post I don't think it really fits.

At least the conversation's in writing so I know what has already been said. Unfortunately I have no deep insights to add... you two took them all! I can say that this is a much better (and much more interesting) CHOW journal than anything I ever wrote in CHOW. Good job, E.

The Sheep said...

One more thing I forgot to mention: I like pens better; they don't smear!