Mark 8:36 “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?”
I remember an old TV series based on a plot where people would be facing what appeared to be an insurmountable problem or huge financial problems and their world would be about to collapse. Along would come a mysterious and sinister stranger and offer them a deal. The deal would always seem to be a good solution to their difficulties with the payback set years in the future. The only kicker was that the payback was their soul. The stranger was the devil and he was always on the lookout for desperate people. In the TV show people always did wonderfully until the night before the payback was due. In the dark night before they had to pay up to the devil, the people in the TV show would finally see how the deal had tricked them; stealing eternity from them in exchange for a few years of easy living.
The devil still uses the same device for trapping people but in order to lure more people he often uses the installment plan rather than a ‘big painful payout’ at some future date. In this day of easy finance, people sell out in small steps. Compromise and accommodation to the world’s values take people to the same place as the desperate sellout only by small steps and compound interest. Indeed, when people place little value upon their Christian heritage they, like Esau will trade it away when they face the slightest discomfort which they exaggerate out of all proportion; “And Esau said, ‘Behold, I am at the point of dying. And what profit shall this birthright be to me?’ ” (Genesis 25:32) The end result will be bitter tears and regret; “And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? ” (Genesis 27:36) Sudden disaster had overtaken Esau and he didn’t see his part in it. Esau didn’t see that what he then lost and missed, he had despised and taken for granted before. Esau blamed Jacob for the results of his own decisions and actions. Is this not familiar ground today?
Today, we are not that much different from Esau. Little if any value is placed on God’s Word in our society any more. People demand that the bible be removed from the schools yet when a teacher writes a novel featuring teenage sex very few see it as a problem. Where will it all end? Bullying is rampant in schools, the much heralded ‘Character Education’ initiative hasn’t produced the ethical and moral children that were hoped for. Indeed the Bible tells us; “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” (Matthew 10:24) Little wonder there is confusion among the children about what character is all about when their teachers reflect society’s disregard for God’s Word. Fred Hutchison writes: “If our European forbears had not converted from paganism to Christianity, we probably would still be living in barbarian tribes. If we fail to hang on to our religious roots, our civilization might fail and our posterity might live in barbarian tribes. This kind of collapse, dispersion, and degradation has happened many times in history.” It’s happening today, in our communities and cities. The fall back into barbarism and tribalism is accelerating. The voice of Christianity has all but been silenced by those who claim to speak for the people but live far removed from the urgency’s of their daily lives.
People don’t want kids in school to learn about Jesus. It is claimed that Christianity offends some people and so we shouldn’t be openly expressive about our faith in a multicultural society. Yet everything I know about how to get along in our multicultural society Jesus taught me; “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39) Through His parable of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 10: 29 -37) Jesus taught me that even though I might be fearful of strangers, they are capable of great kindness. Jesus taught me that love is the most powerful weapon known to man; “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44,45)
We have been too eager to cast away our Christian heritage on the altar of false tolerance. If we had stayed with Jesus’ teachings and taught them to our children there would be less bullying. We would be able to accept new neighbours different from us because Jesus calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Secular Europe seems to be abandoning experiments with ‘multiculturalism’; “Attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have ‘utterly failed’, Chancellor Angela Merkel says.” Holland also is reconsidering its course; “The Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism . . . ” How will strangers be treated in Europe now? Tolerance is a long held Biblical Tradition; “Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)
As nations, we have collectively lost our soul; “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” (Yeats) Our leaders and leading intellectuals can only wonder ‘what next’? As Christians we cannot be indifferent to the suffering people endure because of their abandonment of God. It is not good enough to say we are saved and they deserve what they get. This attitude is born right out of a self-righteous heart. Jesus spoke to this when he said; “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)
John Donne’s great poem reminds us: “No man is an island, entire of itself. … Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.” Why would we not feel spiritual death and dying as keenly as physical death and dying? Let not our hearts be hardened. Let us not smugly retreat into the false contentment of our individual salvation
A great lament now arises; “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20)