Persecuting the righteous continues
Let us look, for a moment, at such issues as prayer and Bible readings in schools. These appear to be areas in which the Biblical followers are regaining some lost territory. Forget it. That too is an illusion. First of all, this kind of persecution, Christians have brought on themselves. And one major reason is that they were forcing their belief on others. Then they assumed that the government of this country was going to back them. They began to argue that our secular leaders had left the path of our Christian fathers. Some of the fathers may have been Christians, but they never intended this government to be Christian; rather, the government sought to protect and leave all religions alone. The fathers believed that a strong political union could protect all the rights of its citizens and not just particular one group. Unfortunately, some groups have induced lawmakers to interpret the Constitution in their favor and that will lead to serious repercussions. By now, Christians should have become cognizant that a return to Biblical principles shall continue to remain an illusion.
The righteousness that Christ hoped for also became an illusion. Jesus firmly believed that God’s kingdom or God’s reign had arrived and the good news was that righteousness would triumph (Mk. 1:14). Jesus’ appeal to Jerusalem and to the nation ended at the cross. In fact, this also was the hope of Jesus’ followers (Lk. 24:21). It was after the resurrection of their Master, that Jesus’ followers realized that the kingdom ethics, including righteousness, could not be localized or nationalized. To the disciples, it became apparent that Jesus’ ethics and the kingdom had to be individualized (Lk. 17:21). Individuals would become righteous and individuals would spread that news throughout the world (Mt. 28:19). However, being Jews, they still persisted that it was intended for Jews that had been dispersed (Ja. 1:1). A dream from heaven shattered that notion. Peter was instructed to go to the home of a Gentile and enroll him and all the members of his household into the kingdom of Christ (Ac.10). Now, righteousness could embrace an entire group. This indeed was great news.
The early Christians did not stop with the groups that mushroomed all over the Roman Empire. Ultimately, Christians ruled half the world, but at what a price? Christ’s principles did become tools of convenience to enslave other human beings for profiteering. Christians, within Christianity, rebelled and they were silenced. Reformations achieved changes; and then, evil raised its ugly head again. The Americas became a frontier for many of the reformed and splintered groups. They were intolerant of each other until the King of England forced them to unite for their own interests and not for the kingdom of God. Righteousness was not the issue, liberty was. The founders used the Bible to justify their separation from England. They also used the Bible to justify slavery and their immoral living. When at the end of the long struggle for freedom they succeeded, credit was given to God for his blessings and grace. Success, and not righteousness, became evidence that God was with this nation. It should not surprise us that our leaders keep on telling us that this is the greatest, the richest and the most powerful nation in the world. The world has been laughing at us for some time. This nation is becoming a dirge because God resists the proud and uplifts the humble (Ja. 4:6).
The definition of righteousness is not what Jesus intended and it never was in this country. Economics, creeds and races still divide this land. Liberty serves those that can afford it or those that gain the sympathy of the secular legal system. Christians, in most instances, draw the short straw, but they are stuck with bills. This may be news in this country; but, not so in others. I know, first hand, what it means to be different. I was nine years old when my Polish classmates called me, “Hitler.” We were taken to Germany where they called me, “Polack.” I returned to Canada from the States to study and they called us, “Yankees.” I was none of these! It hurts when rational human beings use racial and religious slander. It is painful when our top leaders and news people use racial and religious slander to push their political agenda. And it becomes intolerable when slander is protected by a freedom of speech act. At the same time, these slanderers want to gag the truth from being disclosed. This is the most seditious persecution against those that seek to do what is right. This is not just a U.S.A. problem. It is an universal problem. The world does not like the people that want to do what is right; rather the world prefers those that do what is convenient. Every time the righteous uncover an error, slanderers feel judged and that is against their rights to do as they please.
We also need to be reminded that righteousness also includes being merciful and tolerant. Stubborn insistence on my way as the only way can end in unnecessary conflicts. We should ponder the thought that God, who made all men different, would then turn around and have them all think and act alike. It is difficult to imagine that the Creator wants monotony. It appears that God wants harmony instead. I learned a very valuable lesson on tolerance from my mother. It was when I did not endorse my father’s religious group. Mother took me to her beautiful garden and pointed at her endless variety of colors and shapes and sizes. “Look at the arrangement God has provided for us to enjoy. What would it be like, if He had made just one color? All the religious groups are God’s variety of the one Creator. How monotonous it would be if there were only one group?” Indeed, how monotonous it shall be when we will allow one ideology or one system to govern our lives?
Jesus believed that righteousness could triumph and that the world could enjoy a time of heavenly bliss. God’s will, could become a reality on earth. Man could change and accept God’s Laws and live by them. Jesus wanted his followers to constantly pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). Jesus hoped that Jerusalem would recognize her chance (Lk. 19:44). It simply did not happen. Being a human being, Jesus was not allowed to use his angels to counter the unrighteous (Mt. 26:53). God cannot go back on His words. God committed the management of the world to Adam and Adam’s seed (Gen. 1:26). God did the same to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and so forth. Jesus did the same to his disciples and they did it to the rest of us (Jn. 17:20). Every one of us is able to do what is right (Lk. 12:57).
It was and it has always been difficult to do what is right in a world, which prefers convenience to righteousness. Christians began to read into Jesus’ message of a kingdom when righteousness would be the only norm. For instance, Jesus had mentioned a kingdom, where the twelve disciples will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. This will take place when Jesus returned and Jesus will set up a kingdom on earth (Mt. 19:28-30). Gentile Christians took comfort in the twenty-four elders in the new world (Rev. 4:4). Twelve had to be in charge of the non-Jews. This kingdom would last a thousand years. The troublemaker, Satan will be imprisoned during that time. Man will enjoy living under the umbrella of righteousness. Only, at the end of the one thousand years, man will have learned nothing. Satan will be released from prison and man will again fall for Satan. Then, God is will be forced to terminate this creation and God will hold everyone accountable for what they have done (Rev. 20).
It was all a dream, which is still in the making (Rev. 1:10). It does suggest that God is giving man another chance to accept His righteousness. Then, we have the problem that those that shall reign with Christ are already righteous and do not need reforming. These are also the ones that shall face the fury of Satan (Rev. 20:5). In particular, why is this group singled out? These are the souls that Satan has beheaded and these souls will judge Satan (Rev. 20:4). This is the first resurrection and the second one shall begin after the martyrs had their day in court. Christians that have not, nor Christians that have not been punished for being just, should not count on being present in that wonderful time of serenity with Christ (Rev. 20:5-6). At that wonderful time of serenity, only the beheaded martyrs will be with Christ. Perhaps this is why so many preachers stay away from the Revelation of John.
Doing what is right may not be an earthshaking event; nevertheless, it is crucial to receiving recognition from Jesus, the Christ. It is not the praises of man that shall grant us an invitation into the kingdom of heaven; but, it will be the just deeds, which honor and please the Lord (Jn. 12:43). Those that do right do not seek recognition in this world nor do they seek it from heaven. No one will hear them announcing that they are doing their charity in the name of a God or in the name of Jesus. They even do not regard, what they are doing to be a charity; but, they regard their charity as a basic human necessity. They do not go about embarrassing the needy by announcing to the world by what or who they are. They have been humbled enough by circumstances. There are ways of finding out what the needy need. They can leave a basket at their door and not even show their face. In the eyes of Christ, they are our recognition, our reward, and they shall be our crown.
Our world singles out heroes for specific acts like saving a life or rescuing people from danger. But these are not acts, which represent constant deeds of kindness and compassion. Jesus had a special reward for the persecuted, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells us who these people are that shall receive the reward for being righteous. They are not righteous by what they were or believed; but, they are righteous by what they had done while on earth for a very particular group of needy people. These deeds were not heroic or worthy of public notice; yet, they were basic to the survival of the group that Jesus called his brethren or the “least of these.“ These righteous people fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, gave shelter to the stranger, clothed the naked, visited the sick, cared for the outcasts, and called on those who were in prison. These humble acts of mercy earned them the distinction of being called, “The blessed of my Father.” It is interesting that the socialists want to take these undisclosed deeds away from the righteous and make them public.
In our politically correct world, our leaders blast their horns how they shall provide for more than half the people considered poor. It shall be legislated that those that are just above the poverty line must share with those in poverty. They neglect to tell us that they have created the problem of poverty by not teaching the people; that, in order to eat, they also must work (II Thes. 3:10). There is no excuse for healthy people to be poor and there is no forgiveness for those that keep others poor for their advantage (Lk. 16:19-31). The righteous sound no trumpet when they extend a helping hand to those plagued by circumstances and political mismanagement. They do not want the world to know what they gave and whom they served. That is why they also shall be surprised when God shall cite them for rewards (Mt. 6:1-4). How tragic can it get, when a political system has to legislate us to do what is right, when that system does not even know what is right? How can we know when we have silenced God’s Laws and suppressed our conscience (Ro. 2:12-16)?
In the final analysis, righteousness is timeless. From the beginning of man’s appearance on earth, man has had a conflict with doing what is right and what is wrong. Like Paul, the apostle, we all do what we ought not do (Ro. 7:14-25). Yet, the bad in us disposes of the good in us, like Cain did with Abel (Gen. 4). This always happens when God is absent in our life. Instead of going to godly people for counsel, we seek advice from those that have the same problems we have. We are comfortable with them because they do not make us feel guilty. In fact, they make us feel that what is wrong is actually right (Ro. 1:32).
In the First Book of Kings, chapter 22, we have and example where such frivolous advice will lead. Two kings decided to go to war against a common enemy. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, asked Ahab, king of Israel, whether it was possible to consult a messenger of God to sanction their undertaking? Ahab was pleased with the request and called in a host of Ball prophets that were as far removed from God as the moon is from the earth. With one voice, they blessed the kings and promised them victory. The king of Judah felt uneasy about their overwhelming agreement. He asked Ahab, “Is there no prophet of Jehovah here of whom we could inquire?” Ahab answered Jehoshaphat, “We do have Micaiah, but I had him put in a dungeon because he never tells me what pleases me. Nevertheless, we shall have him give us his version.” At first, Micaiah concurred with the other prophets. Instantly, Ahab said, “I told you he would not tell us the truth. I shall sent him back to the dungeon.” Jehoshaphat insisted that they listen what Micaiah had to say. Jehovah’s prophet told the kings that they were wrong in going to war. Ahab would be killed, Jehoshaphat would be wounded and Israel would be scattered like sheep. The brave and righteous prophet went back to the dungeon and the kings went down in defeat. It was a time when a “makarioi” could no longer dispense grace, and we too live in such a time.