Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Following On

The irreverent humorist W. C. Fields, when asked why he was thumbing through a Bible, replied, “Looking for loopholes.” One of my readers has accused me of doing essentially the same thing: reading what I want to into the Scriptures to support my views. He could be right; I’m certainly not immune to benighted self-interest. Then again, people on the other side are made of dust, too, and I might not be alone.

The consensus of respondents public and private to my last post was basically that God has established all authority, even the most rapacious, though they acknowledged that there are times when “we must obey God rather than men.” I’m not sure whether my readers would allow me to decide from Scripture whether to resist or not in a given case or if I can only get God’s permission via “the interposition of the lesser magistrate,” but the option seems to be open somewhere. (Since my question was about hermeneutics, not about resistance, I gather I need to learn to ask questions more clearly!)

I’m reminded of a chapel message given by Kenneth Pike, a linguist who devoted his life to seeing the Bible translated into every language in the world. His subject was obedience to authority, and his point was that if we can’t obey earthly authorities with thankful hearts, we can’t obey God from the heart. This would parallel John’s words that we can’t love God whom we have not seen if we don’t love our brothers whom we have seen, Human authority is by nature arbitrary. It takes away from us things we would expect from Scripture to be allowed to have.

But so does God. For example, my wife’s brother-in-law was born with cerebral palsy. He will never walk. Yet Jesus commanded those he healed to get up and walk.

I once overheard a conversation on the train home where one guy was telling another that he’d seen that people with severe disabilities tended to have a more positive and grateful outlook on life than “healthy” people. Anyone who knows Jerry and me would say that’s true in our cases.

The topic of this blog is good neighborliness. I’m not sure US Christians are known as good neighbors in the Acts 5:13 sense. And I see no reason why the reverence for Uncle Sam cannot lead us to the same end suffered by our German brethren during the Third Reich: war on our soil, death, destruction, defeat—and repudiation by those who hear about us in the future. It’s ironic that my last post got on the subject of resistance to government, because I see less danger in being subject to tyranny than in being party to tyranny, and I see too many tyrant wannabes among my brethren.

Christian neighborliness says, “How can I serve you?” Government says, “Do it my way or I’ll kill you.” They look like polar opposites to me. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I’d rather face God having been a neighbor to my enemies than to have been a governor wannabe to my friends.

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