Who is this Man? How Jesus shaped how we think of Education and our Enemies

June 9, 2013

How was high School for you? 
I loved high school, well actually it was a weird time of life, on one
hand I couldn’t wait to graduate so I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I
wanted.   For me graduation signified
freedom.   Wow, was I in for a nasty
surprise.  If I had to pick a them song
for my grade 12 year it would have probably been Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out”.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the social aspect of high
school and academics never really seemed to pose much of a problem for me nor
did it seem to cause much stress.  And I
discovered that the only way they would let me take part in the
extra-curricular activities that I enjoyed so much was if I also took part in
the curricular activities that they seemed to think were so important.  Go figure? 
  
This time of year education is on the minds of a lot of
people.  Today we honoured our high
school graduates but there are folks in all kinds of transitions.  Little kids are graduating from
pre-school.  Elementary kids will be
leaving grade 6 and Jr. High students will be looking forward to high school
with either anticipation or dread.  Folks
are receiving bachelor, master and doctorates. 
But for many people education and the church don’t
necessarily go hand in hand.  Some people
would actually contend that the church has been a road block to education and
science. That the church is threatened by knowledge.   But is that a reality? 
This is week last of our series “Who is this Man?”  Actually it has been a multi-part message,
started over Christmas with my message “It’s a Wonderful life” where I started
to look at how the world would be different if Jesus had never been born.  And when I finished I promised that we would
expand on that thought.  So, with that in
mind our theme over Holy Week was “Who is this Man?” and we looked at how
people might have viewed Jesus on Good Friday at the Cross and then on
Resurrection Sunday at the empty tomb. 
And then over April I preached on the Blessed Life, because
it was Money Month.  And you folks
responded in an incredible way on Consecration Sunday. 
So three weeks ago we began looking at how Jesus shaped the
world that we live in today.  The first
week we explored how time has been defined by the birth of Jesus.  Every event in history is described in
relation to whether it happened B.C. 
Before Christ or A.D. Anno Domini the year of our Lord.  Jesus’ birth drew a line through
history.  And there are those who would
try to secularize BC and AD and make it CE and BCE.  Common Era and Before Common Era, but the
question has to be asked.  What do they
have in common?  Oh yeah, the birth of
Jesus. 
We went on to say that in our statement of faith at
Cornerstone it says “Our beliefs are in line with historic Christianity.”  But what does that mean?  Well, it means that we believe that Jesus was
the son of God, we believe that he was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of
a virgin.  We believe that he suffered
and died under Pontius Pilate and that on the third day he rose from the
dead.  This we believe. 
And then over the last two weeks we have looked at how Jesus
shaped the world that we live in.  And he
did that because of what he left behind, the church.  And because there was a Jesus who promised in
Luke 6:47 I will show you what it’s like
when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.  And because there were people who came
to Jesus, who listened to Jesus’ teachings and then followed those teachings
the world is a different place.
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Poor 
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Sick
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Slaves
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Children
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Women
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Marriage
And because there was a Jesus and because he left a church
that would follow his teachings the world today is a different place.
But, you might be asking what
does that have to with education?  Let’s
go back to the scripture that we started with. 
A religious teacher came to Jesus and asked him “Of all the commandments
which is the most important?”  And that
is an important question.  And listen to
Jesus reply in Mark 12:29-30 Jesus
replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD
our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all
your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
 And Jesus didn’t just
make that up and it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the man who asked the
question.  It was a text book answer from
Deuteronomy 6:5-6 And you must love the
LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And
you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving
you today.
But there is a difference.  Remember those cartoons that used to run in
the newspaper, Spot the difference?  They
would have two pictures that were almost the same but not quite.  So here is the command from Deuteronomy
6:5-6
And you must love the LORD your God with
all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And here is the command from Mark
12:30
And you must love the LORD your God with
all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.  Did you catch the difference?  Jesus’ command includes the intellect. 
It’s not enough to love God
because you always have, or because you are commanded to, you are to love him
intellectually as well. 
Do you remember the last
command of Jesus?  Sure you do.  It’s found in Matthew 28:19 where Jesus told
his followers to do three things.  1)
Make disciples 2) Baptize those disciples and 3) They were to teach those
disciples.  When the first church was
described in the book of Acts it is recorded that they devoted themselves to
the Apostle’s Teaching and not just men and boys but women and girls.  Jesus
Shaped How We Think of Education 
There had always been
education, but it had been reserved for wealthy privileged males.  In AD 150 a man who followed Jesus by the
name of Justin Martyr opened a school, and there he taught, men and women, free
and slaves.  And because of that the
Romans had him beheaded. 
And for the past two thousand
years the church has been at the forefront of not only teaching knowledge but
also in preserving knowledge.  Why?  Because they remembered when Jesus was asked
what the greatest commandment was his reply was not only to love God with all
of our hearts but with all of our minds as well. 
And so learning about
everything was seen by many in the church as a means of helping believers know
more about the God who created everything. 
Which is why Augustine
said “A
person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to
his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan
literature, but rejecting superstitious vanities and deploring and avoiding
those who ‘though they knew God did not glorify him as God…”
There is sometimes a feeling
the church is anti-intellectual and yet when Rome collapsed and the barbarians
overran the Roman Empire and the scrolls and manuscripts that contained the
classics of ancient civilizations were in danger of being lost, it was in
Christian communities called monasteries that those documents were
painstakingly copied and preserved by hand. 
Because a man named Jesus told his followers to love God with all their
minds.
And these monasteries became
places of learning and eventually formed schools called Universities all over
Europe and Asia.   And within six years
of the Puritans landing in the New World they established a school whose motto
translated into English was “Truth for Christ and the Church.”  You might recognize the name of the
school, it was called Harvard.  As a
matter of fact ninety two percent of the first 138 institutions of higher
learning in the United States were founded by churches.
Closer to home, of the ten
Universities in Nova Scotia four were started by the Catholic Church, one by
the Anglicans, one by the Baptist and one by the Methodists.   In New Brunswick of the eight universities
one was started by the Catholic Church, one by the Baptist, one by the Anglicans,
one was Methodist, one was Wesleyan and one was non-denominational.  Love God with all your mind.  
Most people know about Sunday
School, but how many of you know that it was started in 1780 by a Jesus
follower, named Robert Raikes,  as a means
to teach children of common people how to read and write.  In that day and age children worked 6 days a
week and his dream was to give them an opportunity on the seventh day to learn
regardless of how much or how little they had.  Five years from it’s beginning it is estimated
that there were 250,000 children enrolled And within 50 years we are told that
there were 160,000 Jesus Followers teaching 1.5 million children how to read
and write and how to love God with all their minds.  
You might be more familiar with
the Sunday School movement by what it’s called today “Public School”.
And it was the church which
developed alphabets, and dictionaries and developed written music so songs of
worship could be shared around the world. 
Love God with all your minds.
But Jesus wasn’t content to
simply talk about the greatest commandment, which was to love God.  He goes on to say Mark 12:31 The
second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other
commandment is greater than these.”   This
same story is told in Luke’s gospel as well and in that account it leads into
one of Jesus’ great teaching moments. 
Because in that account, after Jesus says to love your neighbour, the
man asks “Who is my neighbour”  and Jesus
goes into the story of the Good Samaritan. 
You know the story, a man is travelling along a lonely stretch of road
and he is mugged and left for dead. 
Three different men come upon him, the first two, a lawyer and a priest,
go out of their way to avoid him.  The third
man was a Samaritan.  Which doesn’t mean
a great deal to us but 2000 years ago in that culture the Jews bore a grudge
against the Samaritan’s that went back half a millennium.  And it was that man, the Samaritan who
reached out to the victim on the side of the road.  And that was radical. 
Most people have no problem
loving their neighbour, if they already like them.  But Jesus expanded our neighbour to mean
everyone we come in contact with.  Even
people we don’t like and even people who have done us wrong.  Jesus turned the command to love our
neighbour upside down when he said in Matthew 5:43-44 “You
have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I
say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
And those
early lovers of Jesus were reminded of this over and over again while they were
being taught.  And so we get radical over
the top teachings like 1 Peter 3:9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t
retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a
blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.   And remember that this church was a
church persecuted under the Romans, whose members were imprisoned for their
faith, and tortured and killed.
Jesus Shaped How We Think of Our Enemies   In Jesus day most of the world
subscribed to a philosophy called Lex Talionis (lex talin-o-nis).  What we would know as “An eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth”  but it might have
been more aptly referred to as the “law of tit for tat” It appears in the
earliest code of law and that was the code of Hammurabi, who was a Babylonian
King who lived 1800 years before Christ. 
The main principal is clear; if a person inflicts an injury then he
would receive the same treatment.
There are some who would call
this harsh and blood thirsty, but in reality it was the beginning of mercy, for
two reasons:  The first is that it
limited Judgement, if someone knocked out one of your teeth then you can’t
knock out all of his.  Secondly it took
judgement away from the individual and gave it to society.  Probably the greatest example of the why and
how of this law was capital punishment. 
If someone killed your child they would be sentenced to death, that was
their punishment, you couldn’t go out and kill their children and their
spouse.  This type of law was indicative
of the society in which Christ lived.  It
was very much a retaliatory society. 
And it still is through much of
the Middle East, Iran does it, Syria does it, Lebanon does it, Iraq does it,
Libya does it and if you want a real lesson in retaliatory justice then just
watch Israel.    But then again we support Israel so when the
do it we don’t call it terrorism.
If’n you want to stomp out evil
by stomping out the evil doer then the law of Moses is fine.  But if’n you want to destroy evil and salvage
the sinner then you need a completely different approach.
The law tells us to react in
kind, and that suits our human personality. 
We are quite willing to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close
minded to the close minded.  But Christ
isn’t content with those who call themselves by his name reacting in the same
way as the world.  Instead of reacting in
kind, he commands us to react in contrast. 
So when someone strikes you, turn the other cheek.  When someone demands your coat, give them
your shirt as well.  When someone makes
you carry their bags for a mile, offer to carry them two miles.
If we are going to change the
world it will happen through forgiveness, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who
wrote “That
old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind. The time is
always right to do the right thing.”   Martin
didn’t think that up by himself, he was remembering the words of the Jesus whom
he followed.
If you don’t forgive when
you’ve been wronged eventually it will consume you and turn you into a hateful
resentful person.  And that isn’t who
Christ called people to be.
Do you remember the school
house shooting that happened in the Amish Community of Nickel Mines
Pennsylvania back in 2006?  A gunman
opened fire in a school and killed 5 girls?  
Did you know that the community publically declared their forgiveness
for the shooter and raised money to help out his widow and orphans?  Why would they do that?  Because they remembered the teachings of
Jesus who said in  Matthew 5:43-44 “You have
heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say,
love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
In 2007 I sat with a group of
pastors under a tree in Sierra Leone and they told me of the atrocities that
had happened during the civil war, of friends and loved ones who had lost their
limbs and lost their lives.  And I asked
them now that the war was over what their reaction was to their neighbours who
had committed those atrocities?  And they
said, “We will forgive them.”  Why would
they do that?  Because that’s what Jesus
told them to do.  And Jesus not only
taught it he lived it and ultimately he proved it to the world when he was
hanging dying on a cross and prayed “Father, forgive them.”
When the overriding motivation
is displaying the love of Christ the rest of the pieces will fall into
place.  When you seek to love others in
the way that Christ loves you then you won’t have to worry about whether you do
this or don’t do that. 
But as we said last week, the
most important question that can be asked isn’t “how has Jesus shaped the world?”  but “How has Jesus shaped you?” 
Have you come to Jesus?  Because you are here you at least come to
hear his message.  Most of you, I hope,
have paid attention and heard his teachings. 
But are you following him?  Are
you allowing his teachings to shape who you are and how you live? 
Listen to the end of the
scripture we started with, Mark 12:32-34 The
teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the
truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is
important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my
strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to
offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Realizing
how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the
Kingdom of God.”
When you understand why Jesus
came, and what he requires then you are not far from the Kingdom of God.  And it is a choice that you will make for
yourself.  Will you follow Jesus and
embrace what he taught?  When you allow
Jesus to shape you, then you will shape your world, which will ultimately help
to shape the world.