What do we do when crisis comes? What should we do? How can others help?
Carolyn, a friend in her 90s, approached me at church after the morning worship service a few Sundays ago. She and her husband Alan had had a terrible week. The previous Tuesday she was hit by another car while driving, destroying her vehicle but leaving her mercifully with only a few bumps and bruises. On Friday there had been an electrical fire in her house. She and her husband were safe but their home was badly damaged. They were living in a nearby hotel and needed prayer. The couple, another friend and I prayed together immediately, and my family has lifted them up before the Lord several times in the past few weeks.
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Holiness, being set apart, is exactly what most of us don’t want. It is scary, lonely, hard, and subjects us to all manner of injury. Yet God commands us, in company with our brothers and sisters in Christ, to be holy.
This morning I mentioned to a member of my Bible Fellowship class that we would be studying holiness. Like many people, he asked if I meant “morally good or ethical.” “Actually,” I replied, “to be holy is to be set apart to God. Morality is only part of holiness.” To be holy, we must be morally like God, but we must also be different in non-moral ways from the world around us. Ancient Israel is a good example. Circumcision confers no moral benefit, but God required it of His people nonetheless. Following the dietary and hygiene laws in Leviticus results in better health, but not in claims to greater righteousness.
The ancient Hebrews were afraid to be holy, and one example of this fear was that they demanded that God give them a king. 1 Samuel provides a good case study. Our lives are little different.
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Whether we admit it or not, we often think that we are smarter, more moral, and better than our ancestors. We should not be so sure.
My son recently completed his first year in engineering at Virginia Tech, and found himself surrounded by highly accomplished and intelligent faculty and students. These people differed on religion, politics, lifestyles, interests, backgrounds, and almost everything else. Yet they agreed on one important opinion: people today are smarter, more virtuous, and perhaps even better overall, than people of yesteryear.
The origin of this tacit belief is multifactorial. Standardized test scores have been generally improving over the past century, technology has rapidly advanced, and our ancestors have had great moral failures, whether slavery or racism. Many hold the quasi-Darwinian view that everything gets better adapted to the environment over time. Finally, the belief that moderns are better than ancients is seasoned with a heaping tablespoon of the salt of human arrogance.
Continue reading “Modern Idolaters and Chronological Snobs”