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Open ears

Monday, April 9, 2007

Acts 2:22-24
Peter spoke, "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.

"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

"But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."

And Peter had much more to say, and would say it, not just with words, but with miracles. The story of Jesus is also the story of his disciples, whom he empowered with affirmation, with confidence, with discipline ... but most of all with the Holy Spirit.

As a religion, Christianity plays an important role in maintaining healthy society. We act in better ways toward one another when we adopt Christian values. But Jesus followed the example of the Scriptures when he continually pointed back to God as his source. "I only do what my Father is doing." He prayed often and long, listening (I suspect) much more than he spoke. Peter did the same.

A better world doesn't reach into heaven. All the Christian values don't do enough to bring us back (the root meaning of the word "religion") to God. If we are eternal creatures meant to live with God, then that's the goal. And God alone has the authority and the wherewithal to accomplish that.

So Peter focuses on repentance and return to God when he preaches. This is difficult today. Culture and education encourage me to find my own view of life. Of course I also am called to tolerate every other individual belief. This puts anything like a capital letter Truth on the back burner. Absolutes are anathema.

99 years ago, G. K. Chesterton wrote in his classic, Orthodoxy :

Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason.

... The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether. (from Chapter 3, "The Suicide of Thought")

Chesterton could have been writing today. Peter's words would not be well received in twenty-first century culture, at least not in the United States. Not that he can't be sure of himself, but the rest of us can be just as sure. His truth is no more true than mine, and so I just don't hear him very well.

The Holy Spirit is just as indispensable now as then, to us as to them. In spite of everything I do to close them, He opens up my ears.

Lord, truth seems elusive, but You are not. You are who you say you are. And You make yourself known. Thank you.

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