Episode: Wisdom that Works
The easiest thing in the world is just to go with the flow. Conventional thinking about things – truth morality – has changed enormously over the centuries. And not always, as people would have you believe – for the better. What we really need – is some true wisdom. Wisdom that works.
One of the things I love to do in my reading is to look historically at how we’ve morphed at what we consider to be the truth. Remember Galileo and Copernicus were persecuted by the Church for suggesting that the earth wasn’t flat but round and that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around.
Of course sometimes in our advances of understanding truth has been positive in society but in many other ways the truth has been warped and distorted to suit the selfish ends that we have in our hearts.
I think of the sad times in America and in South Africa in particular but elsewhere too in the way that the Bible was used to justify the appalling treatment of those with a different skin colour from the people in power. Hey in Australia too in fact, we did some terrible, terrible things to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the name of religion.
And morality too has changed socially, sometimes for good and sometimes not. It’s wonderful to see that in many places in the world women are now being treated as equals, that’s awesome and yet so much of our morality is now based on anything on the anything goes maxim, if it feels good, hey lets just do it. Some see it as progress. I wonder what God would call it.
Pontius Pilate once asked, “What is truth?” In a world that is changing as rapidly as ours that you know is not such a bad question.
One of the ways people like to evaluate truth these days is whether or not it works. In fact that’s the principle way in which most of us evaluate truth. Truth used to be mediated to a large degree for us when we lived in smaller, more local societies without the intrusion of global media, the internet and all those external influences. People used to take pretty much for granted the mores and customs of their local society, their local tribe if you will, that’s what constituted truth.
And they rarely questioned it. In fact if you go to a so called primitive society today that’s still what you’ll find. I read somewhere that the way to tell whether you’re in an underdeveloped country or not is that that’s where children still obey their parents, that’s true.
Now of course with most kids having unfettered access to the internet in many parts of the world truth travels at warp speed and the greatest influence of what we consider truth to be is what the advertising industry tell us it should be. They’re masters of warping the truth in such an attractive and seductive way simply to get us to buy the product they’re selling us and we tend to consume that completely uncritically.
Don’t believe me, turn on your television, stand back and assess the very next advertisement that comes up and look at it critically and see if it presents you with a true reflection of life, of reality.
Look at any television ad from that perspective and you quickly see it’s a fantasy, it’s pure fiction and yet if I could take you back to that wonderful quote of an underdeveloped country being a place where children actually still obey their parents, you know something, real truth really does work.
If you want to live in a decent, humane society that fosters innovation, rewards hard work, punishes crimes, cares for the needy, real truth does work. If by something working we mean it fulfils my own selfish goals and ambitions and objectives, thats not really something that works.
But if by working we mean it’s right, it’s honourable, it’s fair, it helps me deal with the difficulties and the complexities and the ambiguities and the uncertainties of life then that truly is something that works. That’s why the ministry I’m part of is called Chrisitianityworks because it actually does.
This week on the program we’re continuing our journey in following Jesus around to see what He did, how He lived as our role model if you will. Because most of us want to live not just dull, boring, ordinary lives but in our own way, according to our own place and abilities and circumstances, what we really want to do is to live an extraordinary life.
Well Jesus by any standard lived an extraordinary life and so to my way of thinking that makes Him a great role model for us if our desire is to live a life that counts for something good in this world, that makes a difference in other peoples lives and it seems to me one of the things that Jesus did is that He wasn’t swayed by popular opinion, by popular thought, by popular versions of truth which were really untruths.
He was always digging below the veneer of social religiosity to discover real truth because He knows that truth works. In fact I like to call it wisdom that works. Have a listen to this bit of wisdom, Matthew chapter 5, verse 43, this is Jesus talking, He said:
You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your father in heaven for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends his rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you what sort of a reward do you have? Don’t even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters what more are you doing than others? Don’t even the gentiles do the same?
Be perfect therefore as your heavenly father is perfect.
Ask someone who isn’t a Christian, someone who doesn’t know much about Jesus or the Bible, ask them if that know or can remember one thing that Jesus said and the most likely answer you’ll get from them is this. Jesus said, “Love your enemy”. Fascinating.
Now loving your enemy doesn’t conform to the wisdom of our day, you’ve heard that saying ‘don’t get angry get even’. Hey we’re into justice at least for ourselves and so when someone does the wrong thing by us we want recompense, we want revenge.
We pat ourselves on the back when we’re nice to the people who like us and we want to go after the people who hate us with a carving knife, that’s the conventional wisdom of our day and it’s the conventional wisdom that means that at any time here on this earth there are between forty and fifty wars being fought on the planet. It means that tens of millions of children are in slavery, it means that a couple of billion people are starving even though there’s more than enough food for everybody.
Conventional wisdom is a bit like the television ads I was talking about earlier, look at it critically and you have to come to the conclusion that it’s a fiction, that it just doesn’t work. But if we actually loved our enemies, just stop and imagine what this world would look like.
Is it hard to swallow Jesus truth? Is it hard to live it out? Will it cost us something? Absolutely. The answer to each of those questions is yes but in our heart of hearts you and I know that if we just did that one thing in this world on mass, each of us one at a time, we would be living in a profoundly different world to the one we’re living in today, radically different: much less pain, much less suffering, much less bigotry and inequity and all those horrible things.
Jesus challenged conventional thinking with wisdom that works. He lived His life like that, He spoke to people like that, everything He was about was Gods wisdom, Gods way, wisdom that actually … I mean really truly, when you look at it in the cold hard light of day actually works.
It seems to me that that’s one of the key elements of living an extraordinary life. Not just going with the flow, not just going with the fiction, not just drinking the Coolade but living out Gods wisdom, a wisdom that truly works.