Being Human Chapter 4

Chapter 4

When you are studying an experiment in science, one of the elements that make up the results of that experiment is the given. For example, if you were to do an experiment on air pollution, part of the given would be the various gases and their percentage that make up air. It would be given that in your results you would understand that you would expect to see a certain amount of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and more. This would be part of the elements of what is given.

When you are reading the Bible there are certain givens as well. Unfortunately, many people when they read or interpret the Bible they do not take these into account. Therefore, they will start quoting the Bible and verbally bonk people over the head with it. However, the given is that the Bible is read by those who are active members of the Jewish and Christian community for the Old Testament or the Christian community for the New Testament.

Do not quote me the Bhagavad Gita, it means nothing to me. If you are going to tell me what Vishnu says, I really do not care. I am not Hindu. The same applies to the Bible. It may be the word of God and it may apply to all people but it is useless to quote it to people who do not know anything about God and do not know Christ. They would resist the teaching, just as much as I would with the Bhagavad Gita. The words you quote from me from Vishnu may be wise words but before I thought of putting them into action, I would consider whether or not I would be interested in Hindu teaching. If not, and the words were more Hindu than general, I would ignore them.

The words of Jesus include some wise sayings but they really only apply to those who know Jesus. Everyone else is certainly welcome to obey them to a point but they are only mandatory to those who know Jesus.

Remember, for example, Paul’s writings are to converted pagans turned Christian. Peter’s are more to messianic Jews. None of them are written to non-Christians. It does not mean that the wisdom in them does not apply to the pagan but the pagan does not know Christ and, therefore, beyond the wisdom, he has no reason to obey these words except that they are wise words.

If you read the letters in the New Testament carefully, you can see this well. Each apostle writes to his audience of converted, practicing Christians. When people quote them to the general public as rules that must be followed, they make a grave mistake. This is because certainly there is life in those words but they assume a knowledge of Christ that is not there. Remember, Jesus Himself said not to do this. It is throwing pearls before swine.

If someone, for example, does not know Christ. Maybe he rejected Christianity at a young age because either he did not understand the teaching, or he was put off by those who called themselves Christians and did not live as Christians. If you quote scripture to him with the understanding that he must change his behavior because this is what scripture says, it would be as offensive to him as telling me that I am to worship cows. Gandhi was a strong proponent of cow worship by the way.

It would not make any sense to him and you harping on him would be offensive to him. Worse, yet, if you screamed at him that he must conform his behavior to the Christian standard or he will go to Hell, while he does not know Christ, you will find your efforts are counter-productive. Indeed, as I wrote before, Jesus condemned those in his parable by saying I never knew you.

He may act more against the words of Christ just to spite you and communicate to you that he rejects everything you preach.

Remember the famous bar scene in It’s a Wonderful Life when Clarence says that a bell ring is a sign that an angel gets his wings? What happens next? Nick the bartender, after kicking George Bailey and Clarence out of the bar starts opening and shutting the cash register which rings a bell mocking those seemingly holy words. He rejected everything Clarence stood for because he was not a believer in the first place. 

Do not teach to others what they are not ready to hear. Do not use the Bible to bonk non-believers over the head. The fruit of your enthusiasm will do more harm than good.

Our Catholic morality makes the most sense to those who know Christ. If they do not know Christ, then our Catholic morality is not going to be taken seriously by those who do not know Christ at all. They certainly may disagree with murdering someone but they do not believe in firing someone who is in a gay marriage for example. So, when the bishops uphold their right to do that, they will reject them, and everything they represent including the Catholicism they represent.

That does not even include getting into some of the controversial teachings from the Gospel themselves: The person who says to pray for his or her enemies, may hear someone respond: “why should I pray for someone whom I want to die in a nuclear accident?”

They do not understand the teaching, nor the reason for it. Why? Because they do not know Christ and do not believe in Him.

If they did, even if they disagreed with this teaching, they would take their trepidation to Christ in prayer first: “I am sorry Lord, these people hurt me too much for me to pray for them. I actually hope they die in a nuclear accident. Please change my heart so that I can see them as you do.” However, that prayer requires a daily encounter with Christ and a daily relationship with Him. Barring that, the prayer is virtually impossible because the demand it responds to is also virtually impossible.

Everything starts with that encounter with Christ.

Why must I love my enemies? Because it is the right thing to do? No, because by doing so, I am showing my love for Christ by obeying his word. He in turn is protecting me from my enemies, the worst enemy of all is that sin that has its bitter root in refusing to love.

I love my enemies not because that is the rule but because that is the action I take to love Christ.

Let me give you a rather stark example. Many churches and state governments encourage pastors to carry a weapon in light of recent Church shootings. Granted, the Catholic bishops are against this practice but although I am a veteran, as a Catholic, so am I.

Besides the fact, as a priest, I have talked people out of killing other human beings, I personally see others differently through my Christian faith. The vicious robber who wants to take my money could become the holy saint in the future. I would rather see that, than him dead on the ground because I protected myself. Such vision requires my faith and love of Christ and love of that robber in light of my love of Christ. If I do not know or love Christ first then I cannot imagine the vision of seeing a vicious robber, maybe a vicious drug addict robbing me to feed his habit, as a saint someday. I would rather see him incapacitated so that he cannot attempt to hurt me. The most permanent form of incapacitation is his death.

Therefore, you can see that the morality we embrace with Christ is radically different than simple morality. This is precisely the reason why we cannot bonk people over the head with our Christian morality if we are not first introducing people to Christ. It just does not work because it makes no sense.