One of the greatest gifts God has given to man is the ability to communicate verbally. The power of words to convey ideas was given to no other creature on earth-only to those made in the image of God.
Even so, that gift is worthless without a greater gift-the gift of a rational mind. Isaiah appealed to that sense when he attempted to convince his listeners, "Come now, and let us reason together," (Isa. 1:18). The rest of the verse reads, "Says the Lord". It was God who wanted to reason with man-not just Isaiah. In fact, all the Prophets of both the Old and New Testaments appealed to the same quality of mind-otherwise their efforts were useless. Their very words assume that God designed a receptor in the mind of man for rational thought, the purpose of which is to change the behavior of man. No other creature has such an ability for self-analysis.
That this process was used to establish a nation is the rare blessing given to citizens of the United States of America. No other nation in the history of man was formed by a group of men sitting down in a room and reasoning together to form a civilized government. The possible exception would be Ancient Israel during the period of the Judges. There was no king and only a sprinkling of an army. The people were ruled by a commitment to a common set of values enumerated in the Ten Commandments. Both governments appealed to the spirit of citizens to submit to a rational standard of conduct.
Ironically, it is NOT God that chooses to change the behavior of man by force-tyrants take that route. God sent prophets to reason with man. When that didn't work He sent His Son to bear witness of His goodness.
And that is what is so frightening about the current political climate in America. Thoughtful and educated men and women are refused the right to speak on college campuses, presumably the cradle of respectful dialogue, because political opponents don't want to either hear them or allow other students to.
It is not too strong a statement to say that without that right we no longer have a civilized society.
One wonders if we aren't reaching the sort of political climate experienced by the Apostle Paul. He testified of the oppression he had suffered, he had "been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely.... Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones...." He continued, saying he had been "in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles...and in danger from false believers." (2 Cor. 11:23-26)
Had Paul committed a violent crime, stolen or murdered? Was he bringing an army to overthrow the government? No! He was making a reasonable argument for belief in God and Jesus Christ! He lived in a culture that would murder a man for teaching the concepts of a peaceful religion. In fact, every apostle of Jesus Christ suffered the same fate.
Once when Jesus was teaching there were opponents in the audience who objected to a statement that, for them, was controversial. He said, "I and the Father are one." It is understandable that some people would not agree with such an astounding statement. But Jesus allowed them the freedom to disagree. He didn't come with an army to enforce His teaching, even though it was truth. He didn't call down fire from heaven.
The violence came from the intolerant people who, "picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any good work,' they replied, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'" (John 10:30-33)
Imagine, religious people attempting to murder a man because he said something they did not like to hear.
Is America on the verge of losing a fundamental value of Christianity? Have our university presidents, our mayors and politicians lost confidence in the ability of citizens to come together using the God-given gift of verbal communication to achieve justice? Are we witnessing the loss of belief that man is a rational being?
One of the highest creations of God is the rational mind. Maybe the worst sin is rejecting such a gift in favor of anarchy. And that is the loss of civilization.
Until next time, Jim O'Brien