Sunday, March 17, 2013

To be a Just Man

I've been reading Plato's The Republic, among other things, and listening to the priest's homily on today's gospel brought a few of these things together.

The scribes and pharisees bring an adulteress before Jesus, in order to condemn her.  Instead of condemning her, Jesus says, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."  When everyone has left, Jesus asks her "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replies, "No one, sir." Then Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."

The point of the priest's homily was that Jesus did not come to condemn us, but as a physician come to heal the sick, he comes to save us from our sins.  He comes to make us holy and just people.

In his talk on the importance of apologetics, John Njoroge asks the questions: Why is Christianity not having the desired effect on people in Africa?  Why is there still so much injustice and evil being done, when people BELIEVE and go to church?

He points out that when asked which of the commandments was the most important, Jesus answered: "The most important one, is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:29-30)

The problem with the Christian faith today is that we are no longer taught to love the Lord with all our mind.  Logic and thought are left out of religion and the focus is put on relationship and emotion.  So people BELIEVE but somehow, this belief is NOT changing their lives.  Somehow, they are getting the message that Jesus came to die for our sins, but they are not getting the message that the Kingdom of Heaven starts here on earth, that Jesus wants us to have that little bit of Heaven here on earth, that he wishes us to "go and sin no more."
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder."  (James 2:14-19)
Belief in God does no good, if it does not transform you.  This is why even protestants such as C.S. Lewis believe in Purgatory (see this talk by Evangelist Jerry Walls)  God's DESIRE is to make us in his image.  That is to say, like God.  We can never be as God in substance but, if we let Him transform us,  He will make us like Him in character.  Jerry Walls explains in his talk, based on C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, that, unless we are perfect ourselves, we can never truly appreciate Heaven.  Purgatory, contrary to some views, is not a punishment dealt to souls by God, but a begging of the souls to be purified so that they can be in Heaven with Him.  Heaven is not so much a place as a state of being.  If it is true that we make our own Hell, that Hell is the absence of God, and that we are the ones who bring ourselves to that state of being by rejecting God, then it is equally true that we make our own Heaven.  In order to be in a state of Heaven then, we MUST be pure.  Only God can purify us, and He can only do that if we let Him.

He goes on to mention that the soul recognizes that this may hurt somewhat.  The purification process is not an easy one.  It is not without pain and suffering that we are remolded into perfect beings, but this remolding, this recognition of the tendency inside us to sin and the effort to eradicate that tendency, is necessary in order to be in Heaven.  It is logical then to also believe that an impure soul, even if he had gained entrance to Heaven, would not want to stay there, would not be at ease or happy there.  Souls in Hell can never enter Heaven, not because God does not will it, but because THEY do not will it.

In Book One of The Republic, Socrates argues that it is better to be a just man than to be an unjust man.
Socrates: You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at all if they injured one another?
Thrasymachus: No indeed, they could not.
Socrates: But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act together better?
Thrasymachus: Yes.
Socrates: And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus?
Socrates points out that, even among unjust men, there must be a minimum of justice because absolutely unjust men would cause each other absolute evil, no common action could take place and they would destroy each other.  Injustice always becomes its own enemy.
Socrates: And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person; in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he is not at unity with himself, and in the second place making him an enemy to himself and the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus?
Thrasymachus: Yes 
He then goes on to point out that, in much the same way that the end purpose of the eye is to see, and the end purpose of the ear is to hear, and that their excellence is in seeing and hearing, "the same is true of all other things; they have each of them an end and a special excellence", and if "deprived of their own proper excellence they cannot fulfill their end".
Socrates: Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfill? For example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are not these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be assigned to any other?
Thrasymachus: To no other.
Socrates: And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?
Thrasymachus: Assuredly.
Socrates: And has not the soul an excellence also?
Thrasymachus: Yes.
Socrates: And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that excellence?
Thrasymachus: She cannot.
Socrates: Then an evil soul must necessarily be an evil ruler and superintendent, and the good soul a good ruler?
Thrasymachus: Yes, necessarily.
Socrates: And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and injustice the defect of the soul?
Thrasymachus: That has been admitted.
Socrates: Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust man will live ill?
Thrasymachus: That is what your argument proves.
Socrates: And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the reverse of happy?
Thrasymachus: Certainly.
Socrates: Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?
Thrasymachus: So be it.
Socrates: But happiness and not misery is profitable.
Thrasymachus: Of course.
Socrates: Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more profitable than justice.
Because of his tendency to sin, man cannot be in a state of Heaven.  In order to turn injustice into justice, retribution is demanded.  But God's idea of justice is not punishment, since injustice, as we have seen, inevitably punishes itself; we sinful creatures punish ourselves, God has no need to punish us.  What God desires above all is to bring us to Him and to make us like Him.  Only God can transform us and make us like him, but He could only do this by becoming human himself, and dying with us, in order to raise us up to eternal life.

To have faith in God then, is not only to believe in God but, as C.S. Lewis puts it:
[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” (Mere Christianity)
What God truly asks from all of us is this:
Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)