We live in an age of issues. Canadians are wrestling over everything from zoning laws to abortion rights. These issues are dividing people, drawing them to opposite sides in political, moral, religious and social wars. As angry words are hurled across various battlefields, few are left in the middle without opinions. It is “get on a band wagon” or get slaughtered by the cross fire.
There is much talk about rights in these issues, but should the focus be limited to rights? In concern for personal life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, have people cried “I want my rights” so often that they have lost the ability to want or even ask, “What IS right?”
Why have we stopped asking that question? Is it because we have lost the sense of any standard of right? Has modern philosophy, in all its sophistication, become so “me-first” oriented that we don’t even care what is right anymore? Are we only interested in what is comfortable?
It that is so, Jesus Christ encountered similar people. They wanted religious and political rights and the right to do whatever they pleased. But He told them that this life is but a breath of smoke, a short preparation for eternity. He told them that He was the eternal God and that He came, not to judge them, but to save them from wasting their short lives on sin, sin that at best offers only temporary pleasure. He said, “The words that I speak to you . . . are life” (John 6:63).
Jesus said that His Word brings life to those who heed it, separation from God to those who reject it. He warned that ignorance of His Word or neglect offers no permanent escape.
The people didn’t want to hear that. They were caught up in their secular philosophies, no different from today’s attitudes: “This life is all there is . . . I will give it my best shot . . . eat, drink, enjoy myself . . . when you’re dead, you’re dead . . . what is right for me is right for me and no one is going to interfere with my rights . . . least of all God.”
Jesus saw people like sheep without a shepherd, wandering away from the values that would guide them into decisions that bring eternal blessing. He was filled with compassion. He cried out to them. He performed miracles. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He walked on water. He raised the dead. He told them to follow Him and He would not only give them abundant life, He would give them eternal life.
Even a casual reading of the New Testament reveals that the life of Jesus is a perfect example, worthy of possessing. Furthermore, by His standard we can evaluate the quality of our life. But what happens if He is rejected? We are left with our sin-tainted human values, lacking in clarity, unity and objectivity; left with conflicting standards that are so very subject to the “I-wants” of whoever is setting them.
Most of the people Jesus challenged didn’t want eternal life or abundant life. They would have settled for an earthly king who would bring them comfort, but when He wouldn’t do that, they decided to kill Him; “We will not have this man rule over us.” They didn’t like the divine measurement of His sinless life.
Jesus warned them of the consequences: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day . . . “ (John 12:48-50).
We may say, “What is right for me is right for me . . . I make up my own rules . . . “ but God is outside our systems of philosophy. Psalm 2 says that he laughs over the puny efforts of self-centered man grasping for his “rights” and one day His Word will prevail. In other words, Jesus said those who reject His Standard will some day stand before Him and be judged by the Word they rejected.
It’s never too late to dust it off and see what it says.