Friday, April 3, 2015

A Heroic Example

Take a look around you. I want you to take a good, long look at our American society and the condition of the world in general. When did we become a people who can so easily set aside all the constructive and healthy values that mankind has been guided by for millenia? When did right become wrong and 'rightness' or righteousness no long matter? Looking at just this country alone I see a place where honesty no longer matters and dishonesty and corruption go unchallenged, especially among our public officials. I see a place where we celebrate homosexuality and sexual depravity and mock chastity and purity. Our entertainment is filled with violence and lasciviousness. Our schools will teach our kids how to wear a condom but not how to read. Veterans go homeless without medical care while our government rolls out the red carpet for those who have no concern whatsoever for our laws and our country. The American flag is considered a racist symbol by our own highest court. Our churches and synagogues are attacked as being 'intolerant' and 'bigoted', yet we welcome onto our college campuses the presence of those who are persecuting, raping, and slaughtering thousands around the world. We are being divided along racial and class lines more than ever before. Common sense and the rule of law no longer matter.

There was a time in our country and I would even say in the world when people understood easily the difference between right and wrong; not that all people always did the right thing but goodness and a God-based morality was valued and seen as something to strive towards. Once upon a time there were actually people who would stand up for their beliefs and not bend to absurd cultural trends. Where are those people now? Our society calls for us to accept and tolerate anything, no matter how blatantly destructive and unhealthy it may be for us as a people physically, mentally, and culturally. We are expected to let everything slide and go with the flow. "What difference does it make!" has become the new mantra for our times. We seem willing to let go of thousands of years of learning and advancement under God's guidance for the sake of convenience and societal acceptance. Things were not always so. People were once willing to live, fight, and die for what was clearly right and sensible. Faith in God was an integral part of life, not a cultural option.

I would like to share a story with you of a fine example of a person with this type of mindset. There is a set of old Hebrew writings named The Maccabees, specifically the books of First, Second, Third and Fourth Book of the Maccabees. These writings are part of the Apocrypha. Very basically, the books that make up the Apocrypha were never part of the Hebrew scriptures but were accepted as biblical by the early Christian church. They were later separated out from what we know as the Bible today for various reasons. Some versions of the Bible printed today still contain the Apocrypha although most do not. The name Maccabees was given to the group of Jewish guerrilla fighters who revolted against the Syrian kings ruling over Israel around 167 B.C.. The part of the story I want to share begins at a time when the Hebrews were being persecuted heavily by King Antiochus to persuade them to abandon their ancenstral customs and no longer regulate their lives according to the laws of God. If you'll bear with me, I will let the writings themselves tell the story, directly from 2 Maccabees 6:18-31.

"There was Eleazar, one of the leading teachers of the law, a man of great age and distinguished bearing. He was being forced to open his mouth and eat pork, but preferring an honorable death to an unclean life, he spat it out and voluntarily submitted to the flogging, as indeed men should act who have the courage to refuse to eat forbidden food even for love of life. For old acquaintances' sake the officials in charge of this sacrilegious feast had a word with Eleazar in private; they urged him to bring meat which he was permitted to eat and had himself prepared, and only pretend to be eating the sacrificial meat as the king had ordered. In that way he would escape death and take advantage of the clemency which their long-standing friendship merited. But Eleazar made an honorable decision, one worthy of his years and the authority of old age, worthy of the grey hairs he had attained to and wore with such distinction, worthy of his perfect conduct from childhood up, but above all, worthy of the holy and God-given law. So he answered at once: 'Send me quickly to my grave. If I went through with this pretense at my time of life, many of the young might believe that at the age of ninety Eleazar had turned apostate. If I practiced deceit for the sake of a brief moment of life, I should lead them astray and bring stain and pollution on my old age. I might for the present avoid man's punishment, but, alive or dead, I shall never escape from the hand of the Almighty. So if I now die bravely, I shall show that I have deserved my long life and leave the young a fine example, to teach them how to die a good death, gladly and nobly, for our revered and holy laws.' 
When he had finished speaking, he was immediately dragged away to be flogged. Those who for a little while had shown him friendship now became his enemies because, in their view, what he had said was madness. When he was almost dead from the blows, Eleazar sighed deeply and said: 'To the Lord belongs all holy knowledge. He knows what terrible agony I endure in my body from this flogging, though I could have escaped death; yet he knows also that in my soul I suffer gladly, because I stand in awe of him.'
So he died; and by his death he left a heroic example and a glorious memory, not only for the young but also for the great body of the nation."

The story continues on to tell of many others who, because of Eleazar's example, stood up to the persecution and cultural degradation of the Syrians, and chose death over dishonoring their country's traditions and the law of their God. Truly, this brave man set a heroic example not only for those of his generation, but for the entire future nation of Israel.

So this brings us to our generation, and our nation. Who will be the ones to set a heroic example for the people of our time? It certainly won't be the politicians. Most of them seem pretty content with just lining their pockets and working to get re-elected. I can probably count on one hand the number of Congressman that actually give a damn about the American people and that have a properly working moral compass. The current administration is seemingly doing everything in its power to destroy traditional American values and snubs its nose at our Constitution and our laws. I'd like to think our churches would be taking a stand for God's word and His values. Unfortunately, it seems all too prevalent these days that so many churches are more worried about the numbers game. How many people can we draw in to fill the collection plates? How do we stay relevant to today's culture? The end result is that God's word ends up getting so sugar-coated and watered down that it is hardly distinguishable from a Tony Robbins seminar. Worse yet, that kind of attitude does a true seeker after God absolutely no good. A church that stays true to God's word is getting harder and harder to find in America. You can count out the press as well. They have proven beyond any doubt that if they are not acting as shills for one party or another, they are simply the sellers of the sensational. Ratings and money is what journalism is about. It seems like wherever you look, all the institutions who are supposed to safeguard this nation and its people are asleep at the wheel, totally confuzzled, or fighting for a good seat on the gravy train.

So who will take up the responsibility to turn this ship around? Look in the mirror., and me, and the folks who live next door. We have to be brave enough to speak up about the corruption, the lies, and the downright evil and perverseness in our society. Vote your beliefs, even if it doesn't seem to do any good. Call your Senators and Representatives. Badger them! Challenge your pastors and rabbis...respectfully. Talk to your friends and neighbors. I think you'll find you're not alone. There are many people searching for answers in this country and in this world, but those in control have us all thinking the next guy hates us and has it in for us. That's a lie meant to divide and conquer us. I firmly believe there are more good people in this world than there are bad folks. It's just that the bad folks make more noise and don't care who they have to step on to get what they want. The good people have become like sheep, quiet and timid. If they continue that way they will be led to the slaughter like sheep. It's time to wake up and remember who you are and where you came from; where we all came from as a nation and as believers. Live like a lion and don't worry about what the haters think! The world is waiting for heroes. Be that heroic example to your family, to your community, and to the world! Most of all, love each other. Care for each other. Work together to bring peace to wherever you go. All those things are both godly and traditionally American. Despite the growing darkness, I still expect the light to break through in time!

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