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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Mind of Christ: Alpha Omega, First, Last & God's Heart

In my morning Bible Study this morning, I read and studied Jeremiah 5, an exposition of the horrible consequences to the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel, for having been given all that one could expect on earth, including wealth, defense, position, teachers and Kings after God's own heart, safety and spoil of their enemies, and all the blessings of Life: with God as the head. Instead of turning to God, worshipping God in heart and genuineness, they turned to the neverending pursuit of wealth and comfort, and as passages elsewhere indicate, even to the enslavement and selling of one another, to different gods and idols, to pleasure-seeking and carnality at all levels, and to a heart so hard, that even when God sent prophets to turn them back, they refused to respond, believing instead that their prosperity was an indication of their wellbeing and 'rightness' with God. How familiar this sounds, in a day when Churches are more concerned with how they look and increasing building funds rather than obeying God. A portion of Jeremiah 5 reads:

And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely.O LORD, [are] not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, [but] they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return Jeremiah 5:2-3

The heart of God is shown in this passage, not as a berating, Zeus-like wrathful God which so many modern minds portray Him as, but as a God who loves Israel, all Israel above all, as the desire of his heart and the joy of His eye, but who cannot allow them to go on in their false state, believing they are right with God. In God's dialogue with Israel over and over before the fences came down and Assyria and Babylon march as locusts across the Land, killing and taking captive and ultimately leaving even Jerusalem in and as rubble, His constant theme is the cajoling of a Father. When Israel gets to the place where they outshine the other nations not in
excellence and worship, and defile the Glory God set upon them, then after hundreds of attempts to get them to turn back, God is left to no choice but to allow the furnace of suffering and bitterness, the hot fire of captivity, to break their heart and self-will , and bring them back. Even then He promises to leave a remnant in the Everlasting Covenant which cannot be broken.

Nevertheless in those days, saith the LORD, I will not make a full end with you. Jer 5:18

All of this is preface not to a short essay on how God deals with us in disobedience, but a point of the "MIND OF CHRIST" which must be addressed, particularly in this generation. The issue has been somewhat addressed already on the 'order' of God and the lack of respect for persons which we are to have in the forming of our minds to His, but this passage clearly shows where God's heart and mind is: with the very ones which are overlooked, mistreated, undone, sold and harmed, when a society becomes rich fat, proud, even arrogant, and carnal to the point of using each other without regard to God or human life. It is an essential issue for today.

In Matthew we read

Mat 19:30 But many [that are] first shall be last; and the last [shall be] first.
Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. and in Luke

Luk 13:30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

At the Last Supper, Jesus admonishes His disciples that he who would be first must be the servant of all.The order we attribute is not at all the Mind of Christ. Why should Christ, who in Revelation calls Himself the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, have any regard for what is first and last: in His eternal time, the beginning and end are merely limits to hold our fragile minds together. And in the valuing of human beings, His concern is Love, Life, Truth and Holiness, not which man or woman or child considers themselves FOR ANY REASON above another. While it is certainly not a Christian reference, I remember from my years as an Existentialist a play by Kurt Vonnegut which is made into a book called "From Time to Timbuktu: Prometheus 5".
While this may seem a ludicrous diversion for a moment, I remember a passage in response to someone in despair in which one of the characters says, "Just think of all the dust that never had a chance to sit up and look around". We forget as contemporary teachers would have us forget that we were formed from the clay---even Adam's name comes from "Adumah" which refers to red clay. At the cross we are reminded in the Great Act of Timeless Love, that for a God as great as ours, as limitless as ours to first come in our form, and then die in our place that we might receive HIS righteousness instead of our own, that it hardly behooves us to glance over bowed before the Cross and consider whether those bowing next to us are in some way better or worse dust or clay than we are. We are valued because HE values us, but He utterly counts the poor the same as the wealthiest, the President or Monarch the same as the comatose patient: He accomplishes His plan equally through either, and quite frankly, the stillborn, retarded child or person in a 'permanant vegetative state' are far less resistant to His Will and plan than the Heads of State. Our 'valuing' of human beings is the opposite, especially as days grow old.

In Jeremiah 5 after delivering the counts against Israel, the real mind of God, of Christ is seen:

yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.5:28


This is the first thing on God's heart: that in Jeremiah 5:26 He is outraged at snares to 'catch men', and that in the verse above, the ones counted last in the eyes of a society waxed fat: the poor, those suffering injustice, the needy, the fatherless, in other words, the vulnerable, are not only not cared for, but are set as prey for the wealthy and at ease. He is the one who sees every sparrow that falls to the ground; He is the one who knows the number of the hairs on your head, who 'counteth the stars and telleth them by name'. He is the one who over and over promises to 'deliver the island of the innocent', to protect the widow and the fatherless, and to stop the rage of assault against the weak. This is HIS Christianity, His Way: not the human reason which values a person in terms of wealth, position, power, or 'good looks'. [In Heaven, I doubt any of us will think we looked particularly beautiful here.]


As I write about this critical change of heart and mind, to gather our Father's eyes and thinking about other people and 'importance', I have just finished several weeks reading and writing about the T-4 Program in Nazi Germany. One of the most influential thought systems which influenced the Nazis was that of "Social Darwinism". At the turn of the century, Darwinism took hold in which many believed that the 'fittest' or most capable would always survive and that the weak and vulnerable would rightfully and naturally fall prey to the environmental conditions which would cause their death and hence 'weed them out'. These points were applied to the social milieu, in which survival of the fittest and 'natural adaptation' became the valued perspective also around the time of the 'industrial revolution'. Hitler and Haeckel and others posited that care for the weak and vulnerable was not natural, and that these persons were without consciousness, and therefore had no viable life or contribution to make. He called them "needless eaters". A man named Karl Binding wrote a book on "Lebensunwerte Leben" or Life unworthy of Life, in which he expounded what would become the foundation for much of our contemporary thinking in Eugenics and 'Assisted Suicide' and Euthanasia. He tried to make the case that those without health, work and intelligence had no value to themselves or society, and the doing away with them was 'merciful'. The Nazis, including Wirth and Conti,
set about to clear the Mental Hospitals and Infirmaries for the Developmentally delayed by mass lethal injections. That they were after not only the 'unconscious' is clear: in 1933 they ordered the sterilization of all who fit the categories of Life Unworthy of Life, such as Epileptics, Incorrigible Criminals, and Chronically unemployed as well as the retarded and mentally ill. Alcoholics were added also.
They believed they could solve human society's problems by killing the very ones which God warns not to touch or harm. They not only killed tens of thousands before the outcry from parents and others became so loud they had to stop outward killings, but they even harvested brains for study from their innocent victims, and most often charged parents for their burial and death.

The first sermons of protest against Hitler, before most were met with merely stonings and stompings not imprisonment or death, were ones in outcry against the deliberate massive destruction of the weak and vulnerable. Germany, before they even touched the Jews, had already set their own defeat in God's venue. When they turned to the Chosen people and declared by their darwinistic standards that they too were 'unworthy' of life in the New Reich, they sealed their fate. No human kingdom stands very long after a massive slaughterhouse of the innocent. None ever have.

They did the same as we do now when we want to put distance between our 'first and last': they alter language. "Killings" became "Mercy Killings" which then became "Euthanasia" which then became the "T-4 Program". "Health Police" were instituted.
And just like Israel did in the years before captivity people became expendable objects, and they found new ways to cover the most abominable deeds with laconic language.


We now encounter issues such as Terri Schiavo, in which her life, against the wishes of her parents and many was ended by starvation [a prominently used method in the T-4 program], or abortion on demand, in which over 36 million lives are now gone from a generation, or assisted suicide, sometimes more assisted than suicide, or a variety of other issues. It is not that sometimes ethical choices are very hard to make: very very hard to make, in order to be just and merciful and obey God. What is pre-eminent and parallel is that we have lost Life and God as our first values, and like Ancient Israel on the verge of captivity, whom God loved but had to change, and like Nazi Germany, who never even pretended to care for Life, or others, we again are beginning to raise a gauntlet of blood in which we cry for expediency rather than care for the poor the weak, the widow, the needy, ill, fatherless and so on.

The Inanaugural Address of Jesus Christ

In both Isaiah 61 and Luke 4, the very purpose of the Messiah in bringing in God's Kingdom is pronounced:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. 4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. 5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. 6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. 7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. 8 For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
Luke 4:15: Jesus Proclaims the Arrival of the Kingdom
15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth

Who is mentioned? The poor, the brokenhearted, the blind, the captive. He does not say, "I have come to tell you how you must celebrate Christmas or wear head coverings, or whether you may view television, or drive certain cars, or any of these: there is plenty of wisdom for walking in life throughout scripture, and even commands regarding these and a thousand other issues. What He declared, what was on His mind and heart and what should be on ours, is :

1. Delivering the Captive
2. Giving Sight to the Blind
3. Feeding the hungry
4. Caring for the Poor
5. Attending to the Widow and fatherless and those alone in the world
6. Healing the brokenhearted
7. Binding up the bruised

and whatever bears that stamp of excellence. And not just from a legalistic 'outing' or good deed, but with the heart and love of God flowing through us, recognizing that we are not going to understand the will of God or have the mind of Christ until we realize the great honor and 'rightness' of meeting His Kingdom, His way without first or Last. Our blood bought Salvation should break our heart daily. Further, when we are called to serve any of those the world calls 'last' we are to do it with an utter understanding that as the Joan Baez song goes "there but for fortune go you and I": in other words, we begin to understand that even our health or sight is a gift and that we are not first until serving. Stephen the Apostle was stoned to death following one of the greatest sermons of all time: but when the other apostles could not be 'bothered' waiting tables of widows, Stephen went. He was attending just as much to the Kingdom of God, and in the end accomplished just as much. First and Last, in Heaven will be seen with great new eyes.

2. 84.