Month 6:9, Week 2:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year:Day 5939:157 AM|
2Exodus 1/40, 67/70 Firstborn Mourning
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 3 September 2014
Repentance and Character
Continued from Part 8
The Mayor of Casterbridge
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Rom.5:3-4, NIV).
I wonder if you are at all familiar with the classic English writer, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy? Subtitled, The Life and Death of a Man of Character, it is a tragic novel set in the rural England of the mid 1880's, that looks at the dire consequences of having secret sins that eventually catch up with the sinner. It is a story of the complex character that is man, whose virtues and flaws co-exist in constant warfare to produce very contrary natures in constant flux and competition for dominance in the soul. The novel is tragic because the main character, the Mayor, never fully rises above his weaknesses and therefore fails, in the end, to conquer them. His Scottish rival, by contrast, is of impeccable character, is constant in his striving to do what is right, unintentionally provokes the evil spirit of jealousy in the Major which he leaves unchecked too late, and in the end is vindicated and honoured.
The Inner War Between Selfishness and Altruism
It seems to me, as I reflect back on my own life and its many imperfections, as selfishness vies with altruism, and as I compare (wisely or unwisely as for a moment I ignore my own counsel not to fall into the sin of comparison)) my own life with the many people I have known personally, as well as not so personally at a distance as a keen student of history, that you will strive very hard indeed to find anyone who is perfect. And indeed we know, every character is flawed, that only one Man only ever lived sinlessly and perfectly, Yah'shua (Jesus) our Master (Heb.4:15). That excuse of the greyness of every man's moral mixture aside, I have observed that in every man, possessing such mixed morals as he does, that there is nevertheless a trend and an overall direction which sets apart the man or woman destined for Heaven from the one moving inexorably in the direction of Hell. There are those who are Heaven-bound and those who are Hell-bound as the tussel of man's contrary nature unfolds into who he choses to become.
Nailing the Master's Colours to Our Masts
Set against this observation of the nature of man, judging morals and ethics either against the standard of Torah or that conscience and general sense or knowing of what is right or wrong with which every man and woman is born - which observations may be made irrespective of what religious or irreligious labels one might ewear - is the teaching of the Messiah and of the apostles who wish us to understand and know properly that the invisible and usually unrecongised and unnamed driving force behind the moral man is the Ruach haMashiach or Spirit of Messiah. This is the driving force behind the immoral man which is the fallen, carnal, Adamic nature, and war is waged against it by the ruach haSatan or spirit of the Adversary, Satan. We can, like Thomas Hardy, as other brilliant writers like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens were too, be keen observers of this battle of positive versus negatice character traits. We can choose whether we embrace the ideas and claims of all other religions but biblical Christianity which basically tell us that the purpose of life is solely about the overall victory of the good over the bad, and content ourselves with that pursuit to the exclusion of all outward religion, but fail to recognise the most important emet (truth) of all which Deity demands we give recongition to, ultimately, as a condition of our final placement in Heaven or Hell - and that demand is that we acknowledge that there there are two supernatural authors of these impulses, and that the Author of goodness paid a price which we must nail to our mast to make that righteous impulse available to us in the first place. It is not some faceless 'force' but a Person who sacrificed everything to make our choices for the right ultimately count in the eternities.
When Morality is Deadened by Religion
There is little by way of acknowledged religion in Thomas Hardy's writings, though Christian morality clearly lies behind everything. Nevertheless, like Shakespeare and others of his genre, we are made conscious of deep and meaningful realities that matter which not infreqently some kinds of religion can deaden to our enormous detriment.
The Beslan Massacre
Prior to completing the Hardy story I had been watching a documentary about that terrible Beslan school hostage crisis in North Ossetia, Russia, in 2004, when muslim terrorists held hostage over a thousand souls, of which nearly 800 were children, that resulted in the deaths of 334 people, many of whom were school children. All the terrorists-but-one perished in the assault that freed the survivors and the documentary was about that man. Hiding behind his false religion, quoting from the Koran to justify his actions, he had absolutely no remorse over what he had done, or that he was the cause of so much pain and suffering that live on even until this day. And though his conscience attempted to break through in frequent nighmares, he resolutely resisted the emet (truth) that he was in any way a murderer or guilty of any wrong. He stubbornly and defiantly refused to deny the gaping lie of his life even in the face of receiving numerous letters from those whose lives he and his friends had shattered. Though the families of the victims poured out their hearts to him he remained unmoved, saying he would want his own children to follow his heartless example. He didn't care about human suffering, but only about a perverse, satanic ideal that posed as coming from the true Elohim (God). The difference between the brutal and cruel immorality of his Koran and the Christian morality that prevailed amongst both Christian, decent Muslim and humanist victims alike, was so stark as to be painful, and was a reminder to me of what a heavy price we pay, as well what we unnecessarily as inflict on others, when we choose to suppress or deny the voice of conscience and the humanity in us all. If we choose to let that biblical morality express itself, then what we are witnessing is light that comes from the supernatural implantaion of the Light of Messiah that accompanies every person born into this world:
The Personal Origins of Natures
"He (John the Baptist) himself was not the light (Messiah); he came only as a witness to the light (Messiah). The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world" (John 1:8-9, NIV).
We need to be stirred by such stories as the Mayor of Casterbridge to awaken any humanity that may have become dulled or crushed by false belief about ourselves, about the creation and about Elohim (God). We cannot just hang our colours on cold, impersonal theology or philosophy. Creeds appeal to either our base or exalted natures and we must choose between them. But having done that, we cannot just stop there, for the Creator demands that we make a conscientous effort to search for the origins of these natures and to recongise that they cannot just be taken for granted. We did not invent them, and though choosing the right is important, the free gift od salvation demands that we choose and acknowledge the Righteous One who is the author of every particle of righteousness that is in man. For if we do not, we remain idolatrous, irrespective of what cause we choose; and if we choose the good, we can still be evil for claiming it was entirely of ourselves when it is clearly supernatural and of the Divine.
The Dual Nature of Repentance
Making teshuvah - repenting - is therefore dual in its nature. One the one hand, it entails rejecting bad for good, but additionally, and even more importantly, it involves recogising and confessing that if there is any good is in us that is neither self-invented or self-generated, which means we can never take any credit for it. Neither is its source some New Agey 'collective good' consisting of all righteous souls, passed and present, that are somehow pooled together, as the pantheistic religions blasphemously claim. The good comes from the Divine Person of Yah'shua (Jesus) and it is He whom we must ultimately acknowledge to properly complete our probation here. To Him alone is all credit, all glory, for we both we, and goodness, come from Him.
"For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom.11:36, NKJV).
It boils down to choosing between two supernatural beings in the final analysis - Messiah and Satan - and whether we the admit the one nature of the other in ourselves or not. But it's even simpler than that - for if we do not choose Messiah, we choose Satan by default, whether we are conscious of the chosing or not, for evil is our default nature, but goodness must be sought and finally acknowledged as coming from the Divine Son. Amen.
Continued in Part 10