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. . . AND EVERY MAN A LIAR? It seems that nothing is taken at face value these days. It is fashionable, necessary even, to regard commercial adverts, political motives, scientific warnings, news reports, and all else, with a large degree of scepticism. Everything is taken culinary fashion, with a pinch of salt, or more likely with a large dose, betraying a suspicion that something unwholesome, or even poisonous, is being administered, and a curative measure is necessary.
We are no longer unaware of the manipulations of ‘spin doctors’ who attempt to forestall negative publicity by presenting a favourable interpretation of events or situations likely to arouse public censure.
‘Trust nobody!’ is an increasingly common attitude. Cynical people regard with distrust or contempt the apparent virtue or unselfishness of others. The sarcastic, mocking attitude has become popular in the world of entertainment, and comedians earn public acclaim as grumpy old men (or women) skilfully enlarging on the faults and failings of the world at large and the British in particular. Paradoxically perhaps, there is something of merit in such an eccentric portrayal of gloom and pessimism. It makes us think, and it makes us laugh.
An obvious corollary to such a prevailing attitude of distrust is that the honest, the sincere, the decent, and the innocent fall prey to the same critical scrutiny and condemnation as do the guilty.
There may well have been Cynics among St. Paul’s audience in Athens when he noted their altar to an unknown god and began to speak of Jesus. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead some of them sneered, and others lost interest (Acts 17: 23, 32). The Cynics were a sect dedicated to expose the meaninglessness of civilised life, and their ideas were immensely popular in the ancient world.
Much earlier – some 800 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah protested against moral laxity and taught that kindness and justice to the poor are more important to God than observance of ritual and outward piety. He spoke of a Messiah to come who would not fit the people's expectations, a ‘suffering servant’, rather than a military leader or king to raise the nation to glory and release them from the dominion of Gentile powers. Grieving at the unbelief of his day, he felt his preaching was in vain. ‘Who has believed our message?’ was his cry – a reporter nobody listened to (Isaiah 53: 1).
The scoffers were no doubt vocal and dismissive in the days of Noah, a preacher of righteousness for more than a century as he built the ark at the Lord’s direction. Jesus used that historical event to illustrate conditions in the world when He would return in His Second Advent (Matthew 24: 37-39). And still the common reaction to the preaching of the truth is indifference, mockery, and unbelief.
While as Christians we are exhorted to exercise a little sensible caution – to be ‘as wise as serpents as well as harmless as doves’ – a carping and suspicious attitude would not reflect the spirit of Christ. We can sometimes overlook another’s tendency to exagerate or to embroider the facts, but strict honesty is our ideal – our yes is to be yes and our no is to be no.
As to the present order of affairs, while not being in harmony with the ways of the world under the control of Satan, its prince, we are encouraged as far as is consistent with righteous principles to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13: 1-7). In response to a trick question as to the payment of taxes to the Roman rulers, Jesus asked whose portrait and inscription were shown on a denarius. ‘Caesar’s’, they replied. He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”’ (Luke 20: 25).
As members of a sin-scarred race our role is not to judge, but to bear witness to the Gospel. Jesus, prefiguring His future office as Judge of the entire human family, did not fear to castigate in particular the religious leaders of that time for their pride and hypocrisy (Matthew 23).
But His compassion for ordinary sinners led Him sometimes to heal their diseases and point to the remedy, as in the case of the man healed at the Pool of Siloam – ‘Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you”’ (John 5: 14).
An incident related in Mark 10: 17-22 shows how the Lord’s compassion extended to those burdened with the ‘affliction’ of prosperity. A young man came and knelt before Him, and though he lived according to the Law, he was evidently unsure of his standing before God. ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack”, he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man's face fell and he went away sad, because he had great wealth.’
When Christ establishes His mediatorial reign on earth, when His promised King is come, revolutionary changes will be seen in every aspect of human life. Not the least of these will be the elimination of jaded thinking habits, of fear and suspicion, of gloom and despondency. Cynics and sceptics will have no place, and the grumpy old men and women – their youth restored as the eagle’s – will be as happy and as trusting as in their early childhood.
‘and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.’
— Isaiah 35: 10
Copyright June 2009 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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