In this world of quotes and quips posted quickly on Facebook out of context, it is interesting to see how one tries to derive the actual meaning of what is said. Often a quote is interpreted by the life experience of the one reading it, if there is no supporting sentences to direct the reader anywhere else. What I find troubling, however, is the spirituality that is formed by fragmented ideas that are posted on this medium. One-liners from philosophers, pastors, gurus, and celebrities all amalgam together in this soup are often devoured as one meal without any discriminatory, or ensuing thoughts. It’s fascinating!
Recently, on Facebook, I read a quote by Bertrand Russell (a devout atheist) that said:
“No man treats a motorcar as foolishly as he treats another human being. When the car will not go, he does not attribute it’s annoying behavior to sin; he does not say, ‘you are a wicked motorcar and I shall not give you any more petrol until you go.’ He attempts to find out what is wrong and to set it right.”
This quote strikes on several nerves of someone who holds to a framework of absolute morality as a Christian does, and that is how Bertrand intended it since his argument deals with sin, right and wrong. It points out how we are often insensitive to the needs of others and are quick to judge without offering any help. People like me who have been hurt by the church, and it’s abuse of people can identify with Bertrand’s comments, and find them to be full of truth and insight. The problem is that there is no real solution posed in Bertrand’s world view and philosophy other than “attempting to find out what is wrong and right it.” This is where it all breaks down.
Bertrand Russell did not believe in an absolute morality. He did not hold to any framework of right/wrong, good/evil or even bad. Bertrand’s comments were intended to borrow from another morality (that of the Christian), accuse it of abuse, and stand outside of it because he himself did not believe in anything he just wrote.
He tells us that there is a foolish way to behave. He tells us that there are wrongs that need to be set right. He himself denies any moral reference for any of his standards, but if you, a moral person reads his comments, you are struck by them. More likely you reflect on them through the lens of the abuses you have encountered. I know I have. The problem here is this: There is still truth missing in this quote. Where is the remedy? Who is the savior? How do I know when something is wrong, and how do I know when it is finally right again?
With a motorcar, I have a grasp on it’s function because I know it was designed on purpose by someone who also wrote a manual on how it should operate. If the motorcar was designed to “go”, I could quickly deduce that if it wasn’t “going” something was wrong that needed to be made right. But how do I do that with a human being? How do I know what they are “supposed to be doing”? How do I know that what they are doing or not doing is a malfunction? How will I go about changing the outcome? How do I know my methods or tools are the “right ones” to fix it, and when it is fixed, will I know it?
Bertrand’s comments beg for definitions. They need some absolutes. Both the motorcar and the human being must be framed in the same light…as products of design with a Creator and a manual for correcting and instructing. But that is exactly what Bertrand is avoiding by his atheistic stance. If the car won’t go and we find there is a broken fuel line, we can deduce the problem because the manual will tell us that we need a non-broken fuel line in order to power the engine and we can go about correcting that. But when a man or woman has behavior rubs us the wrong way or is contrary to our comfort level, we have no way of correcting it if we do not believe that there is any design involved in their makeup.
So, let’s frame the human being like the motorcar in the sense that both are designed and have purpose. Both have a designer and a creator, and both have needs of repair. The difference lies in the fact that a motor car has no free will, or heart from which good and evil emerge. That we will have to factor into our solutions for both.
I submit that the designer of all human beings is God. God is the creator of all things, and also the ultimate repairer of them. He has written a manual on the subject of the humanity He has created and it is called the Bible. In it you will find the diagnosis for most all of our behavioral issues, and very often that diagnosis is sin. Sin is anything that takes you away from God’s purposes for your life and/or the life of your neighbor. The remedy: repentance and receiving the forgiveness offered by God’s son Jesus Christ, who shed His blood in order that you and I could have our sin AND guilt wiped away, and receive a new heart.
What you will also find in that manual is how we are to treat one another. You will read the words from Micah 6:8
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
You will find these words from the book of James 1:26 that says:
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
There are countless other scriptures that teach us that people are valuable and are to be honored and treated with compassion, respect, love, and grace. There are also many passages that will point at our hearts and point out our evil. God will call it sin, and tell us that we must repent and change. He has promised to help us and give us strength in our weaknesses. He promises to draw near to us when we draw near to Him. He promises to lead us and empower us, forgive us and cleanse us, change us and heal us when we come to Him.
I find it easy to blame the church and “organized religion” for the bad behavior I see among Christian people. After all, if we just had better churches, our lives would be much more moral (or so we want to believe), but the Bible calls us to a personal responsibility before God to deal with our own sin, and attitudes, and it’s not by pointing the fingers at churches, organizations, or people at all; it is by pointing the fingers at our own hearts, acknowledging our sin, repenting and changing the way we live by the power of God working in us.
When you find that a quote or comment on Facebook, or by another, strikes a chord in you of pain or makes you think, think it all the way through. If it convicts you, take your heart before the Lord and let Him speak to you. Be careful who you take your solutions from. Many people are able to point out problems, very few offer solutions. Beware of those who strain on gnats and swallow camels in the process.*
So you need to help another who is struggling? Throwing away your morals and the design book will not get you to that goal, as Bertrand Russell will espouse. Blaming religions, churches or others won’t help either. Coming to God on His terms will.
Be careful. All of us have a free will and with it we will either choose God or something lesser. We cannot control that in another, so we must be vigilant to guard our hearts, and make sure that our lives are constantly being re-aligned with God’s design book for us, and in the mean time, w pray for our neighbors, point them to Christ, and work to help in whatever capacity we can.
*From Matthew 23:23-24