Saturday, December 17, 2011

Witnesses, Part Three

I imagine some will think I over simplified in the last post that three types of people and their reactions to Jesus are the whole of what's wrong with the world. 
     "What about murder and sexual immorality?" asks the mom without taking her eyes off twin daughters catching and eating or chasing the missed flying candy from a Christmas parade float.

     "What about the loss of our national heritage as a Christian nation?!" the Tea Partier demands.

     "What about greed and injustice?" queries the lawyer from the local Legal Aid Society.

If the John 12 refection is viewed in comparison with the following verse:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  1 John 2:16 NAS
...and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is factored into this study, a masterful unity of thought is clear. (See Matthew, chapter 4)

The Lust of the Flesh
At the height of a forty-days-fasting hunger, Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread. Jesus refuses to do so stating life is not in bread alone but in the words, the meaning, found in God. In so doing He ruled over the desires of the body in favor of obedience demonstrating authority over the lust of the flesh. Thus Jesus both models and explains the ability to make meaningful decisions in line with life in God in contrast with succumbing to innate physiological drives of the human body we fallen humans like to justify as our basic needs. Seeking gratification of the body as the point of life through the varied sensual measures of the palate, a sated stomach or fulfilled loins are the "lusts of the flesh".

The crowds or masses in John 12 represent the wild swings of opinion that ride on this lust. When one lives for body gratification as the meaning of life, highs bounce up with expectation, lows deepen with deprivation and manipulative behaviors of appearing interested in what is expected while secret motivations protect one's love of the dark abound.

The Lust of the Eyes (do not confuse as what lust of the flesh wants to view)
Next Satan invites Jesus to prove His value in the eyes of God. Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself from the top of the temple that God would then send angels to protect Him. Jesus refuses and states that would be a test of God. Religious Christian behavior  attempts to raise the value of the adherent through self-righteous works. If the adherent has achieved the level of holiness demanded by men, it is falsely believed the individual can expect God to save or protect. People surrendering to this sin also expect to be honored for their piety. This is a "lust" of the eyes, since it means that the person so inclined "sees" him or herself as valuable for their religious practice. The heart of such a person is idolizing the self.

Clearly the Pharisees of John 12 are afflicted by this area of sin.

The Pride of Life
 Last, Satan asks Jesus to receive payment of the wealth, beauty, and power of the "kingdoms" on earth by holding out to Him the "glory" of these. Kingdom is a political term that refers to the way in which organization of political power can maximize the productive power of the people within the kingdom. The modern state or nation is a "kingdom" whether it is an absolutist-leaning government such as Saudi Arabia, a constitutional monarchy such as the United Kingdom, or a democratic republic such as our own US. 

The Greeks in John 12, who are today regarded as the primary root of Western Civilization,  represent the Pride of Life sin. From the Greeks, Western Civilization derives its respect and love of analytical thought, the arts, and the power of organization of an involved constituency. The Greeks produced direct democracy as the means of political power and organization of society; they gave voice to ideas of scientific observation and philosophic expression of wisdom, and crowned it with a symmetrical and expressive art in architecture, sculpture and theater. In our modern corporate world, this power of organization is tied to profit. Greed and glory of achievement are the fruit of this sin.

All that is wrong with world, indeed, is in the story where Jesus starts His walk of passion to the Cross.

He did it for all of humanity.

Think about this: In the story He made no attempt to "minister to" or evangelize any of the groups represented.


careyrowland said...

While I appreciate your (over?)simplifying trifold classification, I find Paul's nine-point list of the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21)more instructive, insofar as they specify exactly what behaviours we should strive to overcome in this life: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing.

As for Jesus' refusals against the temptations in the desert--they constitute three simple exemplary life-lessons:
1. Understand and acknowledge that God the Creator (not the systems of men) is the ultimate source of our sustenance and well-being. This simple distinction makes all the difference in the world pertaining to what directions our life-decisions produce for us.
2. Don't kill yourself; don't ever give up on life.
3. Don't be on a power trip; rather, administer earthly responsibilities in a way that is appropriate to God's sanctifying purposes.

ded said...

Carey, thanks for the comment!

I agree with you. You identify the practical applications of the themes I assert. Perhaps I should have called them organizing criteria rather than speak as if I were trying to capture the text and make it heel to my version of Truth.

It isn't that either of us is right or wrong. Both perspectives and the expressions of these are needed to understand in the fullest.

I didn't mention and perhaps needed to that the same identification of the three temptations works when looking at commandment number one: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Strength references a use of our will in the other three. Thus the applications of avoiding the actions of the flesh and bringing forth instead the fruit of the spirit is fully the practical application expected and needed.

The three "sins of the world" are the corrupting side of the practical things that are called for in a living a holy life. But in using these to coincide with what happened in the Temptation of Christ, I did not intend to communicate I had interpreted these various moments in the desert as carrying a finite meaning. The Scriptures have life because the speak truthfully in a variety of ways, thus becoming accessible to a wide variety of personal experience and connection to ultimate meanings.

The mind and its decisions are corrupted by the Pride of Life. The body is the source of corruption from the lust of the flesh, and the heart is corrupted by the lust of the eyes was not meant to say "... and take no other meanings extracted to be true." There are more things to do with organizing principles than declaring the reason for identification is to determine what corrupts them.

Separating all this out is not really possible anyway. I have tried to establish there is a red and blue and yellow, when in fact, all of life is made up of secondary and tertiary colors full of hue and tints in unending varieties.

Truth is infinite as it is part of the essence of God.

careyrowland said...

That "pride of life" phrase always confuses me. I'm proud of my kids, my wife who is so excellent in her work, and proud of my friend who so faithfully endures the slings and arrows of adolescent inconsistencies day after day, five days a week 180 days a year so that the next generation can skillfully negotiate the obstacle course of literacy in this 21st century.

postmodern redneck said...

Carey, the two kinds of pride is something C.S. Lewis wrote about; one is healthy, one is not. One way to look at it: there is a "pride" that is focused on others--an appreciation of them for who they are or what they have achieved, like being proud of your wife and kids. But there is another "pride" which is focused on the self--resenting any praise given to anybody else, insisting on pre-eminence for one's own self, seeking one's own desires even at the expense of others. This is the sort of pride which, as Lewis wrote, made the Devil become the Devil. Unfortunately, the English language uses the same word for both meanings. I have not taken time to look up whether ancient Greek used two different words, but it would not surprise me if they did.

ded said...


I concur with Phil.

Pride in self for whatever reasons is the pitfall. Feelings of love and recognition for others' achievements as a basis for giving praise to the Lord is not a sin. Somehow grabbing God's glory for ourselves is a wrong motive, no matter how it is expressed.

We cannot escape feelings of pride over those dear to us. What we do with those feelings is the issue.