Friday, May 8, 2020

Birds and Courage

Author: Jim O'Connor

As I was sitting on the back porch on Good Friday listening to the chirping of the birds and observing the filtering of the late afternoon sunlight through the shade trees, I found myself reflecting on the historical significance of this day over 2000 years ago. What a dark day! The brutality of Roman governance and misguided policies of the ruling Jewish elite were on full display. But it was to be followed up two days later with the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. What a great day! These thoughts spurred me on to re-read some of Luke’s account and Acts to remind me what it must have been like at the dawn of Christianity.

 

How is it that a new belief and philosophy about man’s relationship to one another and to God can exist and grow to all corners of the globe throughout the millennia? If it has withstood all the despots, persecutions, evilness, and other belief systems, there must be something to it. Christianity has even survived its own dark periods of growth. Maybe it has survived and grown due the underlying principles set forth by Jesus Christ and his disciples.  What courage it took for the initial and core group of believers to embark on one of the greatest endeavors of mankind. They were risking everything. In the ensuing weeks and months as they crisscrossed the Mediterranean world, the men and women of this group were harassed, chased, and vilified. Many were tortured and put to death, but they still carried on delivering the message and good news. Talk about courage! Their efforts still resonate and inspire in modern times. 

 

Throughout history mankind has been confronted with many and varied tests. At times, the voices supporting the underlying principles of Christianity can come from unlikely sources. In his book, Civilization, Niall Ferguson, a Scottish-born historian, lecturer, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution (and avowed atheist), referenced a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The Academy was examining what factors accounted for the relatively rapid advancements of Western civilization. This study was apparently comprehensive as it considered factors from historical, political, economic, and cultural perspectives. The study focused on advancements in weaponry as well as political and economic systems. The study concluded:

 

“…. the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.” (Niall Ferguson, Civilization, p.287.)

 

This is coming from a communist country and an atheist author. Astounding! I think it can be said that the societal benefits of Christianity are far reaching and undeniable. This originates from one man (although part divine) and His group of followers over two thousand years ago!

 

Today, as we make our way through the adaptive changes dealing with a novel virus, perhaps when can draw some strength from Christian principles to help us meet the tests and fears in front of us. The courage of that original group is well known. Evidently, fear did not enter in their actions. I believe it was Churchill who, facing the onslaught of the German war machine, said: “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”  As recorded in the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and other books of the New Testament, we see many of the decisions and courage of that original group of believers.  

 

So, pandemic notwithstanding, I believe the basics of Christianity can play a huge part in seeing us through this. There may be some long-lasting cultural changes that enter our lives.  The courage of our medical community, research scientists, first responders, and others, combined with Christian principles, will provide answers that will get us through. History is full of examples of mankind’s response. In the meantime, I will continue to listen to the birds, take note of the smells of springtime, and….to keep the faith; keep the distance, and stay connected.

© 2018 by Big Cove Presbyterian Church (USA)

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