When Jesus came to this earth two thousand years ago He endeavored to change the thoughts of the people around Him. The Jewish people were living a lifestyle that had been around for fifteen hundred years. They had the law and they embraced it dearly. But the law was a yoke around their necks they didn’t know they had.
The law was so embedded in the people’s minds that their lives were becoming a burden. They were under bondage to the law and they weren’t even aware of it. Like a lobster in a pot of water, their lives were becoming comfortably numb. Man becomes a slave to whatever masters him. And the word of the Lord (or rather, what they perceived as God’s word) was their master. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tried to change the thought pattern of those who were listening. “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘thou shalt not kill,’ but I say unto you, whosoever shall be angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘thou shalt not commit adultery,’ but I say to you…” “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘an eye for an eye…’ but I say unto you…” “But I say unto you…” over and over again.
Instead of condemnation, Jesus taught compassion and understanding. Instead of hiding behind the law, He taught submission and obedience. His message of love touched the hearts of many people, but it also stirred the contempt of the religious leaders of His day. He gained the loyalty of some, but people’s loyalties tend to favor the ones that have the first influence. Typically, men of God are not accepted by society or even by their peers.
After all His teaching and the miracles He performed, after all the time He spent trying to change the thought patterns to reflect a better way, the people still fell under the pressure of their religious leaders and crucified Him. They were in a box and they couldn’t get out. Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They replied, some say you’re this, some say you’re that. “But, who do you say that I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But it wasn’t but a few days later that Peter denied Him, and told the others, “I’m going fishing.” Peter, like so many others, was in a box he couldn’t get out of. In the tenth chapter of Acts, Peter said in his vision that he wasn’t going to change his thoughts and ideas on what he considered holy.
He wasn’t going to eat anything common or unclean. But the Lord spoke to him three times to let him know that just maybe some things are not altogether wrong or evil. And from his obedience to the Lord, the Gentiles received the Holy Ghost. We all go through life surrounded by the effects of our society. It doesn’t matter what part of the world we live in, we all go through life the same way: we were all born, were raised in a family, or a semblance of a family, we are educated, to whatever degree our society allows, and we go through experiences in our daily lives.
Whether we are born to a wealthy family or live in the most desperate means in a third world nation, we all go the same process. We are all the products of our upbringing, our environment, our education, and our experiences. Our upbringing: this is how we were raised, our family life. The influence of our parents and our siblings. The control they had on our lives. Where we grew up, the region we lived in. The friends and relatives we came in contact with. The thought patterns we developed from our youth. Our environment: this is where we live or have lived.
The state or country we inhabit. The governmental regulations of our society. The cultures that surrounds our lives. The freedoms or restraints of our ethnicity. The traditions and customs of our people. Our education: this is what the schools taught or didn’t teach us. What we learned through formal education or through a trade. What our ancestors taught us about life and living or what we gathered on our own. The skills we learned through education or through common sense. Our experiences: the trials and tests of everyday life.
The “school of hard knocks” we all go through. The mistakes we make. The education we receive through trial and error. Or what we learn from the experiences of others. It’s said that experience is a wonderful teacher: it helps us to recognize a mistake when we make it again. These are the sides that make up the box we live in. These are the walls we put up between ourselves and those we come in contact with. We can see that these walls intertwine; that one wall is held up by the support of another. One wall can’t be torn down without destroying part of another wall.
We become so relaxed in our surroundings that it is difficult for us to imagine any other way of life or would even feel comfortable with any other lifestyle. Even if we knew we could get out, could change our way of living, most of us would not know how, nor would we feel content outside our comfort zone. Because of our habits and our behavior, we don’t want to tear down these walls. It’s our life. It’s been our life all these years and we don’t want to change. But the times we try to change, try to get out, try to break down these barriers, we find that the walls are too high, too thick, too much trouble. Or maybe, we’re too tired, or too old, or too set in our ways, or just don’t want to be bothered.
We can’t get out this way because of the way in which we were raised; what we inherited from our parents, what’s in our genes. We can’t get out that way because of what our society dictates; what’s necessary for us to belong in this social order. Our education, or lack of education, keeps us from tearing out that wall. And the experiences that we go through keep us confined to a box we’ve spent years building. After a while, we settle into our comfort zone and feel at ease with the way we are. It’s not a bad thing; it’s not a good thing. It’s just what happens to all of us, whether we are rich or poor, Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female. It happens to every one. While you ponder over these walls in your own life, I’ll show you in the next issue one other difficulty; the lid that holds this box together.
But, I’ll also, hopefully, show you how you can begin to tear down these walls, step outside the box and be the man or woman that God intends for you to be. As I said in the last issue, someone is going to do something outstanding for God. It might as well be you!