Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ethic of Love

A discussion on work ethics led me to pick up William Barclay’s Ethics in a Permissive Society. He was from another age: pastor, teacher, theologian, professor (Divinity and Biblical Criticism, in Glasgow), and author of the very popular 17-volume commentary on the New Testament, The Daily Study Bible. Ethics in a Permissive Society is out of print but much of what he wrote then resonates with humanity and compassion still. Barclay died in 1978.

An evangelical would find some of Barclay's liberal theology disagreeable, and I remember puzzling over his rationalising of Jesus' miracles with a bit of disdain. A convinced universalist, his views about Jesus' deity and the atonement was absolutely left field (or should it be outfield?). But he was a gifted teacher, with a way with words, and I found Ethics instructive. Here's an excerpt:
It is basic to the ethic of Paul, as it is to the ethic of the whole New Testament, that the Christian ethic is an ethic of love. That love is not an easy-going, emotional, sentimental thing. It is not something subject to impulse and motivated by passion. It is not something which flames and then dies, at one time a burning passion, at another time almost non-existent. It is not something which depends on our likes and our dislikes for other people. It is the steady, unvarying, undefeatable determination to love men as Jesus loved them, and never, no matter what they do in response, to seek anything but their highest good. It is the goodwill that cannot be quenched. This kind of love is going to have consequences.

It will dominate the attitude of the Christian towards insult and injury. Revenge will be something which – if it enters into the picture at all – will be in the hands of God. As for us, even for the man who counts himself our enemy, there will be nothing but concern (Rom 12:19,20). The pattern of human forgiveness is the divine forgiveness. As Christ forgave us, so must we forgive others (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13)). He who has been forgiven must be forgiving. This will mean that a Christian will never try to return evil for evil. He will always try to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21; 1 Thes 5:15). The Christian will practise not so much a negative policy of non-retaliation as a positive policy which by its kindness shames men into response (Rom 12:20;Prov 25:21,22).
The ethic of love, which finds its greatest expression in the incarnation and humiliation of God (Philippians 2:7-8) is indeed our only motivation for life and service. I dare say it is also the world's only hope.

Related Link:
William Barclay Trust

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The insulted Saviour

John Piper shares wise words about the Danish cartoons backlash:
What we saw this past week in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and Christ, and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery.

If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. Already in the Psalms the path of mockery was promised: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” (Psalm 22:7). “He was despised and rejected by men . . . as one from whom men hide their faces . . . and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
Read the rest of it here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My back! My back!

I hurt my back on a visit to Taman Titiwangsa for my regular exercise right after the Chinese New festivities. Pulled a muscle or something, I thought. It left me with intense pain emanating from my left shoulder blade for over a week leaving me pretty deflated. That was when a friend recommended a chiropractor. I’ve never been one for alternative medicine and the like, but having struggled with fitful sleep nearly two weeks I felt I didn’t have anything to lose.

The doctor was a white South African, and it was an interesting encounter I must say. He was mild-mannered, tall, with a Taliban-type beard and a white haji koppiah (scull cap). It appears the problem arose out of a previously known congenital trait - a minor case of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine – which resulted in stress on the spinal column and musculature. An accident waiting to happen, said he. And my chin-ups were sort of like the last straw that broke the-- You get the picture. Hmm, that was enlightening. I was also put on short treatments of cold therapy, ultrasound, and electrical nerve stimulation which I am sure anyone would find, er, somewhat pleasant if they had to spend 30 to 40 minutes on a torture rack as I did.

After three painful visits of chiropractic alignment where I heard my joints crack and pop, I was feeling referred pain on my left forearm right down to the tips of my 2 fingers nearest the thumb. Throbbing spasms, tingling sensations, that left my arm aching and numb and unable to lift or type with any comfort. Couldn’t even squeeze the toothpaste. Bad scene. What now? Did my chiropractor aggravate my injury? It now felt like my nerves were on fire.

I skipped my 4th appointment and in desperation visited a GP down the road for relief. Well, I have no way of saying if it was the right decision, but the doctor didn’t have any good words about chiropractic treatment at all, and he said so with an undisguised sneer. So here I am, swallowing pills and oral steroids (“Steroid is not a bad word, David,” so said the doc) for possible nerve compression. And give the left hand a rest, please, the doctor said.

The good news is, I think it’s getting better, and I am trying to type this post - gingerly - with my left hand too.

So I’m dealing with that while working on project deadlines, sermons, and solving crises on other fronts all at the same time. In the meantime, the world’s gone mad over some cartoons. Religious sensitivities and intellectual hypocrisy on the part of some liberal western media (evident in almost spineless acquiescence) collided in a rabid global outpouring of fury. Certainly brings to mind a Chesterton quote: "Art, like morality, consists in drawing a line somewhere."