Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Goodbye, Blog

The following are excerpts from an interesting article entitled “Goodbye, Blog” by Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College.

“I thought that the blogs could provide an alternative venue where more risky ideas could be offered and debated, where real intellectual progress might take place outside the System. And sometimes this happens.”

“But this sort of thing happens all too rarely in the blogosphere, at least in part because of what Laurence Lessig calls the "architecture" of the online world, and more specifically of blogs. . . . Whatever one thinks about the structure of the internet as a whole, it is becoming increasingly clear that the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed. Take, for instance, the problem of comments. . . . At the bottom of each post will be the hyperlinked word "comments," usually followed by a parenthesis indicating the number of responses to the post: click on the word and you get to see all those comments. That's where the real conversation is supposed to take place. And sometimes it does; but often it doesn't—or rather, the conversation just gets started and then peters out before it can really become productive. And this happens not because of inertia, but largely because the anatomy of a blog makes a serious conversation all but impossible.”

“Architecture is of course not everything here; human nature is at work too. I think first of the extraordinary anger that seems to be more present in the blogosphere than in everyday life. Debate after debate—on almost every site I visit, including the ones devoted to Christianity—either escalates from rational discourse into sneering and name-calling or just bypasses reason altogether and starts with the abuse. Partly this derives from the anonymity of blog comments: people rarely identify themselves by their real names, and the email addresses that they sometimes provide rarely give clues about their identity: a person who is safe from substantive reprisals is probably more easily tempted to express rage.”

“ . . . the blogosphere inevitably accelerates the pace of debate to the timetable of daily journalism. In terms of how they treat substantive ideas, blogs are not very different from newspapers: they present an idea and then move on, as quickly as possible, to the next idea.”

“ . . . the same problems afflict the intellectual and moral environments of the blogs. There is no privacy: all conversations are utterly public. The arrogant, the ignorant, and the bullheaded constantly threaten to drown out the saintly, and for that matter the merely knowledgeable, or at least overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And the architecture of the blog (and its associated technologies like rss), with its constant emphasis on novelty, militates against leisurely conversations. It is no insult to the recent, but already cherished, institution of the blogosphere to say that blogs cannot do everything well. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.”

I would like to reiterate some points my friend Jenson had brought up in his post on blogging:

Problems with Blogs

Like all good things, there are flips sides. There are many disadvantages and problems with blogs. I agree with the preacher who criticised blogs and discussion boards. His criticisms were:

1) Although there are serious blogs written by those who wish to edify others, many blog writers are trying to influence others with ill-researched, ignorant, or superficial nonsense. They ought to be pupils and not teachers.
2) Many of the blog writers are flippant, i.e. their first thoughts are immediately put down in writing, and tend to be silly things anyway.
3) Many of these blog writers are keen to exhibit their opinions (e.g. "What is your take on this and that?").

I would expand on his points with 3 more points/examples:

4) They have become a vehicle for promoting novel ideas and/or heresies which years ago a Christian would never have heard about or bothered with. For example, Non-Lordship Salvation, Federal Vision Theology and others. Literature based on these novel ideas and/or heresies is scarce but their proponents are very vocal on blogs and discussion boards.
5) Many Christians are unwittingly sucked into these novel ideas and/or heresies due to a lack of discernment. I remember a person on a discussion board who learnt his Covenant Theology from another person on the board, instead of going to the Bible and sound Christian books. Soon after, he took his Covenant Theology too far and ended up with the Federal Vision Theology group - with presumptious regeneration, paedocommunion and all of that. Today he is advocating the use of incense in church worship - I think he will soon find his way back to Rome.
The blog and discussion board culture has become a place to "let off" steam, wash dirty linen in public or just gossip.

To the aforementioned points, I would like to add the following.

Points to note for Christian bloggers:

1. Blogs are not places whereby one attempts to exhibit his/her knowledge or abilities - be it spiritual or secular. Remember Paul’s maxim, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Cor. 8:1).” If one thinks that he/she is equipped to edify the saints, do so in a godly manner, and avoid unnecessary ad hominem attacks and name-calling. Better still; edify your brethren from your own church as a priority. If one does not have the time to worship God and to serve in one’s own church, why bother spending time writing on blogs?

2. Be responsible for what is written on your own blog. If you are unsure with regard to the content or doctrinal integrity of your writing, try writing something else. Endeavor to ensure that what you write is edifying for your fellow brethren. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another (Romans 14:19).”

3. Remember your position as “fellow workers unto the kingdom of God (Col. 4:11).” Let the fruit of the Spirit be evident in your life, even in your writings and speech, and not the works of the flesh i.e. hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings etc (Galatians 5:19-21).

4. The blog is not the place to be prima donnas. If the Lord has endowed you with gifts, let these gifts be useful within the body of Christ. Be faithful in service and attendance in a faithful church. Assist the pastor and the leaders in various ways, and to the best of your abilities. If you think that you are exceptional in certain gifts, the church will know it very soon when you start serving.

5. Use the blog to encourage, to teach sound doctrines, and to edify. When good doctrinal discourses are impossible e.g. due to lack of time, lack of good contributions/comments from fellow bloggers, or from lack of knowledge, avoid unnecessary hurtful words and personal attacks. You are a child of God.

And I pray that I am able to adhere to good blogging habits stated above. By the way, I’m not saying goodbye to my blog just yet.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Wondrous Cross of Grace

"I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32; cf. Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17)."

Tuol Sleng was a former high school in Phnom Penh prior to the Khmer Rouge regime (1974-1979) in Cambodia. It was converted into a prison and interrogation centre where at least 17,000 were tortured, and subsequently executed in a nearby field called Choeung Ek (also known as the killing fields).

The summary statistics for S-21 are as follows:

1975: 154 prisoners
1976: 2,250 prisoners
1977: 2,330 prisoners
1978: 5,765 prisoners

These figures, totaling 10,499 do not include an estimated 2,000 children who were killed. There are only seven known survivors of Tuol Sleng Prison, as the rest were executed at Choeung Ek.

Tuol Sleng (or S-21 prison) was headed by an individual known as "Brother Duch." He was a mathematician named Kang Keck Leu prior to his placement as commandant of the S-21 prison under the Khmer Rouge regime. My question to the reader is, "What should a Christian think, or perhaps even better, do when confronted with such an individual who is probably on par with the likes of Stalin and Hitler?"

Let me quote from Religion Today, April 1999:

"A man who ordered the deaths of 15,000 people reportedly has become a born-again Christian. Kang Kek Ieu, 56, admitted that he is "Duch," the chief torturer and executioner of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Reuters said. He directed the Tuol Sleng detention center in Phnom Penh, where people were taken to be tortured and killed during the regime's bloody reign from 1974 to 1979. About 2 million Cambodians died in purges and from starvation and overwork before Vietnamese troops invaded and drove the Khmer Rouge from power. Duch may have been the Khmer Rouge's most sinister figure. As head of the internal security force, he reportedly oversaw the interrogation and torture of suspected traitors. At least 15,000 people were shipped to Tuol Sleng, a former high school, where they were chained to beds, tortured into making false confessions, and executed in a nearby field. His name is on many execution documents, including one ordering the deaths of 17 children whose parents were accused of being spies. One day American missionary Christopher Lapel reportedly baptized Duch in 1995. "Lord, forgive what I did to the people," Duch said to Lapel, who did not know Duch's identity at the time. Duch has since been helping humanitarian groups at work in the country. A reporter with Hong Kong's Far Eastern Economic Review interviewed him for a story in the magazine's April 29 edition, Reuters said. Duch expressed regret over the killings and said he is willing to face an international tribunal. "I have done very bad things in my life," Duch said. "Now it is time to bear the consequences for my actions.’"

So Brother Duch is now a Christian, you say. But how did it happen?

Quoting from Facing Death In Cambodia by Peter Maguire:

"One of the strangest episodes in the Khmer Rouge breakup was the emergence of S-21 prison commandant Brother Duch. The former teacher who had overseen the systematic torture and executions of at least 14,000 people was living in Battambang and had become an evangelical Christian. Baptized by American Pacific College missionaries in 1996, Duch now worked for an NGO called the American Refugee Committee. British journalist Nic Dunlop had been fascinated by Duch and for many years carried Duch's picture whenever he traveled to Cambodia. When Dunlop saw a familiar-looking buck-toothed, rabbit-eared man in a village near Samlot in 1999, he was almost certain it was the former Tuol Sleng commandant. Duch introduced himself to Dunlop in English and said that he was a former schoolteacher from Phnom Penh named Hang Pin. The Englishman returned to Bangkok and traveled back to Samlot a week later with American journalist Nate Thayer to help him verify the man's identity.

The reporters found "Hang Pin" in the same village, and when he began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, Thayer cut the sermon short: "I believe that you also worked with the security services during the Khmer Rouge period?" At first, "Hang Pin" tried to deny the charge, but he soon broke down: "It's God's will that you are here. Now my future is in God's hands." Unlike Pol Pot and the rest of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, Brother Duch admitted his guilt. "My unique fault is that I did not serve God, I served men, I served communism. I feel very sorry about the killings and the past. I wanted to be a good communist." When the journalist presented Duch with a memo he'd written, authorizing an interrogator to torture a prisoner to death, he apologized: "I am sorry. The people who died were good people ... there were many who were innocent." The former S-21 commandant admitted, "Whoever was arrested must die. It was the rule of the party." Duch said that he had had "great difficulty in my life, thinking that the people who died did nothing wrong."

One American Refugee Committee official was flabbergasted when Duch's identity was revealed to him before Dunlop and Thayer reported it in their respective newspapers in April 1999. "We are in a state of shock frankly. He was our best worker, highly respected in the community, clearly very intelligent and dedicated to helping the refugees." Duch accepted his fate, admitted his guilt, and took responsibility for his actions: "I have done bad things before in my life. Now it is time for les reprisals." Duch's pastor, Christopher LaPel, remarked: "Duch is so brave to say 'I did wrong, I accept punishment.' The Christian spirit has filled him to his heart. Now, he is free from fear. He is free -- not like Khieu Samphan or Nuon Chea, or other top leaders." Many Cambodians were confused by this western religion that appeared to allow for an absolution of horrible transgressions. A Cambodian working for another Christian NGO, fired for crashing a company car, observed: "That wall [into which I crashed] was fixed in one week. I was broke and they fired me. But Duch, he killed thousands and they forgive him. I don't get it.’"

When I was in Cambodia, a brother-in-Christ asked me, "If you are preaching to the natives in this war torn country, what would you say to them concerning the eternal destiny of those who died in Tuol Sleng, and the man who did these mass murders?" The truth is simple: those who died outside of Christ are outside his saving grace, while he who believes on Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:9-10, 13). He continues, "Are you going to tell them that their relatives and friends who were tortured and died of excruciating pains were condemned to hell, while the man who did this to them will be in heaven?"

These questions led me to reflect upon the beauty of the cross, a simple truth that we oftentimes tend to forget. Self-righteousness is a disease of the soul. If the sinner cannot escape from this disease, it is not an exaggeration that he may not be able to receive the gospel of grace. Are we better sinners than our neighbors? Remember the parable concerning the publican and the Pharisee, "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:13)." He who is able to correctly perceive his standing before the almighty, thrice holy God will never consider himself more righteous than his neighbor. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6)."

Unbelievers demand justice, but Christians should all the more desire grace. If we were to receive our due according to the justice of God, we would all be condemned as hell-bound sinners. When we hear the alleged conversion of the ex-commandant of Tuol Sleng, it is quite easy for us to be critical of his profession of faith. But give this critical attitude of ours a little more thought, and we will realize that it probably stems from our deep-seated self-righteousness, a bent that consider us as being more righteous than our neighbors. But how gracious it was for the Father to forgive our sins on account of the imputed righteousness of Christ the Son! Were we not deserving of hell fire? Were we any better sinners than "Brother Duch?"

God in His sovereign grace has chosen to save murderers like the Apostle Paul and King David, and adulterers like Abraham and Solomon. Will God turn away one who seeks refuge in the mercy of Christ our Savior?

And if Christ has forgiven us of our horrific sins, are we then not able to forgive our neighbors? If God is able to write off our deeds of evil against Him, who are we to withhold forgiveness from one who has been forgiven by Christ Himself? If it were not for the sovereign grace of God, we would have been fellow "commandants of Tuol Sleng," and probably worse.

This also brings us to remembrance of Christ’s lesson in Luke 7:47, "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Let us peruse Barnes’ helpful comments concerning this verse:

"The meaning [of Luke 7:47] may be thus expressed: "That her sins, so many and aggravated, have been forgiven—that she is no longer such a sinner as you suppose, is manifest from her conduct. She shows deep gratitude, penitence, love. Her conduct is the "proper expression" of that love. While you have shown comparatively little evidence that you felt that "your sins" were great, and comparatively little love at their being forgiven, "she" has shown that she "felt" hers to be great, and has loved much." . . . He who feels that little has been forgiven—that his sins were not as great as those of others. A man’s love to God will be in proportion to the obligation he "feels" to him for forgiveness. God is to be "loved" for his perfections, apart from what he has "done" for us. But still it is proper that our love should be increased by a consideration of his goodness; and they who feel—as Christians do—that they are the "chief of sinners," will feel under infinite obligation to love God and their Redeemer, and that no "expression" of attachment to him can be "beyond" what is due."

So, fellow brethren-in-Christ, how do you see yourself before the perfect holiness of God? Do you, like the Apostle Paul, consider yourself to be the "Chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)?" Or do you find yourself more worthy and deserving of God’s forgiveness than Brother Duch?

In this holiday season, let us remember that: when we were by nature children of wrath, God has by His sovereign will, goodness, mercy and love chosen us from the foundation of the world to be saved in Christ Jesus. And we are, of course, no better than other sinners who need the Great Physician. So, as God had been merciful and gracious to us all, let us be merciful and gracious to our neighbor, and especially, our brethren-in-Christ. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)."

Prayer: Lord, let my words be spiced with compassion, my ears be filled with patience, and my hands be quick to pull the lost "out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 1:23)." Amen.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Balancing the Christ-like Walk

Note: I wrote the following letter after considering the comments in this post of Wenxian’s blog.

Dear Wenxian, Daniel, and Jenson,

Re: Balancing the Christ-like walk

I hope I am not intruding into something private here. On the other hand, if it is private, it shouldn't be on this blog then. :)

When we deal with unbelievers and heathens, we ought to strive to preach the truth to them with love and patience. Should we condemn any of them as reprobates? Of course not! We do not know who is or is not an elect.

But what about disobedient, professing believers? I believe there must be a spectrum of attitudes to these brethren, and we must treat them at least as well as we treat heathens. Towards outright heretics who deny gospel truths and essential Christology, Titus 3:10 is the rule of thumb (e.g. modernists who claim that Christ is just a man).

There are times when disagreements do not concern issues pertaining to heresies (and let us NOT be quick to label anyone who disagrees with us as heretics). What should we do then? I think there must be a place where we can sit down and talk (e.g. Starbucks). If we cannot come to an agreement in the next ten years or so, do we “de-fellowship” each other? Yes and no. Let me give an example.

My ex-pastor used a lady preacher for the Chinese service for a few years, until she felt it proper to leave for her own congregation. I approached her before she left, and explained to her that it was not appropriate for her to preach on the pulpit. I subsequently talked to my pastor regarding this issue, and to the Session. All these were done with much time, waiting, and most of all, prayer. I never talked to her in a confrontational manner, and we left each other peaceably. I prayed that she would eventually understand what I meant. It is not that we hate each other, or that we have “defrocked” each other. I think, our different views on a serious doctrinal issue somehow kept us apart from further ministry together. So, in that sense, we parted ways, just as Paul and Barnabas parted ways (Acts 15:39, note different context). I cannot claim infallibility in my interpretation of Scripture, but I must act according to my conscience, which is bound by the Word of God. Did I “de-fellowship” her? No. I will still have coffee with her, or even begin Bible studies with her if she is so willing. Perhaps she might have changed her views by now even as we write!

No matter what we do, we must do it unto the Lord. Paul wrote, “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's (Rom. 14:8).”

Sometimes churches part ways because of doctrinal differences, but they retain a certain amount of love, respect and concern for each other. Such parting of ways is not bad at all; it might even be essential for the work of the gospel. In other cases, it might even be necessary for us to separate from a heretical church. The separation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) from its modernistic forefathers is an example. However, the Bible Presbyterians and the OPC subsequently separated not because it was an issue of heresy, but because they couldn’t agree on less serious issues e.g. the issue of liberty and alcoholic drinks, premillennialism etc. This separation is to avoid unnecessary, further disputes, and is for the sake of furthering the work of the gospel. I believe the OPC and the Bible Presbyterians are not swallowing each other’s guts!

What about myself? I have even written a critique of Bible Presbyterianism in the past year. Am I being hypocritical? To be honest with you, I never once hated, or even harbored a grudge against my church or my ex-pastor. I was disappointed that they couldn’t see what I saw, but I was never angry with them for not accepting my views. Do you know what my pastor told me before I left the church? He said, “I will consider supporting you if you ever start a church, even if you are an amillennialist.” But that was before I told him that I was leaving.

I will try my best never to do anything to hurt my previous church. Even if I were to publish the critique, my objective is only to convey what I have learnt, and not to put the Bible Presbyterian church in a bad light.

So, what will be my thoughts if the Bible Presbyterian Church in Singapore would admit that they are dispensational? They are, after all, a solid, bible-believing, God-loving, and Christ-serving church. And I will love them as they are: a Presbyterian, yet dispensational, church. But this must not be confused with compromise.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Meekness and Rest

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Matt.5:5a

Christians in Singapore are especially afflicted with the burdens of pride, artificiality and pretense. How many of us are actually worshipping the gods of our lives, and not the God of the Bible? Only God knows. While religion may be made a cover for our pretentious lifestyles and even ambitions, the narrow way is walked only by the faithful few. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matt. 7:21)." May the mirror of God’s Word, which is able to reveal the dross within one’s soul (Heb. 4:12), convict our hearts of such burdens. And may we find true rest in Christ, and not in the position, prestige or honor of this world.

Meekness and Rest
by A. W. Tozer

A fairly accurate description of the human race might be furnished one unacquainted with it by taking the Beatitudes, turning them wrong side out and saying, `Here is your human race.' For the exact opposite of the virtues in the Beatitudes are the very qualities which distinguish human life and conduct.

In the world of men we find nothing approaching the virtues of which Jesus spoke in the opening words of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Instead of poverty of spirit we find the rankest kind of pride; instead of mourners we find pleasure seekers; instead of meekness, arrogance; instead of hunger after righteousness we hear men saying, `I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing'; instead of mercy we find cruelty; instead of purity of heart, corrupt imaginings; instead of peacemakers we find men quarrelsome and resentful; instead of rejoicing in mistreatment we find them fighting back with every weapon at their command. Of this kind of moral stuff civilized society is composed.

The atmosphere is charged with it; we breathe it with every breath and drink it with our mother's milk. Culture and education refine these things slightly but leave them basically untouched. A whole world of literature has been created to justify this kind of life as the only norm alone. And this is the more to be wondered at seeing that these are the evils which make life the bitter struggle it is for all of us. All our heartaches and a great many of our physical ills spring directly out of our sins. Pride, arrogance, resentfulness, evil imaginings, malice, greed: these are the sources of more human pain than all the diseases that ever afflicted mortal flesh.

Into a world like this the sound of Jesus' words comes wonderful and strange, a visitation from above. It is well that He spoke, for no one else could have done it as well; and it is good that we listen. His words are the essence of truth. He is not offering an opinion; Jesus never uttered opinions. He never guessed; He knew, and He knows. His words are not as Solomon's were, the sum of sound wisdom or the results of keen observation. He spoke out of the fulness of His Godhead, and His words are very Truth itself. He is the only one who could say `blessed' with complete authority, for He is the Blessed One come from the world above to confer blessedness upon mankind. And His words were supported by deeds mightier than any performed on this earth by any other man. It is wisdom for us to listen.

As was often so with Jesus, He used this word `meek' in a brief crisp sentence, and not till some time later did He go on to explain it. In the same book of Matthew He tells us more about it and applies it to our lives. `Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' (Mat 11:28-30) Here we have two things standing in contrast to each other, a burden and a rest. The burden is not a local one, peculiar to those first hearers, but one which is borne by the whole human race. It consists not of political oppression or poverty or hard work. It is far deeper than that. It is felt by the rich as well as the poor for it is something from which wealth and idleness can never deliver us.
The burden borne by mankind is a heavy and a crushing thing. The word Jesus used means a load carried or toil borne to the point of exhaustion. Rest is simply release from that burden. It is not something we do, it is what comes to us when we cease to do. His own meekness, that is the rest.

Let us examine our burden. It is altogether an interior one. It attacks the heart and the mind and reaches the body only from within. First, there is the burden of pride. The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart's fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable.

Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them. Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. He develops toward himself a kindly sense of humor and learns to say, `Oh, so you have been overlooked? They have placed someone else before you? They have whispered that you are pretty small stuff after all? And now you feel hurt because the world is saying about you the very things you have been saying about yourself? Only yesterday you were telling God that you were nothing, a mere worm of the dust. Where is your consistency? Come on, humble yourself, and cease to care what men think.'

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. Then the righteous shall shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father. He is willing to wait for that day.

In the meantime he will have attained a place of soul rest. As he walks on in meekness he will be happy to let God defend him. The old struggle to defend himself is over. He has found the peace which meekness brings.

Then also he will get deliverance from the burden of pretense. By this I mean not hypocrisy, but the common human desire to put the best foot forward and hide from the world our real inward poverty. For sin has played many evil tricks upon us, and one has been the infusing into us a false sense of shame. There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression. The fear of being found out gnaws like rodents within their hearts. The man of culture is haunted by the fear that he will some day come upon a man more cultured than himself. The learned man fears to meet a man more learned than he. The rich man sweats under the fear that his clothes or his car or his house will sometime be made to look cheap by comparison with those of another rich man. So-called `society' runs by a motivation not higher than this, and the poorer classes on their level are little better.

Let no one smile this off. These burdens are real, and little by little they kill the victims of this evil and unnatural way of life. And the psychology created by years of this kind of thing makes true meekness seem as unreal as a dream, as aloof as a star. To all the victims of the gnawing disease Jesus says, `Ye must become as little children.' For little children do not compare; they receive direct enjoyment from what they have without relating it to something else or someone else. Only as they get older and sin begins to stir within their hearts do jealousy and envy appear. Then they are unable to enjoy what they have if someone else has something larger or better. At that early age does the galling burden come down upon their tender souls, and it never leaves them till Jesus sets them free.

Another source of burden is artificiality. I am sure that most people live in secret fear that some day they will be careless and by chance an enemy or friend will be allowed to peep into their poor empty souls. So they are never relaxed. Bright people are tense and alert in fear that they may be trapped into saying something common or stupid. Traveled people are afraid that they may meet some Marco Polo who is able to describe some remote place where they have never been.

This unnatural condition is part of our sad heritage of sin, but in our day it is aggravated by our whole way of life. Advertising is largely based upon this habit of pretense. `Courses' are offered in this or that field of human learning frankly appealing to the victim's desire to shine at a party. Books are sold, clothes and cosmetics are peddled, by playing continually upon this desire to appear what we are not. Artificiality is one curse that will drop away the moment we kneel at Jesus' feet and surrender ourselves to His meekness. Then we will not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased. Then what we are will be everything; what we appear will take its place far down the scale of interest for us. Apart from sin we have nothing of which to be ashamed. Only an evil desire to shine makes us want to appear other than we are.

The heart of the world is breaking under this load of pride and pretense. There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ. Good keen reasoning may help slightly, but so strong is this vice that if we push it down one place it will come up somewhere else. To men and women everywhere Jesus says, `Come unto me, and I will give you rest.' The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend. It will take some courage at first, but the needed grace will come as we learn that we are sharing this new and easy yoke with the strong Son of God Himself. He calls it `my yoke,' and He walks at one end while we walk at the other.


Lord, make me childlike. Deliver me from the urge to compete with another for place or prestige or position. I would be simple and artless as a little child. Deliver me from pose and pretense. Forgive me for thinking of myself. Help me to forget myself and find my true peace in beholding Thee. That Thou mayest answer this prayer I humble myself before Thee. Lay upon me Thy easy yoke of self-forgetfulness that through it I may find rest. Amen.