This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
What is the good news of Christianity that has changed lives as it is going out all over the world?
The greatest change I see is the same as it has always been. Freedom in Christ.
- No one is better than you in the eyes of God.
- No one is worse than you in the eyes of God.
- No one is more important than you, in the eyes of God.
- No one is less important than you in the eyes of God.
With Jesus what it means to be human has been changed forever.
This centers on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and he is now Lord of all.
The notion that every human being has equal value is birthed in this singular historical event of history.
What we call “human equality” today is completely based on Jesus and Christianity.
This became clear to me once again at the Museum of Natural History.
I had one of those “Aha” moments while looking at an exhibit of Aztec artifacts. It struck me that the Aztec people are contemporaries of Martin Luther.
In Luther’s writings like Bondage of the Will, he teaches we have infinite worth because of Jesus. He says it this way. ‘Every person is lord of all slave to none; at the same time every person is slave to all master of none.’
In other words, all people are equal.
Then I compared that viewpoint to the viewpoint that people have the right to cut out the hearts of other people as a sacrifice to the gods. Cut out the hearts while they are alive.
Yes, there is a difference between the teachings of Luther in the 1500’s and the teachings of the Aztecs during this same time.
All are equally special in the eyes of God and we don’t have to do anything to be considered this way. How do you respond to this?
In the bigger picture, on the stage of world history, more than anything, it is Jesus and the Christianity that followed that made human equality possible.
David Bentley Hart has some key insights in his book Atheist Delusions.
Now, Secularists would say the roots of this morality is nothing more than the rational impulses of any sane conscience unencumbered by prejudice.
This is utter nonsense.
The so-called “ethics written on the fabric of our nature, which anyone can discover by the light of disinterested reason” has no logical foundation nor any historical evidence.
There is no “enlightened” morality.
There is no such thing as an ethic written on the fabric of our nature, which anyone can discover simply by the light of disinterested reason.
There are moral traditions shaped by particular cultural histories. Whatever we think we mean by human equality, we are able to presume the moral weight of such a notion only because far deeper down in the historical strata of our shared Western consciousness we retained the memory of an unanticipated moment of spiritual awakening, a delighted and astonished intellectual response to a single historical event, the resurrection of Jesus.
Take slavery, for example. If you believe in Easter, even in a brief cultural moment, it is no longer possible to believe with perfect innocence that divine justice recognized the the power of one person to own another, for in coming to believe in the resurrection of Christ…we find that the form of God and the form of the human person is revealed all at once, completely, once and for all, in the form of a slave.
“Humans are naturally moral beings.” Give an argument for and against.
Thank God for Gregory
We can trace the concept of abolition of slavery, and as a result the complete notion of human equality, to one sermon preached during Lent in 379 by Gregory of Nyssa. He was an important Christian leader at this time in the history of the Church. He is the first person in the history of the world to condemn slavery as an institution.
Here are highlights of his sermon:
For any one person to presume ownership and mastery over another person is the grossest imaginable arrogance.
It is a direct challenge to God.
It is robbery of God to whom all people belong.
For one human being to deprive another of the freedom granted to all human beings by God is to violate and overturn the law of God which explicitly gives us no such power over one another.
At what price could one ever be said to have purchased the image of God- which is what each person is- as God alone possesses resources equal to such a treasure?
God’s greatest gift to us is the perfect liberty vouchsafed us by Christ’s saving action in time, and since God’s gifts are entirely irrevocable, it lies not even in God’s power to enslave men and women.
God has given dominion over all of creation to each and every person and so there is no sum large enough to purchase that dominion of another.
All human beings are equal in every respect.
We compare this to Aristotle, for example.
Aristotle- Some human beings are deficient specimens of the kind and therefore suited only to serve as the living tools of other men.
This allows us to arrange our understanding of human existence into exact and obvious divisions of authority: city over nature, man over woman, Greek over barbarian, master over slave.
Gregory- It is Easter that inverted social order forever. Our nature is first and foremost our community in the humanity of Christ.
Dying the death of a criminal he is risen as Lord of history in the very glory of God, has forever become the face of the faceless, the persona by which each of us has been raised to the dignity of a co-heir of the kingdom.
This is only in the Christian story.
And Gregory said, If Christians truly practiced the mercy commanded of them by their Lord humanity would no longer admit of divisions within itself between slavery and mastery, poverty and wealth, shame and honor, infirmity and strength, for all things would be held in common and all persons would be equal one with another.
I chose the name of our son, Gregory, in honor of Gregory of Nyssa. How did you get your name?
There’s No Going Back
But, why did Christians still supported slavery and human inequality? Why did it take a civil war in American for things to change? Because Christians are sinful human beings. Gregory’s words may have been heard, but not acted upon. But, when something changes in human history, like the notion that all people are equal, you can’t go back.
Another important date in world history. 1256.
Bologna is a city in Northern Italy. It has always played an important role in Italian culture. Today Bologna is the wealthiest city in Italy. The capital of commerce.
But, Bologna should be know for something else. Something that Wikipedia for example, doesn’t even mention in their article for Bologna.
In 1256 in Bologna, the city placed all bonded servants under church law, and then granted them freedom. They were a state government and they reached this decision explicitly on Christian grounds.
Remember this today when you think of changing the world.
Things changes because of Jesus.