Civilization, culture, is an outworking of religion, of shared beliefs about the order of the universe. That is true whether we are speaking of a small society of a family or of a church or the larger society of a state or country.
If one accepts the reality of a just and loving God, whose eternity is the escape from the shackles of time and the sufferings of this world, it must follow that a people should enter into the order which God has designed for them. If God has ordained an oder for the soul or the person, and an order for the community, to flout that order is a destructive act of disobedience.
The other creeds of the ancient world are dust and ashes now, but the Decalogue of Moses and the understanding of of man’s existence under God which Moses commmunicated to the people remain a living power, the source of order.
The One God [makes] it possible for human beings to be something better than the beasts that perish. Through the revelation of order in the universe, men and women are given the possibility of becoming fully human — of finding pattern and purpose in existence, unlike dogs that live from day to day only.
A community anchored in eternity
Kirk explains how the Hebrew culture viewed time differently than the cultures around them and even differently than we now do.
One may say that what matters about time is the intensity of psychic consciousness in certain moments, not mere duration.
Life isn’t about putting in time, but about being a part of eternity. This quote reminded me of the blog post that made it big a few weeks ago: Don’t Carpe Diem, and her comparing of chronos & kairos.
For the Hebrew […] to survive physically is not the aim of existence. The Hebrews’ “time” is not merely the days and nights of individual life, but rather the existence of a people under God.”
A particular number of days isn’t particularly significant in life of its own — it matters how they are spent. And a short life is not insignificant for being short, particularly if that little life was lives as a part of God’s people, even if only in the womb. After all, if life is lived as part of God’s people, it will continue to be so for all eternity, whether we are granted days or years or decades or a century.
What happens to our goals for ourselves or our children or our family if life is cut expectedly short? Is it then a fail? Wasted effort? Can it no longer be counted successful? Will our efforts have been in vain if our children do not make it to adulthood?
If all our hopes are pinned on them leading “successful” adult lives, we are missing the point and setting ourselves up for potential (perhaps even likely) heartbreak. Not that they are likely to die young, but that such world-oriented goals are likely to be blown to pieces — because God is merciful, and He wants us to focus on Him rather than our own concepts of success.
That being so, Hebrew thinkers are not much concerned with the question of personal immortality. The survival of the Hebrew people, chosen by God, is the burning concern of the prophets. The individual living in this moment is one of those people: he shares in the past of the people, and shares in their future.
Are we more concerned with our own reputation and little kingdom, or with growing and participating in the Church, God’s Kingdom? Is our significance and identity in God and being one of His people, or in other criteria like homeschooling, number of children, or any other aspect which is transitory and could be taken away?
The order of the people, under the Covenant with God, transcends the momentary desires of any individual.
Let us live under an order that transcends our circumstances and our own little pet projects and draws us into the bigger, eternal realities and participations. We live not each out for his own, but each as part of a bigger whole, a part that grows and gains through giving rather than grabbing.
We can only be happy, our children can only be happy, if we and they are living in grateful submission to that transcendent order. And that happiness and grateful submission transcends even this earthly life, and will continue on into eternity.
Today is practice.