College Voluntary Study Courses
Fourth Year—Part 1
The Social Principles Of Jesus
Professor of Church History, Rochester Theological Seminary
Written under the Direction of Sub-Committee on College Courses, Sunday School Council of Evangelical Denominations, and Committee on Voluntary Study, Council of North American Student Movements
The Woman's Press
600 Lexington Avenue
New York City
Copyright, 1916, by
The International Committee of Young Men's Christian Associations
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, 1916
All Rights Reserved
Introduction Part I. The Axiomatic Social Convictions Of Jesus Chapter I. The Value Of Life Chapter II. The Solidarity Of The Human Family Chapter III. Standing With The People Part II. The Social Ideal Of Jesus Chapter IV. The Kingdom Of God: Its Values Chapter V. The Kingdom Of God: Its Tasks Chapter VI. A New Age And New Standards Part III. The Recalcitrant Social Forces Chapter VII. Leadership For Service Chapter VIII. Private Property And The Common Good Chapter IX. The Social Test Of Religion Part IV. Conquest By Conflict Chapter X. The Conflict With Evil Chapter XI. The Cross As A Social Principle Chapter XII. A Review And A Challenge Footnotes
COLLEGE VOLUNTARY STUDY COURSES
"The Social Principles of Jesus" takes seventh place in a series of text-books known as College Voluntary Study Courses. The general outline for this curriculum has been prepared by the Committee on Voluntary Study of the Council of North American Student Movements, representing the Student Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations and the Student Volunteer Movement, and the Sub-Committee on College Courses of the Sunday School Council of Evangelical Denominations, representing twenty-nine communions. Therefore the text-books are planned for the use of student classes in the Sunday School, as well as for the supplementary groups on the campus. The present text-book has been written under the direction of these Committees.
The text-books are not suitable for use in the academic curriculum, as they have been definitely planned for voluntary study groups.
This series, covering four years, is designed to form a minimum curriculum for the voluntary study of the Bible, foreign missions, and North American problems. Daily Bible Readings are printed with each text-book. The student viewpoint is given first emphasis—what are the student interests? what are the student problems?
The Bible text printed in short measure (indented both sides) is taken from the American Standard Edition of the Revised Bible, copyright, 1901, by Thomas Nelson & Sons, and is used by permission.
This book is not a life of Christ, nor an exposition of his religious teachings, nor a doctrinal statement about his person and work. It is an attempt to formulate in simple propositions the fundamental convictions of Jesus about the social and ethical relations and duties of men.
Our generation is profoundly troubled by the problems of organized society. The most active interest of serious men and women in the colleges is concentrated on them. We know that we are in deep need of moral light and spiritual inspiration in our gropings. There is an increasing realization, too, that the salvation of society lies in the direction toward which Jesus led. And yet there is no clear understanding of what he stood for. Those who have grown up under Christian teaching can sum up the doctrines of the Church readily, but the principles which we must understand if we are to follow Jesus in the way of life, seem enveloped in a haze. The ordinary man sees clearly only Christ's law of love and the golden rule. This book seeks to bring to a point what we all vaguely know.
It does not undertake to furnish predigested material, or to impose conclusions. It spreads out the most important source passages for personal study, points out the connection between the principles of Jesus and modern social problems, and raises questions for discussion. It was written primarily for voluntary study groups of college seniors, and their intellectual and spiritual needs are not like those of an average church audience. It challenges college men and women to face the social convictions of Jesus and to make their own adjustments.
PART I. THE AXIOMATIC SOCIAL CONVICTIONS OF JESUS
Chapter I. The Value Of Life
Whatever our present conceptions of Jesus Christ may be, we ought to approach our study of his teachings with a sense of reverence. With the slenderest human means at his disposal, within a brief span of time, he raised our understanding of God and of human life to new levels forever, and set forces in motion which revolutionized history.
Of his teachings we have only fragments, but they have an inexhaustible vitality. In this course we are to examine these as our source material in order to discover, if possible, what fundamental ethical principles were in the mind of Jesus. This part of his thought has been less understood and appropriated than other parts, and it is more needed today than ever. Let us go at this study with the sense of handling something great, which may have guiding force for our own lives. Let us work out for ourselves the social meaning of the personality and thought of Jesus Christ, and be prepared to face his challenge to the present social and economic order of which we are part.
How did Jesus view the life and personality of the men about him? How did he see the social relation which binds people together? What was the reaction of his mind in face of the inequalities and sufferings of actual society? If we can get hold of the convictions which were axiomatic and immediate with him on these three questions, we shall have the key to his social principles. We shall take them up in the first three chapters.
First Day: The Worth of a Child
And they were bringing unto him little children, that he should touch them: and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me; forbid them not: for to such belongeth the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.—Mark 10:13-16.
The child is humanity reduced to its simplest terms. Affectionate joy in children is perhaps the purest expression of social feeling. Jesus was indignant when the disciples thought children were not of sufficient importance to occupy his attention. Compared with the selfish ambition of grown-ups he felt something heavenly in children, a breath of the Kingdom of God. They are nearer the Kingdom than those whom the world has smudged. To inflict any spiritual injury on one of these little ones seemed to him an inexpressible guilt. See Matthew 18:1-6.
Can the moral standing of a community be fairly judged by the statistics of child labor and infant mortality?
What prompts some young men to tyrannize over their younger brothers?
How does this passage and the principle of the sacredness of life bear on the problem of eugenics?
Second Day: The Humanity of a Leper
And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And behold, there came to him a leper, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou made clean. And straightway his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.—Matt. 8:1-4.
Whenever Jesus healed he rendered a social service to his fellows. The spontaneous tenderness which he put into his contact with the sick was an expression of his sense of the sacredness of life. A leper with fingerless hands and decaying joints was repulsive to the aesthetic feelings and a menace to selfish fear of infection. The community quarantined the lepers in waste places by stoning them when they crossed bounds. (Remember Ben Hur's mother and sister.) Jesus not only healed this man, but his sense of humanity so went out to him that "he stretched forth his hand and touched him." Even the most wretched specimen of humanity still had value to him.
What is the social and moral importance of those professions which cure or prevent sickness?
How would a strong religious sense of the sacredness of life affect members of these professions?
Third Day: The Moral Quality of Contempt
Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.—Matt. 5:21, 22.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus demanded that the standards of social morality be raised to a new level. He proposed that the feeling of anger and hate be treated as seriously as murder had been treated under the old code, and if anyone went so far as to use hateful and contemptuous expressions toward a fellow-man, it ought to be a case for the supreme court. Of course this was simply a vivid form of putting it. The important point is that Jesus ranged hate and contempt under the category of murder. To abuse a man with words of contempt denies his worth, breaks down his self-respect, and robs him of the regard of others. It is an attempt to murder his soul. The horror which Jesus feels for such action is an expression of his own respect for the worth of personality.
How is the self-respect and sense of personal worth of men built up or broken down in college communities?
How in industrial communities?
Fourth Day: Bringing Back the Outcast
Now all the publicans and sinners were drawing near unto him to hear him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
And he spake unto them this parable, saying, What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and his neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance.
Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost. Even so, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.—Luke 15:1-10.
Every Jewish community had a fringe of unchurched people, who could not keep up the strict observance of the Law and had given up trying. The pious people, just because they were pious, felt they must cold-shoulder such. Jesus walked across the lines established. What seems to have been the motive that prompted him? Why did the Pharisee withdraw, and why did Jesus mix with the publicans?
What groups in our own communities correspond to the "publicans and sinners," and what is the attitude of religious people toward them?
What social groups in college towns are spoken of with contempt by college men, and why?
Is there a Pharisaism of education? Define and locate it.
Fifth Day: The Problem of the Delinquents
For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.—Luke 19:10.
Here Jesus formulates the inner meaning and mission of his life as he himself felt it. He was here for social restoration and moral salvage. No human being should go to pieces if he could help it. He was not only willing to help people who came to him for help, but he proposed to go after them. The "lost" man was too valuable and sacred to be lost.
How does the Christian impulse of salvation connect with the activities represented in the National Conference of Charities and Correction?
How does a college community regard its "sinners"? Suppose a man has an instinct for low amusements and a yellow sense of honor, how do the higher forces in college life get at that man to set him right?
Sixth Day: Going Beyond Justice
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a shilling a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing in the marketplace idle; and to them he said, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing: and he saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard. And when even was come, the lord of the vineyard said unto his steward, Call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a shilling. And when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received every man a shilling. And when they received it, they murmured against the householder, saying, These last have spent but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. But he answered and said to one of them, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a shilling? Take up that which is thine, and go thy way; it is my will to give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? or is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last.—Matt. 20:1-16.
Judaism rested on legality. So much obedience to the law earned so much reward, according to the contract between God and Israel. Theoretically this was just; practically it gave the inside track to the respectable and well to do, for it took leisure and money to obey the minutiae of the Law. In this parable the employer rises from the level of justice to the higher plane of human fellow-feeling. These eleventh-hour men had been ready to work; they had to eat and live; he proposed to give them a living wage because he felt an inner prompting to do so. In the parable of the Prodigal Son the father does more for his son than justice required, because he was a father. Here the employer does more because he is a man. Each acted from a sense of the worth of the human life with which he was dealing. It was the same sense of worth and sacredness in Jesus which prompted him to invent these parables.
Do we find ourselves valuing people according to their utility to us, or do we have an active feeling of their human interest and worth? Let us run over in our minds our family and relatives, our professors and friends, and the people in town who serve us, and see with whom we are on a human footing.
Seventh Day: The Courtesy of Jesus
And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her? And this they said, trying him that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.—John 8:2-11.
Was there ever a more gentlemanly handling of a raw situation? This woman was going through one of the most harrowing experiences conceivable, exposed to the gaze of a leering and scornful crowd, her good name torn away, her self-respect crushed. Jesus shielded her from stoning by the power of his personality and his consummate skill in handling men. He got inside their guard, aroused their own sense of past guilt, and so awakened some human fellow-feeling for the woman. When he was alone with her, what a mingling of kindness and severity! Surely she would carry away the memory of a wonderful friend who came to her in her dire need. Why did Jesus twice turn his eyes away to the ground? Was he ashamed to look at her shame?
Such a sudden, tragic happening is a severe test of a man's qualities. It brought out the courtesy of Jesus, his respect for human personality even in its shame. How can we train ourselves so that we may be equal to such emergencies? Would continued spiritual contact with Jesus be likely to make a difference?
Study for the Week
The passages we have studied are inductive material. Can there be any doubt that Jesus had a spontaneous love for his fellow-men and a deep sense of the sacredness of human personality? Physical deformity and moral guilt could not obscure the divine worth of human life to him. To cause any soul to stumble and go down, or to express contempt for any human being, was to him a horrible guilt.
This regard for human life was based on the same social instinct which every normal man possesses. But with Jesus it was so strong that it determined all his viewpoints and activities. He affirmed the humane instinct consciously and intelligently, and raised it to the dignity of a social principle. This alone would be enough to mark him out as a new type, prophetic and creative of a new development of the race.
Whence did Jesus derive the strength and purity of his social feeling? Was it simply the endowment of a finely attuned nature? Other fine minds of the ancient world valued men according to their wealth, their rank, their power, their education, their beauty. Jesus valued men as such, apart from any attractive equipment. Why? "The deeper our insight into human destiny becomes, the more sacred does every individual human being seem to us" (Lotze). The respect of Jesus for every concrete person whom he met was due to his religious insight into human life and destiny. But how did he get his insight?
Love and religion have the power of idealistic interpretation. To a mother her child is a wonderful being. To a true lover the girl he loves has sacredness. With Jesus the consciousness of a God of love revealed the beauty of men. The old gods were despotic supermen, mythical duplicates of the human kings and conquerors. The God of Jesus was the great Father who lets his light shine on the just and the unjust, and offers forgiveness and love to all. Jesus lived in the spiritual atmosphere of that faith. Consequently he saw men from that point of view. They were to him children of that God. Even the lowliest was high. The light that shone on him from the face of God shed a splendor on the prosaic ranks of men. In this way religion enriches and illuminates social feeling.
Jesus succeeded in transmitting something of his own sense of the sacredness of life to his followers. As Wundt says: "Humanity in this highest sense was brought into the world by Christianity." The love of men became a social dogma of the Church. Some other convictions of Jesus left few traces on the common thought of Christendom, but the Church has always stood for a high estimate of the potential worth of the soul of man. It has always taught that man was made in God's image and that he is destined to share in the holiness and eternal life of God.
What effects has this registered on social conduct? Has the Church intelligently resisted social forces or conditions which brutalized or shamed men?
It is most difficult to estimate accurately the historic influence of religious ideas. They are subtle and hard to trace. But we can justly reason from our own observations in evangelism and foreign mission work. Those of us who have gone through a clearly marked conversion to Christianity will probably remember that we realized our fellow-men with a new warmth and closeness, and under higher points of view. We were then entering into the Christian valuation of human life. In foreign missions the influence of Christianity can be contrasted with non-Christian social life, and there is often a striking rise in the respect for life and personality as compared with the hardness and callousness of heathen society. This is one of the distinctive marks of the modern and Western world compared with the ancient and the Oriental. Those individuals among us who have really duplicated something of the spirit of Jesus are always marked by their loving regard for human life, even its wreckage. That sense of sacredness is the basis for the whole missionary and philanthropic activity of Christian men and women.
It is also an important force in the social movements. Have there been any widespread, continuous, and successful movements for social justice outside of the territory influenced by Christianity? Was there any causal connection between the historic reformation and purification of Christianity since the sixteenth century and the rise of civil and social democracy? Does the spread of Christian ideas and feelings predispose the powerful classes to make concessions? What contribution did the Wesleyan revival among the working people of England make toward the rise of the trade union movement, the education of stable leaders, and the faith in democracy? It takes idealistic convictions a long time to permeate large social classes, but they often spring into effectiveness suddenly. Certainly a belief in the worth and capacity of the common man is a spiritual support of democratic institutions, and where the Church really spread the Christian sense of the worth and sacredness of human life, it has been a great stabilizer of civil liberty.
Jesus asserted with religious power what all men feel. Sometimes it requires the solemn presence of death to brush aside the artificial distinctions of society and to make us realize that a life is a life, and precious as such. But when we are at our best, we do feel the sacredness of human life.
Does our present social order develop or neutralize that feeling in us?
Presumably it works both ways. For those who want to spread the spirit of Christ, it becomes important to inquire at what points our social institutions cheapen life and take the value out of personality.
The class differences inherited from the past are designed to hedge the upper classes about with honor, but they necessarily depreciate the lower classes by contrast and neutralize the tie of the common blood. In some countries the self-respect of the lower classes is affronted by degrading forms of legal punishment reserved for them. Forms of servility are exacted from servants and peasants. The practical working of class differences is most clearly seen in the relation of the sexes. Love is a great equalizer; hence it clashes with class pride. The plot of innumerable dramas and novels turns on the efforts of love to overcome the laws of social caste. Where class spirit is traditional and fully developed, men have a double code for the women of their own class, and those of the lower classes. It is a far greater offense for a gentleman to marry a girl of the lower class than to ruin her.
It is the glory of America that our laws do not intend to recognize class differences. The conditions of life on a raw continent and the principles embodied in religious and political idealism fortunately cooperated. Will this last, or are the great differences in wealth once more resulting in definite class lines and in class pride and contempt? What does the phrase "of good family" imply by contrast? What evidence does college fraternity life offer as to the existence of social classes? How is immigration likely to increase the cleavages by adding differences of race and color, religion, language, and manners? What light does the history of immigration in America cast on our valuation of human life in strangers?
Political oligarchies have usually defended their rule by the assumption that the masses are incapable and the few are superior. The laws made by them, however, have usually shown ignorance and indifference as to the human needs of the working masses. The same fundamental adjustment exists in industry. It is not an expression of the worth of the working people if they have no right to organize or to share in governing the conditions under which they work, and if years of good work earn a man no ownership or equity, no legal standing or even tenure of employment in a business. Is the right to petition for a redress of grievances an adequate industrial expression of the Christian doctrine of the worth and sacredness of personality? Is not property essential to the real freedom and self-expression of a human personality?
War and prostitution are the most flagrant offenses against this social principle. War is a wholesale waster of life. Prostitution is the worst form of contempt for personality.
Does our intellectual and scientific work ever tend to chill the warm sense of human values? Do we acquire something of the impassiveness of Nature in studying her enormous waste of life? Do we transfer to human affairs her readiness to use up the masses in order to produce a higher type? Jesus did not talk about eliminating the unfit. He talked about saving them, which requires greater constructive energy if it is really to be done. It also requires a higher faith in the latent recuperative capacities of human nature. The detached attitude of scientific study may combine with our plentiful natural egotism to create a cold indifference toward the less attractive masses of humanity. We need the glow of Christ's feeling for men to come unharmed out of this intellectual temptation.
Doubtless the objection has arisen in our minds that it is not in the interest of the future of the race that religious pity shall coddle and multiply the weak, or put them in control of society.
But did Jesus want the weak to stay weak? Was his social feeling ever maudlin? He was himself a powerful and free personality, who refused to be suppressed or conformed to the dominant type. He challenged the existing authorities, one against the field. Even in the slender record we have of him we can see him running the gamut of emotions from wrath and invective to tenderness and humor. It was precisely his own powerful individuality which made him demand for others the right to become free and strong souls. Other powerful individuals have used up the rest as means to their end. What human life or character did Jesus weaken or break down? He was an emancipator, a creator of strong men. His followers in later times did lay a new yoke on the spirits of men and denied them the right to think their own thoughts and be themselves. But the spirit of Jesus is an awakening force. Even the down-and-out brace up when they come in contact with him, and feel that they are still good for something.
"Jesus Christ was the first to bring the value of every human soul to light, and what he did no one can any more undo" (Harnack). But it remains for every individual to accept and reaffirm that religious faith as his own guiding principle according to which he proposes to live. We shall be at one with the spirit of Christianity and of modern civilization if we approach all men with the expectation of finding beneath commonplace, sordid, or even repulsive externals some qualities of love, loyalty, heroism, aspiration, or repentance, which prove the divine in man. Kant expressed that reverence for personality in his doctrine that we must never treat a man as a means only, but always as an end in himself. So far as our civilization treats men merely as labor force, fit to produce wealth for the few, it is not yet Christian. Any man who treats his fellows in that way, blunts his higher nature; as Fichte says, whoever treats another as a slave, becomes a slave. We might add, whoever treats him as a child of God, becomes a child of God and learns to know God.
"The principle of reverence for personality is the ruling principle in ethics, and in religion; it constitutes, therefore, the truest and highest test of either an individual or a civilization; it has been, even unconsciously, the guiding and determining principle in all human progress; and in its religious interpretation, it is, indeed, the one faith that keeps meaning and value for life" (President Henry C. King).
Suggestions for Thought and Discussion
I. The Ordinary Estimate of Men
1. How much do we care for a man if he is of no practical use to us?
2. On what basis do we ordinarily value men?
II. Jesus' Estimate of Men
1. Which source passages in the daily readings seemed to put the feeling of Jesus in the clearest light?
2. How did the religious insight of Jesus reenforce his social feeling?
3. To what extent is it possible to duplicate his sense of humanity without his consciousness of God?
III. The Valuation of the Individual in Modern Life
1. List the evidences that modern society values men as such apart from economic utility or standing, or show that it does not so value them.
2. Is the tendency in modern life toward a lower or higher valuation of the individual? To what extent is this due to the influence of Christianity?
3. How do the statistics of industrial accidents agree with our Christian valuation of life?
IV. The Test of History
1. What widespread and successful movements for social justice have there been outside the territory influenced by Christianity?
2. How do modern missions serve as an experiment station for the problem of this chapter?
3. What connection was there between the Wesleyan revival and the rise of the trade union movement in England?
V. For Special Discussion
1. Do permanent class differences necessarily result in a slighter social feeling for the inferior class?
2. Describe the class lines drawn in your home town.
3. Did you feel these lines more or less when you entered college?
4. Does college life tend to make us callous or sympathetic?
5. Does life in social settlements seem to increase or decrease respect for human nature in college men and women?
6. How would you preserve your self-respect if you were a working man placed in degrading labor conditions?
7. Does an honor system build up self-respect?
8. Have your scientific studies, and especially evolutionary teachings, increased your regard for humanity in the mass?
9. According to your observation, does religion make a man a stronger or weaker personality?
Chapter II. The Solidarity Of The Human Family
Every man has worth and sacredness as a man. We fixed on that as the simplest and most fundamental social principle of Jesus. The second question is, What relation do men bear to each other?
First Day: The Social Impulse and the Law of Christ
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, trying him: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.—Matt. 22:35-40.
Which among the multitudinous prescriptions of the Jewish law ought to take precedence of the rest? It was a fine academic question for church lawyers to discuss. Jesus passed by all ceremonial and ecclesiastical requirements, and put his hand on love as the central law of life, both in religion and ethics. It was a great simplification and spiritualization of religion. But love is the social instinct which binds man and man together and makes them indispensable to one another. Whoever demands love, demands solidarity. Whoever sets love first, sets fellowship high.
When Jesus speaks of love, what more than mere emotion does he mean?
Is love really the highest thing?
What do you think of the epigram of Augustine: AMA ET FAC QUOD VIS?
Second Day: Jesus Craving Friendship
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: abide ye here, and watch with me. And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words. Then cometh he to the disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that betrayeth me.—Matt. 26:36-46.
Jesus was personally very sociable. He evidently enjoyed mixing with people. He liked the give-and-take of life. He had friendships. A group of men and women gathered around him who gave him their devoted loyalty. He in turn needed them. The denial of Peter and the betrayal of Judas hurt him, partly because they were defections from the comradeship of his group. In Gethsemane he craved friendship. He prayed to God, but he reached out for Peter and John. The longing for friendship and the unrest of loneliness are proof of a truly human and social nature.
In how far is a need for others a sign of strength or of weakness?
What connection has the spirit of a team, or the loyalty of a college class, with the Christian law of love?
Third Day: Restoring Solidarity
Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.—Matt. 18:21-22.
Love binds together; hate and anger cut apart. They destroy fellowship. Therefore the chief effort of the Christian spirit must be to reestablish fellowship wherever men have been sundered by ill-will. This is done by confession and forgiveness. Forgiveness was so important to Jesus because social unity was so important to him. In the Lord's Prayer he makes full fellowship with men a condition of full fellowship with God: "Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors."
Are there any personal injuries which are beyond forgiveness?
Think back to any striking experience of forgiving or being forgiven. What was the religious and moral reaction on your life?
Fourth Day: The Christian Intensification of Love
Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.—1 John 3:16-18.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.—1 John 4:7-9.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us.—1 John 4:11-12.
These are quotations from one of the early Christian writings. They are evidence of the emphasis put on love as a distinctive doctrine of the new religion. Note how the natural social instinct of human affection is intensified and uplifted by religious motives and forces. Which of these motives are directly taken from the personality and life of Christ?
Do you remember any quotations from non-Christian literature in which a similar love for love is expressed?
Fifth Day: Solidaristic Responsibility
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.—Matt. 11:20-24.
We know that by constant common action a social group develops a common spirit and common standards of action, which then assimilate and standardize the actions of its members. Jesus felt the solidarity of the neighborhood groups in Galilee with whom he mingled. He treated them as composite personalities, jointly responsible for their moral decisions.
What groups of which we have been a part in the past have stamped us with the group character for good or evil? How about those of which we are now a part?
What have we learned from the Great War about national solidarity?
Sixth Day: The Solidarity of the Generations
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye witness to yourselves, that ye are sons of them that slew the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell? Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.—Matt. 23:29-36.
Jesus saw a moral solidarity existing, not only between contemporaries who act together, but between generations that act alike. Every generation clings to its profitable wrongs and tries to silence those who stand for higher righteousness. Posterity takes comfort in being fairer about the dead issues, but is just as hot and bad about present issues. The sons reenact the old tragedies on a new stage, and so line up with their fathers. In looking back over the history of his nation, Jesus saw a continuity of wrong which bound the generations together in a solidarity of guilt.
Does the connection consist only in similarity of action, or is there a causal continuity of wrong in the life of a community?
Is there anything in our personal family history or family wealth and business which threatens to line us up with past evils?
Seventh Day: Social Consciousness in the Lord's Prayer
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.—Matt. 6:9-13.
Is there anything more solitary than a human soul calling to the invisible Presence? Is there anything more social in consciousness than the Lord's Prayer?
Where in these petitions do you feel the sense of social coherence as the unspoken presupposition of the thought?(1)
Could Jesus have thought this prayer if the unity of the race had not been both an instinctive reality and a clear social principle with him?
Study for the Week
That man is a social being is the fundamental fact with which all social sciences have to deal. We may like or dislike people; we can not well be indifferent to them if they get close to us. As Sartor Resartus puts it: "In vain thou deniest it; thou art my brother. Thy very hatred, thy very envy, those foolish lies thou tellest of me in thy splenetic humour; what is all this but an inverted sympathy? Were I a steam-engine, wouldst thou take the trouble to tell lies of me?"
Sex admiration, parental love, "the dear love of comrades," the thrill of patriotism, the joy of play, are all forms of fellowship. They give us happiness because they satisfy our social instinct. To realize our unity gives relish to life. To be thrust out of fellowship is the great pain. Many evil things get their attractiveness mainly through the fact that they create a bit of fellowship—such as it is. The slender thread of good in the saloon is comradeship. (See Jack London, "John Barleycorn.")
None ever felt this social unity of our race more deeply than Jesus. To him it was sacred and divine. Hence his emphasis on love and forgiveness. He put his personality behind the natural instinct of social attraction and encouraged it. He swung the great force of religion around to bear on it and drive it home. Anything that substitutes antagonism for fraternity is evil to him. Just as in the case of the natural respect for human life and personality, so in the case of the natural social cohesion of men, he lifted the blind instinct of human nature by the insight of religion and constituted it a fundamental principle of life. It is the business of Christianity to widen the area of comradeship.
Common human judgment assents to the valuation of Jesus. Wherever an effective and stable form of fellowship has been created, a sense of sacredness begins to attach to it, and men defend it as a sort of shrine of the divine in man. Wherever men are striving to create a larger fellowship, they have religious enthusiasm as if they were building a temple for God. This is the heart of church loyalty.
The family is the most striking case of solidarity. It is first formed of two units at opposite poles in point of sex, experience, taste, need, and aims; and when they form it, they usually have as much sense of sacredness as their character is capable of feeling. When children are added, more divergences of age, capacity, and need are injected. Yet out of these contradictory elements a social fellowship is built up, which, in the immense majority of cases, defies the shocks of life and the strain of changing moods and needs, forms the chief source of contentment for the majority of men and women, and, when conspicuously successful, wins the spontaneous tribute of reverence from all right-thinking persons. In using the equipment of the home, in standing by one another in time of sickness and trouble, and in spiritual sympathy, a true family practices solidarity of interests, and furnishes the chief education in cooperation.
Political unity was at first an expansion of family unity. The passionate loyalty with which a nation defends its country and its freedom, is not simply a defence of real estate and livestock, but of its national brotherhood and solidarity. The devotion with which people suffer and die for their State is all the more remarkable because all States hitherto have been largely organizations for coercion and exploitation, and only in part real fraternal communities. Patriotism hitherto has been largely a prophetic outreaching toward a great fellowship nowhere realized. The peoples walk by faith.
What evidence does college life furnish us of the fact that social unity is realized with some sense of sacredness? Why do the years in college stand out in the later memories of graduates with such a glamour? Why do students devote so much unpaid service to their teams and fraternities? Is it for the selfish advantages they hope to get, or because they feel they are realizing the best of life in being part of a solidaristic group? Do the dangers of college organizations prove or disprove the principle that fellowship is felt to be something sacred?
Any historical event in which men stood by their group through suffering or to death is remembered with pride. Any case of desertion or betrayal is remembered with shame. No group forgives those who sell out its solidarity for private safety or profit.
Insurance and cooperation are two great demonstrations of the power of solidarity. In insurance we bear one another's burdens, "and so fulfil the law of Christ." The cooperative associations, which have had such enormous success in Europe, succeed only where neighborhood or common idealistic conviction has previously established a consciousness of social unity. They have to overcome the most adverse conditions in achieving success. When they do, the effect on the economic prosperity of the people and on their moral stability and progressiveness is remarkable.
Thus the instincts of the race assent to the social principle of Jesus, that fellowship is sacred. The chief law of Christianity does not contradict the social nature of man but expresses and reenforces it. It is the special function of Christians to promote social unity and expand its blessings. To do this intelligently we should take note where, at present, solidarity is frustrated.
For instance, it is important to inquire how social unity is negatived in commercial life. Is competition necessarily unfraternal? Would a Socialist organization of society necessarily be fraternal? Is it a denial of fellowship to exact monopoly profit from consumers, or to take advantage of the ignorance or necessities of a buyer? Is the law of the market compatible with a fraternal conception of society?
Where can you trace the principle of solidarity actually at work in industrial life? Give cases where you have observed a real sense of human coherence and loyalty between employer and employes. How had the feeling been promoted in those cases and what effect did it have on the economic relations of the two groups? Why is the feeling of antagonism between these groups so common? Does the wages system make this inevitable? How ought we to value the willingness of organized labor to stand together, especially on strike, and what connection does the bitterness toward "scabs" have with our subject?
War is a rupture of fellowship on a large scale. The Great War of 1914 has been the most extensive demonstration of the collapse of love which any of us wants to see. As soon as one nation no longer recognizes its social unity with another nation, all morality collapses, and a deluge of hate, cruelty, and lies follows. The problem of international peace is the problem of expanding the area of love and social unity. It is the sin of Christendom that so few took this problem seriously until we were chastised for our moral stupidity and inertia. The young men and women of today will have to take this problem on their intellect and conscience for their lifetime, and propose to see it through.
Does religion create social unity or neutralize it? Does prayer isolate or connect? Has the force of religion in human history done more to divide or to consolidate men?
Evidently religion may work both ways, and all who are interested in it must see to it that their religion does not escape control and wreck fraternity. Even mystic prayer and contemplation, which is commonly regarded as the flower of religious life, may make men indifferent to their fellows.
It is worth noting that the prayer experiences of Jesus were not ascetic or unsocial. They prepared him for action. When he went into the desert after his baptism it was to settle the principles on which his Messianic work was to be done; his temptations prove that. When he went out from Capernaum to pray "a great while before day," it was to launch his aggressive missionary campaign among the Galilaean villages. Prayer may be an emotional dissipation. Prayer is Christian only if it makes us realize our fellows more keenly and affectionately.
It is one thing to praise love and another thing to practice it. We may theorize about society and ourselves be contrary and selfish units in it. Social unity is an achievement. A loving mind toward our fellows, even the cranky, is the prize of a lifetime. How can it be evoked and cultivated in us? That is one of the most important problems in education. Can it be solved without religious influences? Love will not up at the bidding. We can observe the fact that personal discipleship of Christ has given some persons in our acquaintance a rare capacity for love, for social sympathy, for peaceableness, for all the society-making qualities. We can make test of the fact for ourselves that every real contact with him gives us an accession of fraternity and greater fitness for nobler social unity. It makes us good fellows.
The man who intelligently realizes the Chinese and the Zulu as his brothers with whom he must share the earth, is an ampler mind—other things being equal—than the man who can think of humanity only in terms of pale-faces. The consciousness of humanity will have to be wrought out just as the consciousness of nationality was gradually acquired. He who has it is ahead of his time and a pioneer of the future. The missionary puts himself in the position to acquire that wider sense of solidarity. By becoming a neighbor to remote people he broadens their conception of humanity and his own, and then can be an interpreter of his new friends to his old friends. The interest in foreign missions has, in fact, been a prime educational force, carrying a world-wide consciousness of solidarity into thousands of plain minds and hones that would otherwise have been provincial in their horizon.
A world-wide civilization must have a common monotheistic faith as its spiritual basis. Such a faith must be unitive and not divisive. What the world needs is a religion with a powerful sense of solidarity.
Suggestions for Thought and Discussion
I. Solidarity in Human Life
1. Are comradeship and team-work instinctive, or must they be learned?
2. Do the symptoms of hatred prove or disprove social unity?
3. Does a strong sense of social unity make a vigorous individualism harder to maintain?
II. Christianity and Solidarity
1. Give proof that Jesus felt a human hunger for companionship.
2. How does the place assigned to love in the teachings of Jesus bear on solidarity? How does the duty of forgiveness connect with this?
3. How does the spirit of the Lord's Prayer prove the place of solidarity in Christianity?
III. Jesus and the Social Groups
1. Where did Jesus treat communities as composite personalities? Would it be equally just today to hold cities responsible as moral units?
2. How did Jesus trace a moral solidarity between generations?
IV. Solidarity in Modern Life
1. Where do you see the principle of solidarity accepted and where do you see it denied in modern social life?
2. In what way does war outrage Jesus' principles of social unity? Does it ever promote fraternity and solidarity? If so how?
3. Is class consciousness a denial of social solidarity or an approach to it? How can group loyalty be made to contribute to the common weal?
4. How should we value the willingness of organized labor to stand together, particularly on strike? What light does bitterness toward scabs throw on social solidarity?
5. Why is the feeling of antagonism between employer and employe so common? Does a wage system make this inevitable? Can a real sense of cooperation be secured? If so how?
6. If a manufacturer has a monopoly, how much profit will loyalty to Christian principles permit him to make?
7. When is competition unfraternal? Would socialism insure fraternity?
8. Do college fraternities practice fraternity?
V. Strengthening Solidarity
1. How can the law of love be made the basis of modern business?
2. Does religion create social unity or neutralize it? How about prayer?
3. How does the Christian law of love bear on the relations of the races in America?
4. What have Christian missions done to lead society from the nationalistic to the international and inter-racial stage?
5. Can world-wide social unity be secured without the influence of Christianity?
VI. For Special Discussion
1. To what extent does our present commercial and industrial organization furnish a basis for experience of solidarity and education in it?
2. What aspects of modern advertising are Christian and which are non-Christian?
3. To what extent is the law of the market compatible with a fraternal conception of society?
4. Would a successful socialist organization create a stronger sense of solidarity or would divisive interests get in by new ways?
5. Which has the better inducements to loyalty, a college, or a trade union? Which has more of it?
6. How does the team spirit go wrong among students?
Chapter III. Standing With The People
We have found two simple and axiomatic social principles in the fundamental convictions of Jesus: The sacredness of life and personality, and the spiritual solidarity of men. Now confront a mind mastered by these convictions with the actual conditions of society, with the contempt for life and the denial of social obligation existing, and how will he react? How will he see the duty of the strong, and his own duty?
First Day: The Social Platform of Jesus
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph's son?—Luke 4:16-22.
Luke evidently felt that this appearance of Jesus in the synagogue of his home city at the outset of his public work was a significant occasion. The passage from Isaiah (61:1f) was doubtless one of the favorite quotations of Jesus. He saw his own aims summarized in it and he now announced it as his program. Its promises were now about to be realized. What were they? Glad tidings for the poor, release for the imprisoned, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and a "year of Jehovah." If this was an allusion to the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25), it involved a revolutionary "shedding of burdens," such as Solon brought about at Athens. At any rate, social and religious emancipation are woven together in these phrases. Plainly Jesus saw his mission in raising to free and full life those whom life had held down and hurt.
"As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them." Must the platform of Jesus be our platform and program?
Second Day: The Social Test of the Messiah
And the disciples of John told him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to the Lord, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? And when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits; and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me. Luke 7:18-23.
Was Jesus the Coming One? He did not quite measure up to John's expectations. The Messiah was to purge the people of evil elements, winnowing the chaff from the wheat and burning it. His symbol was the axe. Jesus was manifesting no such spirit. Was he then the Messiah?
Jesus shifted the test to another field. Human suffering was being relieved and the poor were having glad news proclaimed to them. Sympathy for the people was the assured common ground between Jesus and John. Jesus felt that John would recognize the dawn of the reign of God by the evidence which he offered him.
What, then, would be proper evidence that the reign of God is gaining ground in our intellect and feeling?
Third Day: The Church, a Product of Social Feeling
And Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest. And he called unto him his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness.—Matt. 9:35-10:1.
The selection of the Twelve, their grouping by twos, and their employment as independent messengers, was the most important organizing act of Jesus. Out of it ultimately grew the Christian Church. Now note what motives led to it. Jesus was relieving social misery. He was oppressed by the sense of it. The Greek verbs are very inadequately rendered by "distressed and scattered." The first means "skinned, harried"; the second means "flung down, prostrate." The people were like a flock of sheep after the wolves are through with them. There was dearth of true leaders. So Jesus took the material he had and organized the apostolate—for what? The Church grew out of the social feeling of Jesus for the sufferings of the common people.
To what extent, in your judgment, does the Church today share the feeling of Jesus about the condition of the people and fulfil the purpose for which he organized the apostolate? Or has the condition of the people changed so that their social needs are less urgent?
Fourth Day: Jesus Took Sides
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you, ye that laugh now for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.—Luke 6:20-26.
In these Beatitudes, as Luke reports them, Jesus clearly takes sides with the lowly. He says God and the future are not on the side of the rich, the satiated; the devotees of pleasure, the people who take the popular side on everything. Ultimately the verdict will be for those who are now poor and underfed, who carry the heavy end of things, and who have to stand for the unpopular side. In the report of the Beatitudes given by Matthew (5:3-12) the terms are less social and more spiritual, and the contrast between the upper and lower classes is not marked; but even there the promise of the great reversal of things is to the humble and peaceable folk, the hard hit and unpopular; they are to inherit the earth, and also God's kingdom.
Would it make Jesus a wiser teacher and nobler figure if he had reversed his sympathies?
Fifth Day: Salvation through the Common People
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes: yea, Father; for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.—Luke 10:21.
For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God.—1 Cor 1:26-29.
The actual results of his work proved to Jesus that his success was to be with the simple-minded, and not with the pundit class. He accepted the fact with a thrill of joy, and praised God for making it so. Paul verified the same alignment in the early Church. The upper classes held back through pride of birth or education, or through the timidity of wealth. In bringing in a new order of things, God had to use plain people to get a leverage.
What really was it that Jesus saw in the lowly to attract him?
Sixth Day: Jesus, a Man of the People
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village that is over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any one say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon. And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way. And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, Who is this? And the multitudes said, This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.—Matt. 21:1-11.
Here was a democratic procession! No caparisoned charger, but a burro—though a young and frisky one, carefully selected—no military escort with a brass band and a drum major, but a throng of peasants, shouting the psalms of their fathers and the hope of a good time coming; no costly rugs to carpet the way of the King, but the sweat-stained garments of working people and branches wrenched off by Galilaean fists. What was he, this King of the future, ridiculous or sublime?
If Jesus is ever to make his entry into the spiritual sovereignty of humanity, will the social classes line up as they did at Jerusalem?
Seventh Day: The Final Test for All
But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me. And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.—Matt. 25:31-46.
"Whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." Think of it—absolute justice done at last, by an all-knowing Judge, where no earthly pull of birth, wealth, learning, or power will count, and where all masks fall! By what code of law and what standard shall we be judged there? Here is the answer of Jesus: Not by creed and church questions, but by our human relations; by the reality of our social feeling; by our practical solidarity with our fellow-men. If we lived in the presence of hunger, loneliness, and oppression, in the same country with child labor, race contempt, the long day, rack rents, prostitution, just earnings withheld by power, the price of living raised to swell swollen profit—if we saw such things and remained apathetic, out we go.
You and I—to the right or the left?
Study for the Week
No one can turn from a frank reading of the Gospels without realizing that Jesus had a deep fellow-feeling, not only for suffering and handicapped individuals, but for the mass of the poorer people of his country, the peasants, the fishermen, the artisans. He declared that it was his mission to bring glad tidings to this class; and not only glad words, but happy realities. Evidently the expectation of the coming Reign of God to his mind signified some substantial relief and release to the submerged and oppressed. Our modern human feeling glories in this side of our Saviour's work. Art and literature love to see him from this angle.
His concern for the poor was the necessary result of the two fundamental convictions discussed by us in the previous chapters. If he felt the sacredness of life, even in its humble and hardworn forms, and if he felt the family unity of all men in such a way that the sorrows of the poor were his sorrows, then, of course, he could not be at ease while the people were "skinned and prostrate," "like sheep without a shepherd." Wherever any group has developed real solidarity, its best attention is always given to those who are most in need. "The whole have no need of a physician," said Jesus; the strong can take care of themselves.
So he cast in his lot with the people consciously. He slept in their homes, healed their diseases, ate their bread, and shared his own with them. He gave them a faith, a hope of better days, and a sense that God was on their side. Such a faith is more than meat and drink. In turn they rallied around him, and could not get enough of him. "The common people heard him gladly."
Furthermore, the feeling of Jesus for "the poor" was not the sort of compassion we feel for the hopelessly crippled in body or mind. His feeling was one of love and trust. The Galilaean peasants, from whom Peter and John sprang, were not morons, or the sodden dregs of city slums. They were the patient, hard-working folks who have always made up the rank and file of all peoples. They had their faults, and Jesus must have known them. But did he ever denounce them, or call them "offspring of vipers"? Did he ever indicate that their special vices were frustrating the Kingdom of God? They needed spiritual impulse and leadership, but their nature was sound and they were the raw material for the redeemed humanity which he strove to create.
There is one more quality which we shall have to recognize in the attitude of Jesus to "the poor." He saw them over against "the rich." Amid all the variations of human society these two groups always reappear—those who live by their own productive labor, and those who live on the productive labor of others whom they control. Practically they overlap and blend, but when our perspective is distant enough, we can distinguish them. In Greek and Roman society, in medieval life, and in all civilized nations of today—barring, of course, our own—we can see them side by side. Each conditions the other; neither would exist without the other. Each class develops its own moral and spiritual habits, its own set of virtues and vices. Some of us were born in the upper class, some in the lower; and in college groups the majority come from the border line. By instinct, by the experiences of life, or by national reflection, we usually give our moral allegiance to one or the other, and are then apt to lean to that side in every question arising.
Now, Jesus took sides with the group of toil. He stood up for them. He stood with them. We can not help seeing him with his arm thrown in protection about the poor man, and his other hand raised in warning to the rich. If we are in any doubt about this, we can let his contemporaries decide it for us. Plainly the common people claimed him as their friend. Did the governing classes have the same feeling for him? It seems hard to escape the conclusion that Jesus was not impartial between the two. Was he nevertheless just? To the aesthetic sense, and also to a superficial moral judgment, the upper classes are everywhere more congenial and attractive. To the moral judgment of Jesus, as we shall see more fully in a later chapter, there was something disquieting and dangerous about the spiritual qualities of "the rich," and something lovable and hopeful about the qualities of the common man. Was he right? This is a very important practical question for all who are disposed to follow his moral leadership.
The perception that Jesus championed the people can be found throughout literature and art. Our own Lowell has expressed it in his "Parable" in which he describes Jesus coming back to earth to see "how the men, my brethren, believe in me."
"Have ye founded your thrones and altars, then, On the bodies and souls of living men? And think ye that building shall endure, Which shelters the noble and crushes the poor?
"With gates of silver and bars of gold Ye have fenced my sheep from their Father's fold; I have heard the dropping of their tears In heaven these eighteen hundred years.
"Then Christ sought out an artisan, A low-browed, stunted, haggard man, And a motherless girl, whose fingers thin, Pushed from her faintly want and sin.
"These set he in the midst of them, And as they drew back their garment-hem For fear of defilement, "Lo, here," said he, 'The images ye have made of me.' "
We shall get the historical setting for Christ's championship of the people by going back to the Old Testament prophets. They were his spiritual forebears. He nourished his mind on their writings and loved to quote them. Now, the Hebrew prophets with one accord stood up for the common people and laid the blame for social wrong on the powerful classes. They underlined no other sin with such scarlet marks as the sins of injustice, oppression, and the corruption of judges. But these are the sins which bear down the lowly, and have always been practiced and hushed up by the powerful. "Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that oppress the poor, that crush the needy.... Ye trample upon the poor, and take exactions from him of wheat; ... ye that afflict the just, that take a bribe, and that turn aside the needy in the gate from their right.... For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; they that pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor" (Amos 4:1; 5:11-12; 2:6-7). Micah describes the strong and crafty crowding the peasant from his ancestral holding and the mother from her home by the devices always used for such ends, exorbitant interest on loans, foreclosure in times of distress, "seeing the judge" before the trial, and hardness of heart toward broken life and happiness (Micah 2:1-2; 2:9; 3:1-2). We cannot belittle the moral insight of that unique succession of men. Their spiritual force is still hard at work in our Christian civilization, especially in the contribution which the Jewish people are making to the labor movement.
Among the Greeks and Romans political and literary life was so completely dominated by the aristocratic class that no such succession of champions of the common man could well arise. Yet some of the men of whom posterity thinks with most veneration were upper-class champions of the common people—Solon, for instance, Manlius, and the Gracchi.
In recent centuries the vast forces of social evolution seem to have set in the direction toward which Jesus faced. Since the Reformation the institutions of religion have been more or less democratized. The common people have secured some participation in political power and have been able to use it somewhat for their economic betterment. They share much more fully in education than formerly. Before the outbreak of the Great War it seemed safe to anticipate that the working people would secure an increasing share of the social wealth, the security, the opportunities for health, for artistic enjoyment, and of all that makes life worth living. Today the future is heavily clouded and uncertain; but our faith still holds that even the great disaster will help ultimately to weaken the despotic and exploiting forces, and make the condition of the common people more than ever the chief concern of science and statesmanship.
Jesus was on the side of the common people long before democracy was on the ascendant. He loved them, felt their worth, trusted their latent capacities, and promised them the Kingdom of God. The religion he founded, even when impure and under the control of the upper classes, has been the historical basis for the aspirations of the common people and has readily united with democratic movements. His personality and spirit has remained an impelling and directing force in the minds of many individuals who have "gone to the people" because they know Jesus is with them. In fact we can look for more direct social effectiveness of Jesus in the future, because the new historical interpretation of the Bible helps us to see him more plainly amid the social life of his own people.
So we must add a third social principle to the first two. The first was that life and personality are sacred; the second that men belong together; the third is that the strong must stand with the weak and defend their cause. In his description of the Messianic Judgment, Jesus proposed to recognize as his followers only those who had responded to the call of human need and solidarity. He created the apostleship and therewith the germ of the Church in order to serve the people whose needs he saw and felt.
How does this concern college men and women? By our opportunities and equipment we rank with the strong. Disciplined intellect is armor and sword. Many of us have inherited social standing and some wealth; it may not be much, but it raises us above the terrible push of immediate need. What relation do we propose to have with the great mass of men and women who were born without the chances which have fallen to us without exertion? Do we propose to serve them or to ride on them? Will we seek to gain some form of power by means of which we can live in plenty, with only slight and pleasurable exertion? In that case we can hardly return to our fellow-men in work as much as we take from them in enjoyment and luxury. We shall be part of that dead weight which has always bent the back of the poor. Is that an honorable ambition? Or do we propose to enter the working team of humanity and to hold up our end? Our end ought to be heavier than the average because we have had longer and better training. "To whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required."
The moral problem for college communities is accentuated when we remember that few students pay fully for what they get. Whether our institutions are supported from taxation or from endowments, a large part of their incomes are derived from the annual labor of society; tuitions pay only a fraction of the running expenses and of the interest on the plant. Even if a student pays all charges, he is in part a pensioner on the public. The working people in the last resort support us; the same people who are often so eager for education, and who can not get it. Some of them would feel rich if they had the leavings of knowledge which we throw to the floor and tread upon in our spirit of surfeit. To take our education at their hands and use it to devise ways by which we can continue to live on them, seems disquieting even to a pagan conscience. It ought to be insufferable to a sense of social responsibility trained under Christian influences.
Here is a test for college communities more searching than the physical test of athletics, or the intellectual tests of scholarship. Do we feel our social unity with the people who work for their living, and do we propose to use our special privileges and capacities for their social redemption?
"When wilt Thou save the people? O God of Mercy, when? Not kings and lords, but nations, Not thrones and crowns, but men. Flowers of Thy heart, O God, are they. Let them not pass like weeds away, Let them not fade in sunless day! God save the people!"—EBENEZER ELLIOTT.
Suggestions for Thought and Discussion
I. The Partisanship of Jesus
1. Did Jesus really take sides with the poor? Prove it.
2. Try to prove the other side.
3. Which would be safer evidence: single sayings, or the total impression of his life and teachings?
4. What do you conclude regarding the attitude of Jesus?
II. The Church and the People
1. What motives led Jesus to organize and send out the twelve? What was the historical significance of that action?
2. When and how did the Church lose its working class character?
3. Does the Church today share Jesus' feelings about the condition of the people? Sum up evidence for and against.
4. What is the true function of the Church in society so far as the poor are concerned?
III. Standing up for the People Today
1. Is it a superficial or profound test to range a man according to his sympathy with the common people?
2. What does it involve to stand up for the people today? How does it differ from charity and relief work?
3. Name some men and women in our own times who seem to have stood up for them most wisely and effectively.
4. What are the vices of social reformers?
IV. The Concern of College Men and Women
1. How can college men and women make a just return for their special opportunities?
2. What movements in college and university life in recent years are in line with this social principle of Jesus?
3. What part have the university students of Russia, Austria, Germany, and England taken in social movements? Have American students ever taken a similar interest in working class movements? If not, why not?
V. For Special Discussion
1. Is it an advantage or disadvantage to Christianity that it began among the working class? What effects did that have on its ethical points of view and its impulses?
2. Why did the regeneration of ancient society have to come through the lowly? Will it have to come the same way today?
3. Is it ethical to live without productive labor? Is it morally tolerable to enjoy excessive leisure purchased by the excessive toil of others?
4. Is there any clear conviction on this question in the Christian Church today?
5. Is the fact that a person has sprung from the working-class a guarantee that he will have the working-class sympathies?
6. Who seem to have more natural democratic feeling, the men or the women of the upper classes?
PART II. THE SOCIAL IDEAL OF JESUS
Chapter IV. The Kingdom Of God: Its Values
The Right Social Order is the Highest Good for All
The first three chapters dealt with simple human principles which are common and instinctive with all real men. Jesus simply expanded the range of their application, clarified our comprehension of them, placed them in the very center of religious duty, and so lifted them to the high level of great social and religious principles.
In the next three chapters we shall take up a conception which is not universally human, but which Jesus derived from the historic life of the Hebrew people—the idea of the "Kingdom of God." A better translation would be "the Reign of God." This conception embodied the social ideal and purpose of the best minds of one of the few creative nations of history.
How did Jesus interpret this inherited social ideal? What did the Kingdom of God seem to him to offer men? What did it demand of them? What immediate ethical duty did this social ideal involve? Our inquiry will move along these lines in the next three chapters.
First Day: The Main Chance
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.—Matt. 13:44-46.
When war was common, property insecure, and safe deposit vaults were scarce, it was common for men to bury treasure in time of trouble and to forget it when they were dead. Whoever accidentally found it "struck pay dirt" and hastened to locate his claim. An extraordinary jewel, too, was a bonanza. The infant capitalists of that day were wise enough to liquidate their other holdings and invest everything in the main chance. Jesus calls for the application of the same method on the higher level. The Kingdom of God is the highest good of all; why not stake all on the chance of that? These parables were spoken out of his own experience. He was gladly surrendering home, comfort, public approval, and life itself to realize the Reign of God in humanity.
Imagine that Jesus had surrendered his religious idealism, had gained wealth and official standing, and died of old age. Would he have gained? What would the world have lost?
Second Day: The Master Fact
From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.—Matt. 4:17.
The Kingdom of God is a master fact. It takes control. When the Kingdom becomes a reality to us, we can not live on in the old way. We must repent, begin over, overhaul the values of life and put them down at their true price, and so readjust our fundamental directions. The conduct of the individual must rise in response to higher conceptions of the meaning and possibilities of the life of humanity. Tolstoi has described his conversion in the simplest terms in the introduction to "My Religion:"
"Five years ago faith came to me; I believed in the doctrine of Jesus, and my whole life underwent a sudden transformation. What I had once wished for I wished for no longer, and I began to desire what I had never desired before. What had once appeared to me right now became wrong, and the wrong of the past I beheld as right. My condition was like that of a man who goes forth upon some errand, and having traversed a portion of the road, decides that the matter is of no importance, and turns back. What was at first on his right hand is now on his left, and what was at his left hand is now on his right; instead of going away from his abode, he desires to get back to it as soon as possible. My life and my desires were completely changed; good and evil interchanged meanings. Why so? Because I understood the doctrine of Jesus in a different way from that in which I had understood it before." ... "I understood the words of Jesus, and life and death ceased to be evil; instead of despair, I tasted joy and happiness."