Be Professional

I was watching NFL Sunday Night Football and noticed that an offensive and a defensive lineman from opposite teams congratulated each other on a play with one assisting the other to get up off the ground.  This was an unusual example of professionalism that we do not see much in today’s highly competitive world.  Typically, you see opposing team members getting in each other’s faces and shouting and pushing.  Of course, this is an example of non-professionalism.

It is interesting to watch professionals in the workforce.  They are highly motivated to improve their lifestyles, make more money, go higher up on the corporate ladder, purchase a bigger house… the list goes on, but everything is related to selfish desires.  Yet, in that wish list, you do not see a desire to become more professional.  That does not compute in the modern world, so it is refreshing to see it every now and then like I did that night during the football game.  It was so unique that I had to write a note about it.

In the movie, “Wallstreet,” we were told that greed is good.  There wasn’t a message to be more professional in that movie.  So, does today’s society believe that you should knock down your opposition and walk over them to reach your goals to satisfy your selfish greed, no matter what the costs?  This seems to be the case.  What has happened to our society?

Well, back in the 1940’s and 1950’s, people weren’t perfect by any means, but they worked together more because they saw what happened in the Great Depression and they were going through WWII and the Korean wars.  Small businessmen and farmers needed help since they didn’t have large operating funds.  Neighbors would pitch in to help whenever somebody needed a hand.  They didn’t consider themselves competing against each other like they do today.

Today, we don’t need any help from our neighbors or friends.  We are better than that.  We are the elite.  We will make it on our own because we are more aggressive.  And sometimes that works out for young professionals… at least until bad times hit.  And they will hit again.  It’s not will they come again, but when will they come again?

Thus, it might be important to be professional and congratulate your competitor for their accomplishments and deemphasize your wonderful feats.  Focusing on others may have a more beneficial impact on your persona than if you dedicated everything in your life to yourself.  And it would give you a boost toward preparing you for the bad times which will come again.  You might even have some friends who will help you when you are down.

Be professional, whether in your job, sporting event, community activity, social event, or interacting with family or friends.  Professionalism is an ethical attitude of doing the right thing even if it involves some sacrifice.  The choices you make always will have consequences.  Serve others before yourself and the world will be a better place for everybody.

Discrimination Is “All About You”

I have heard younger generations say, “It’s all about you.”  This is their way of saying that the person being honored with the comment only thinks of themselves and not other people.  Unfortunately, I hear this phrase more frequently in today’s environment.  It seems that politicians do not stand alone in a modern society that has evolved into narcissists.  Currently, a majority of Americans takes care of itself first and foremost.

What has that got to do with discrimination and racism, which is like a resistant blood stain on a white sheet?  Well, discrimination is also “all about you.”  If you belong to any group that feels superior to others, then you are guilty of discrimination.  As an example, if you belong to a soccer team that is winning most of its games and you taunt the other teams as being inferior to your team, you are guilty of discrimination.  As we will see later in the article, there are degrees of discrimination, some being much worse than others.

Bullying of school children by other students is in the news today because sometimes the child being discriminated against brings a weapon to school and starts killing other students.  Bullying through social media is getting out of control.  All these are signs of increasing discrimination by younger generations who are full of themselves.  They only think about themselves.  By hazing other students, it makes them feel superior to their targets.      

I can remember racist comments made in Kentucky when I was growing up and when I was a young adult.  I didn’t have any friends in these hate groups, but I always wondered what was behind the bitterness.

It seemed like the members of these group gatherings felt better since they found somebody else to put down and criticize.  They, in effect, were able to elevate their status above another group simply by discriminating against them.  They wanted to be members of an elite group.

Throughout history, we have seen discrimination against religious groups, races, cultures, nationalities, sexual preferences, poor people, and sometimes, just those who look and act differently than others.  And discrimination is not always the majority against a minority.  History is replete with occasions when totalitarian leaders, who were motivated by a quest for personal power, murdered or imprisoned thousands who represented the majority interests who opposed their leadership.

But there is one thing that can always be said about discrimination:  it is based on selfish needs and desires.  Those who discriminate are satisfying a personal interest.  For example, high school students may form cliques who make fun of “nerds.”  They may bully them on a daily basis, perhaps calling them “geeks” in the hallways and in classes, making fun of them.  These cliques are formed to make them feel important and better than others.  These students feel that life is all about them, and their egos are puffed up as they continue their taunting sessions.

I was in Air Force ROTC back in the late 1960’s and remember how I felt walking across campus being called a “baby killer.”  I wondered why the other students discriminated against me when I had not done anything except take military classes and have a short haircut.  The students who did not like the military were perfectly within their rights to express their opinions about the Vietnam War, but when they burned down my ROTC building and punctured the tires of military students’ cars, they were satisfying their personal needs to place themselves at a higher level than us.  In effect, they believed they were smarter and ethically superior to the military, including ROTC students.

I joined a fraternity in order to get dates because girls would not date somebody with short hair.  But things did not get better because I joined a fraternity.  The members of the fraternity abused the pledges, both physically and mentally.  I watched the members carefully and they seemed to inflate their egos by being able to treat the pledges like second-rate members.  It was all about them.  They had no interest in making the world a better place by encouraging pledges to be better students.  They only cared about making themselves feel superior. 

After completing pledging and becoming an active member of the fraternity, I refused to participate in the abuse and slave rituals, instead requiring the pledges to study for an hour before I would sign their pledge books.  Other members of the fraternity had the pledges do their wash, polish their shoes, get their dinner, or wait on them in some manner.  I did not participate in the physical abuse heaped on the hapless pledges.  It seemed rather barbaric to me and accomplished nothing more than to make the pledges want to do the same thing once they were active members.  It was all about them. 

The active members of the fraternity tried to “black ball” or eliminate me from their group because I did not conform to their standards.  I found out that groups who discriminate try to cull out those who do not join in that discrimination.  It seems that the glue for the groups is discrimination of some kind.  That, sadly, is what keeps them together.  And that discrimination seems to be focused on building up one group and tearing down another.

One definition of discrimination is a difference in treatment or favor on the basis other than individual merit.  This is an interesting definition since it points out that discrimination may also occur when institutions and businesses select individuals for school or jobs based on their belonging to a race, nationality, or religion, rather than based on the merit of selectees.  This is sometimes referred to as reverse discrimination.  All forms of discrimination are based on satisfying selfish interests. 

Does this mean that all forms of discrimination are harmful?  There are degrees of discrimination.  If you are interviewing six people for one job, you will have to discriminate between these six in order to select the person you deem best for the job.  This type of discrimination may be based on comparing education and experience.  This type of discrimination is reasonable.  But you also may discriminate based on the appearance of the individuals.  If a gentleman wears a nice suit and another wears tattered jeans, you may pick the man wearing the suit even though he did not have a strong background in education and experience.  This type of discrimination may be unreasonable.   

Let’s examine laws that discriminate against those who commit crimes.  Are these discriminations acceptable?  I believe so because they are moderate in their approach.  In order for society to avoid, anarchy, chaos, and disorder, there must be consequences administered to those who harm society. 

The problem is where to draw the line.  For example, should society be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals?  Since this is discrimination against a sexual preference, rather than a crime against society, these laws should not be permitted.  Some might argue that homosexual activity harms a society which is based on male-female marriages and families, but this makes little sense.  Homosexual activity, although clearly a sin under the Bible, does not appear to have any more negative impact on society than adultery, also a sin according to the Bible. 

However, sexual predators who attempt to rape others or have sex with children would be harmful to society, thus laws against these activities make sense and should be permitted discriminations.  We may not like to admit that we discriminate on a daily basis, but we all do.  We prefer to have friends who are like us, not necessarily based on race, but on creed.  We like to surround ourselves with people who think like us. 

Is this type of discrimination, based on creed, problematic?  It could be.  A healthy society needs to be creative and should not stifle new thinking.  If everybody thought the same way in a society, it would not be long before those who thought differently would be singled out as being bad for society.  An example is when Darwin came up with the theory of evolution.  This type of thinking is accepted today, but it initially had a difficult road as hard-line religious thinkers discriminated against those who championed this new thought.  However, the opposite may be true today.  Many who believe in evolution are making fun of Creationists.  Those who discriminate improperly may become those who are discriminated against in the future.  Neither form of discrimination is appropriate for a vibrant society.

The bottom line is that discrimination is all about you.  That means that you can change things for the better.  It is not practical to attempt to eliminate all discrimination, but it is possible to focus on improving society and our world through moderation.   

Left Behind

Left Behind is a series of 16 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins that are very popular.  The novels show believers being transported out of harm’s way during the Christian dispensationalist “end times,” leaving behind the non-believers to deal with God’s wrath and tribulation.  This is also called the pretribulation or premillennial eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world.

Some of this comes from the Book of Revelation 3:10-11 which records Jesus telling those in Philadelphia in Asia Minor:  “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”

The premillennial believers argue this means that “the hour of trial” is the seven-year period of tribulation that will be delivered to the non-believers, while the believers would be protected from this trial.  However, there is nothing in the Bible referencing special treatment for believers during times of tribulation.  We all must “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Hamlet) and we are told to rejoice in our suffering, the Book of Romans 5:3.

The true protection that Jesus was preaching was the spiritual armor covering believers.  They are not protected from the trials and tribulation, but true believers will be able to survive any trials, whether on earth or after death, because of their faith.

So, when is this “hour of trial” going to occur?  Nobody knows, and the Bible does not provide a clear answer.  But it really does not matter as long as we hold to our faith.  Jesus’ promise of keeping those believers in Philadelphia from the future trial, in order to have any practical meaning, must be applied to their lives, about two thousand years ago.  It seems logical that Jesus was giving them spiritual hope for the tribulation ahead during their lives and perhaps also during the end of time.  In other words, it could apply to both the trials of life and after death.

Jesus knew that there would be tribulation for believers throughout history, but there might be a horrific time of tribulation at the end of mankind on earth.  Of course, there are many interpretations of what could happen before the end of time, but one is the concept of Hades, where Jesus, himself, went for three days after He died.  Hades could be thought of as an earthly collection destination for those who have died, awaiting a final “hour of trial.” 

Jesus was concerned about the believers staying away from the Devil during their tenure on earth, whether living or dead, praying to His Father:  “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”  John 17:15.

There are many interpretations to the judgments that are ahead, and typically Christians, especially those who believe in pretribulation, prefer to believe that they will be removed from tribulation and trials without having to suffer at all.  The nonbelievers will be left behind to suffer.  This is nonsense. 

Suffering for our faith is something that we must embrace.  Jesus and his followers suffered.  Why are we any different?  Paul wrote:  “through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.”  Acts 14:22.  Jesus told believers that they would have to endure tribulation.  John 16:33.

The dispensational interpretations originate from Daniel 9:24-27.  I have included the sections below and then will analyze them, applying context of what was going on when Daniel was written.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the holy.

“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’  It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 

“After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.  The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood; War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.  He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on a wing of the temple, he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

Now, as typical of apocalyptic writing, it is complex and usually difficult to relate to actual events.   Many times it is allegorical and should not be considered as predicting the future.  The analysis of this provision is important, because it is the heart of Dispensationalism.  In fact, Chapter 9 of Daniel is the only Biblical reference that might support the Left Behind interpretation of the second coming.

So let’s start with the historical perspective of Chapter 9.  Daniel was praying to God about the 70 years of captivity of Israel in Babylon prophesied by Jeremiah.  Daniel was praying a short time after Babylon’s fall to Persia in 539 BC.  The 70-year period of Jeremiah would have started in 605BC and thus would have ended in 535 BC, just about four years after Daniel’s prayer in the above selection from Daniel, Chapter 9.  It seems likely that Daniel was praying for the rebuilding of the Holy City and its Temple.

The decree mentioned was Cyrus’ Decree.  In the first year after the fall of Babylon (538 BC), Cyrus, King of Persia who was friendly to the Jewish people, issued a decree to rebuild their temple.  This would have started Daniel’s prophecy of seventy-weeks of restoration (7 + 62 + 1 = 70 weeks, interpreted as ‘seven’ days).  The seven could mean days, weeks, months, or years, but the logical conclusion is that it meant weeks, which consist of seven days.  But if Daniel were attempting to match Jeremiah’s 70-year period with his prophecy, then we should consider the term to be 70 years times 7 or 490 years.  However, the numbers might even be symbolic since apocalyptic literature may not always be predicting the future as much as hoping to make the future better.

But if we examine this passage literally, it predicts after sixty-nine ‘sevens’ (69 weeks or 483 years) after the Decree of Cyrus in 538 BC.  So that either in 536 BC or 75 BC, the Anointed One will come.  The real fact is that Jesus was born about 3-5 AD.  Attempting to use this scripture to predict the actual future was problematic, at best.

After sixty-two ‘sevens’ (either 536 BC in weeks or 104 BC in years), the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.  Jesus certainly was not crucified before He was born.  If you attempt to apply a strict construction of this chapter in Daniel to Jesus as the Anointed One, it will not make sense.

It makes more sense to apply the actual history of that period to the reading.  The Anointed One may have been referring sarcastically to the ruler of Babylon.  Authors sometimes disguised who they were really referencing in fear of retribution from the leaders.  This actually makes sense because it says that that ruler of the people will come and destroy the town of Jerusalem and the sanctuary, which is exactly what the Babylonians did by taking the people of Jerusalem to Babylon as slaves and destroying their Temple.  Then in 538 BC, the Anointed One of Babylon was cut off and had nothing.  Persia took over, leaving Babylonia with no power and basically nothing as compared to their all-encompassing control before the fall.  The end of Babylonia did come like a flood with its war with the Persians.

Of course, the Anointed One or ruler could also be Titus, the Roman Emperor, who destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 AD.  This could be argued if you are looking for a prophecy of Daniel that was fulfilled.  However, the dates do not match.

If Titus is the ruler, then the prophecy might be that Titus will make a covenant with the Jewish religious leaders to put an end to sacrificing animals and this ruler will set up an abomination on a wing of the Temple until his rule comes to an end.

The truth is that nobody knows what any of this meant, probably not even Daniel.  It would be dangerous to set up an entire theology based on such a tenuous and complex passage in Daniel.  Unfortunately, my interpretation is as good as anybody else’s.

Elitism

Elitism emanates from a belief by a socially isolated group that considers itself superior to others.  Some Christians consider themselves the elite “chosen ones” under the New Testament, similar to the Jewish people being the “chosen ones” under the Old Testament.  Both are incorrect. 

The Sanhedrin, Sadducees, and Pharisees were elite only in their minds.  These “superior” religious leaders were the ones who sent Jesus to His death.  The elite Christians think that they are superior and, thus, will be judged differently than others at the final judgment.

The truth is that Jesus and God are united as one and will judge all equally.  It is true that Christians have a special opportunity to die without carrying guilt with them since Jesus died to remove their sins.  But that does not offer Christians any special treatment during the judgments, which occur after death.  Clearly, Revelations 20:12-13 teaches us that the final judgment will be based on our works.  Christians and non-Christians will be treated the same and will be judged using the same scales of justice.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others who believe in God will all stand before Jesus/God for our final judgment.  It would be a mistake to consider yourself elite because you belong to any of these different religions.  It even might be a fatal mistake, causing God to render judgment against you.  Pride is perhaps the greatest sin, and your pride of yourself and of your religion could be your undoing before God.

Christians should take advantage of the special gift of grace given us because Jesus died for our sins.  This gift allows us to enter the kingdom of death, sometimes called Hades, without the burden of a sin debt.  If we truly believe in Jesus and that He died for us, our conscience should be clear.  Our thoughts should not punish us for our sins.  This is a magnificent gift. 

However, it is not the end of judgments.  Even though we are forgiven for our sins, we will still be judged for our actions.  In other words, we were given free will to make choices, so there will be consequences for the choices we made. 

It is not clear whether these choices are continued after our death.  It is quite possible that Hades could be the biggest test of all.  After we die, we may undergo severe tests of the strength of our faith.  Without God being within us, we will not have a chance.  Only God can assist us in navigating through Hades.  It will require a special belief in God to keep us on the right path. 

The actions after death probably will be all thoughts, and controlling your thoughts by yourself is not possible.  Saying you are “elite” is not the answer.  Let your pride fall away.  Only God can help us.

Our egos, our ability to focus on ourselves, our devotion to selfish desires… all these things lead us into the trap of elitism.  We search for methods to make ourselves more important than others.  We look for ways that distinguish ourselves from the others.  We are better than they are. 

Hitler and many before and after him believed they were the elite race.  Nietzsche wrote about the superman and the super race.  They were superior to the others.  History is replete with thousands of examples of associations of people joining forces to overpower others, many times enslaving them, as an inferior group of people.

Yet, it seems beyond dispute that we are all of the same species, Homo sapiens.  The genes of all mankind are very similar probably because of a bottleneck of our species about 75,000 years ago.  Mt. Toba, a mega-volcano erupted in Indonesia, which may have caused a winter that lasted for decades, killing off many plants and animals, and very nearly wiping out the human race.  We may have been down to several thousand – an endangered species.

It is quite extraordinary that Homo sapiens are that much alike.  We may have different colored skin because our environments differ.  If the Europeans moved to the equator, their skins would darken within a few generations.  In about 10,000 years, the transplanted Europeans would have dark skin like people from Africa.  But it is even more extraordinary that we try to make ourselves better than our neighbors when there is no basis for it.

The Old Testament makes the Jewish people the elite race.  But we saw what happened to this elitism in the New Testament.  Elitism does not fit well on man.  So is God going to save more of the Jewish race than the Gentiles at the second coming?  Why is there a difference?  God will treat all equally.  God stands for justice for all.  Nobody is in an elite group.  Not even Christians are elite. 

Now, this is where it gets interesting because many Christians believe they are elite and God will judge them more favorably than others.  They think that because they believe in Jesus that they are better than Buddhists, than Jews, than Muslims, or any other religion.  This does not make sense.  God judges all equally or He cannot be the final judge.  God cannot have favorites.  We all will be judged using standardized tests without showing any race or religion favoritism in the grading process.

I do believe that Christians have one advantage and that is their belief that Jesus died for their sins will allow them to enter Judgment Day without guilt and with a clean slate, which should make taking the test or tests easier.  The last thing you want on Judgment Day is to be thinking about all the stupid and bad things you did during life.  You want to be as focused as possible on the challenges in front of you on that day. 

Law vs. Grace

I always found it interesting to compare the Old Testament with the New Testament.  They are like night and day in many ways, but they do unite under one God. 

The Old Testament is based on the Law of God as delivered by Moses and all the many righteous rules and customs that were required to be followed.  The penalty was harsh when somebody broke the laws, which primarily were things that you should not do, which was a very negative approach to life. 

The new covenant brought to earth by Jesus was a positive approach which stated if you do certain things, you will receive God’s grace.  And those things were basically repenting your sins and believing in Jesus Christ who died to pay your sin debts in full.

In effect, you could follow many religions which have saddled followers with their laws of the worldly world telling you what you should not do, or you could accept the gift of God who sent down His son to die so that our sins could be erased. 

So when Christians die, they should not have any guilt if they have repented and truly believe in Jesus as their Savior.  Christianity is the only religion which offers a free “Get-Out of Guilt” card by believing in Jesus.  Guilt would otherwise follow us into death and probably would drag us into chaos.

I am not saying that Christianity is the only religion that believes in God.  But I am saying that you have the best chance to avoid feelings of guilt by being a Christian.  Other religions may serve you equally well in preparing for God, but a negative approach could cause your conscience to bother you at the doorstep of death.  In fact the definition of guilt is: “The fact of having committed a breach of conduct, especially violating a law involving a penalty.” 

Violating the laws of any religion may remove your innocence, so as you wait to enter God’s kingdom, you have a feeling of fear and trepidation.  This is not the feeling you want when you die.  You want your thoughts to be pure when you enter the kingdom of death.  Christianity does that by removing your guilt.

Now, the problem with an elitist Christianity is that some Christians believe they are the new “chosen ones” replacing the Jewish people who were granted that position in the Old Testament.  Many believe they are entitled to a free ride to God’s kingdom by simply believing in Jesus.

Many Christians repent for about an hour each week and then go out and sin again.  They are recidivists of many sins, yet they believe there will be no consequences.  This is far from true.  The Bible is very clear about multiple judgments that await the believers.  There will be consequences for what you did during your life.  Your actions and inactions on earth will be judged.  Make no mistake about that. 

Nobody knows what the judgments will be like.  I guess the best approach is to be prepared.  Even believers may go to Hades to be tested by both tormentors and seducers.  You need to be ready to respond like Jesus would have done.  You must study the teachings of Jesus so you can employ His techniques during these tests. 

The tests will not be easy.  They could involve pain and torture.  Nobody knows, but try to prepare for these tests by thinking of what might be waiting for us. 

Some interpretations of the Bible indicate that even Jesus went to Hades for three days.  Some who have had near-death experiences mentioned this dark, hellish environment with monsters that attacked them, inflicting great pain.  So would you fight or flee the monster or would you try to convert it?  If it struck you on the right cheek, would you turn your left cheek towards it?  Would you be like Jesus?