Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 26- Caring for Society

January 26

The Shaping of Society
(picture is of Geneva in Calvin's day)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3,4)

Calvin: (The principle of self-denial in our relations with our fellow men III.6.4) “When Scripture bids us act toward men so as to esteem them above ourselves [Phil. 2:3] and in good faith to apply ourselves wholly to doing them good [cf. Rom. 12:10] , it gives us commandments of which our mind is quite incapable unless our mind be previously emptied of its natural feeling. For, such is the blindness with which we all rush into self-love that each one of us seems to himself to have just cause to be proud of himself and to despise all others in comparison. If God has conferred upon us anything of which we need not repent, relying upon it we immediately lift our minds and are not only puffed up but burst with pride…Hence arises such insolence that each one of us, as if exempt from the common lot, wishes to tower above the rest, and loftily and savagely abuses every mortal man, or at least looks down upon him as inferior…Let us then unremittingly examining our faults , call ourselves back to humility. On the other hand, we are asked to esteem and regard whatever gift of God we see in other men that that we may honor those men in whom they reside. (Inst. III.6.4)

For Calvin there is no possibility of private Christianity. Monasteries and convents were out for Calvin. The Christian life was not only to be lived before God, it was to be rubbed up against others. The true test of Christianity for Calvin was love of neighbor. Once Calvin said, “The godly should not live to themselves and to the promotion merely of their own interests, but should endeavor to promote the common good of all according to their opportunities, and as far as they are able (CR: 31. 380).
Calvin was not a politician, but he was concerned about the welfare of his people spiritually, mentally (starting the Genevan academy), and physically (caring for the poor and needy, and ethical business practices of the merchants). Love of neighbor transforms the neighbor, honors God, and makes the world a better place. Calvin was not just concerned about the salvation of souls, but a community (Geneva) reformed by the Word of God (Leith IRT 73). John Knox, the founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland- who was exiled to Geneva for awhile, said, “in other places, I confess Christ to be truly preached; but manners and religion be so sincerely reformed , I have not yet seen in any other place [than Geneva]. Thus the one of the spiritual branch-descendants of Calvin came to America to make a “city set on a hill- for all the world to see the glory of God.”

Christians are called to do something for the glory of God in this world. Not seeking their own glory, but their neighbor helped and God thus honored and glorified. I have loved these Liberty Insurance commercials that encourage us to do a good deed and that will come back to us. One person sees a good deed and it inspires them to do another. Then the narrator says, “When it’s people who do the right thing they call it responsibility. When insurance companies do, they call it Liberty Mutual.” If people do the right thing, it is contagious. ( and ( ).
No I don’t insure with Liberty or own any stock- just like their commercial. I long for this good side of people to come out- doing the right thing as individuals, as businesses, as communities.

So today, let’s see what we can do to make this world a better place. Let’s not just seek our own ambition, but the good of others.

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