Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Recently a group of people signed what they called The Manhattan Declaration. It was meant to express outrage over some moral issues. I was asked my thoughts. I will answer with a parable.

*****
The Owner of many pieces of property brings his hired servant out to view his land. As they both scan the landscape they notice thousands of dead corpses laid out across every piece of property. The Owner points to these corpses and instructs the servant to take the electronic paddles that he provides for him and go corpse to corpse using the paddles against each chest. The Owner tells the man that every once in a while a corpse will come to life, but that he should not be discouraged when most of them do not. The Owner also informs the servant that the servant himself was once dead and laid among these same corpses until someone placed the paddles on his chest and he came to life. The servant understands and the Owner departs.

The servant begins to go to each corpse and place the paddles against each chest and activate the electronic surge. He has done it to scores of dead bodies when all of a sudden one person comes back to life. The servant is surprised and ecstatic and rejoices with the now living person. The servant goes back to using the paddles on each corpse. After a while the servant begins to realize that these corpses give off a decidedly foul odor. And along with their smell, they draw many insects and scavenger birds. The entire atmosphere deteriorates and the servant begins to feel very uncomfortable.

When the environment becomes very unbearable, the servant puts down the paddles and sets about to perfume the corpses in order to alleviate the odor. He also begins to use pesticide in order to chase away the insects. He erects scarecrows to scare away the scavenger birds as well. The servant becomes almost consumed with attempting to improve the ambiance of his piece of property, and he calls out to the servant who is working on the adjacent piece of land. He and the other servant complain together about the residual effects the corpses are having on their respective work environments.

They call other servants together as well, and sure enough the other servants are experiencing the same problems. So the servants decide to sign a petition that states emphatically that they do not appreciate the odor, the insects, and the birds that seem to gather around these corpses. In fact, they become so passionate about their cause that they become deceived into thinking the corpses can actually hear and understand them. They pass out these petitions to the corpses and even tell them that they better quit smelling, and quit drawing insects, and quit being a source for scavenger birds.

Even though the corpses cannot hear them, these petitions make the servants feel bold and strong. They have made it public knowledge that they do not agree with these unfortunate circumstances and that in fact they are strongly opposed to odors, insects, and birds. Some of the servants even create organizations that are meant to oppose the unpleasant aspects of the fields and leveraging change through numerical strength.

But while the hearts of these servants may be sincere, they have actually been deceived. And there are two distinct deceptions at work here.
**First, their campaign against the residual effects of rotting corpses has attracted servants that do not serve their Owner, and bound by a common cause, they join with servants who are enemies of their Owner. Their Owner is not pleased.**
**Secondly, these energies against the outward effects of death have taken them away from their assignment and calling. The Owner did not promise them a pleasant labor environment, and He did not instruct them to complain about the things that are unpleasant. In fact, the Owner knows only too well about the horrors of laboring among corpses and He offers rewards for those who go about His business with humility, grace, and sacrifice. But instead of continuing to use the Owner’s paddles, these servants have now set their eyes upon their circumstances. Unwittingly, they now have become slaves to the corpses instead of obedient servants of the Owner.**

*****
Creating and signing petitions, manifestos, or declarations may seem noble and bold in the short run, but we as servants of the Most High already have our manifesto. We already have our assignment, and we must be about our Father’s business. We serve the Lord of Life in the midst of corpses where we ourselves were once laid. They do not need our moral engagement and they do not need our outrage because they act like corpses.

They need Jesus, the Lover of corpses Who offers them eternal life through His cross. We cannot afford to be distracted by the glitter of moral causes, and if persecution is God’s plan for us, let us receive it with joy in our hearts and a song on our lips. How privileged would we be to be allowed to suffer for His Matchless Name! We have a manifesto already written to those corpses, so let us sign it with our lives regardless of the environment in which we labor.
Heb.12:2-4 - Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

19 comments:

J. L. Watts said...

Excellent parable!

Margaret Catherine said...

That's what allies are. People with whom you can make common cause, with whom you can work towards a goal, but who may be acting for different reasons than you. You generally find a few of them in any battle, and are we as Christians not engaged in a battle? If everything good is from Christ, and "those people over there" are speaking for the good, why not work with them so far as is possible? Jesus had no trouble commending faith whether He found it in an Israelite, a heretic Samaritan, or a pagan Canaanite. Are we to do otherwise?

This is scattered; it's late. But I hope my point was understanable.

Rick Frueh said...

We have only one cause, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Other causes are distractions and mirages and unequal alliances dilute us and the gospel.

When a man is rushed into the emergency room with a torn aorta and a broken foot, the doctors do not take time to set the foot until the aorta has been repaired. The "battle" is singular and eternal.

Repairing a foot on a corpse is futile unless God can use your compassion to open his heart to the gospel. We should not join with any who do not serve Christ and His gospel lest a false god gains the glory in the eyes of some.

Anonymous said...

Since Kay Arthur signed this thing does that mean I shouldn't be doing Precept studies anymore?

Rick Frueh said...

Kay Arthur is a great Bible teacher. I just believe she is wrong for signing this document.

Anonymous said...

I agree, namely because of the prominent role members of the Catholic Church are playing in such endeavors...yet again though, there runs the risk of going the other extreme, the same way certain people think feeding and caring for the physical needs of the poor automatically dilutes the Gospel.

I think with issues such as abortion at stake--where innocent lives are being lost everyday, some matters of temporal concern are worth our attention and energies even if it means allying with others of different faiths--so long as these endeavors focusing on cultural renewal don't replace our ultimate committment and devotion to Christ and the Gospel.

Margaret Catherine said...

I would say that those 'other causes' are subordinate to and in the service of the Gospel.

There are three major problems I see with your analogy:

First, the assumption that non-Christians are spiritually and intellectually passive. That's not the case; they are quite capable of reading and understanding the Manhattan Declaration and, possibly, of being intrigued and wanting to know more. That more is Christ - the Declaration is not an end in itself.

Second, that the signers of the Declaration are doing something about "the odor" out of self-interest. They aren't; they're doing it to keep our culture as Christian as possible; as receptive to Christ as possible. You can't plow soil that's never seen water or fertilizer and you certainly can't sow in it. There doing the evidently thankless work of keeping the soil in condition for you and others to come along and do the planting.

Third, that it's useless to aid a non-Christian at all unless God can use that assistance to bring that person to Christ. A couple of things here. One, that God most emphatically can do so if He wishes. But that's not for you to say or care about - your charge is to help that person for the sake of helping that person. If you see a brother in need and you say to him, 'Good night! Keep warm and well fed,' what good is that? If you're uncomfortable with James, Matthew 26 also has a few strong things to say on the subject.

Oh, and there's a fourth problem. I'm Catholic.

Margaret Catherine said...

"...certain people think feeding and caring for the physical needs of the poor automatically dilutes the Gospel."

Anon, I'm honestly astonished that there are Christians who think that. It's simply not a question in the Catholic Church and my knowledge of the Protestant/evangelical world is limited. If you do not mind my asking, who are the "certain people" - hopefully nobody in a postion of influence?

Rick Frueh said...

"They aren't; they're doing it to keep our culture as Christian as possible; as receptive to Christ as possible."

This culture has never been Christian.

Margaret Catherine said...

True or not, that doesn't disprove my point.

Margaret Catherine said...

Mr. Frueh - You're a preacher and, from what I've read of your blog, a talented and powerful writer. You have those gifts for proclaiming Christ; you can "hold the paddles" to return to your analogy. Not me. Face-to-face, I get tongue-tied; in writing I am (as I've already shown) rather polemic. My gifts, my means of proclaiming the Gospel lie elsewhere. Not in words, but in quiet actions the most of which probably never get noticed. What place do you see for those of us more suited to repairing "broken feet" than torn aortas?

Rick Frueh said...

I see all believers as part of the body. You are correct, some are the tongue and some are the hands. But all of us work toward redemption.

If you believe that Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross is the exclusive way to eternal life, and that only through faith can we be saved, then you are part of the body. A church deacon who vaccuums the worship center is aiding the overall gospel ministry of his church. I do not discount the gift of helps etc., I admire humble servants.

The original point was the uselessness of attempting to change sinners, especially governments, from the outside. I do appreciate your commenting here and I hope you fell welcome.

Eric said...

Rick,

Be careful, the use of the word "corpse" is compromising your Arminian credentials! :)

Servant2112 said...

You made your point well. Excellent post!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.