Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nahum 1:15 - 2:2 (Part 2)

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off. The scatterer has come up against you. Man the ramparts; watch the road; dress for battle; collect all your strength. For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches.

Nineveh is depicted in the following verses as being driven out into exile. Exile, as a form of humiliating a defeated enemy, consisted primarily in capturing the king, the nobility, the rich, upper-crust members of society, marching them back to the capital of the victorious kingdom, then selling these people off as slaves. The poor people were generally left behind.  Israel can testify that perhaps the worst fate a people can do or, except for total annihilation, is exile. For at least 2000 years there has been a Diaspora of Jews. Exile of individuals, as well as hordes of defeated enemies was a practiced that lasted for centuries. After the Battle of Adrianople during the episcopate of Ambrose (378) countless victims were displaced and families separated. Ambrose sold the church’s gold plates and other possessions in order to raise enough money to buy these exiled people out of slavery and send them back home.

Under these circumstances a people have only two choices: 1) Blend in, assimilate and be practically erased; 2) persist as Israel did as a separate people wherever they live. This procedure has always brought down the wrath of the state and only God’s protection in the case of Israel has saved them from planned eradication by the state. No other nation has been so fortunate. On the other hand, no other nation has ever tried to live as a separate people within another nation. Countless cultures throughout the world have been practically eliminated, not so much by foreign enemies as much as by simple assimilation with the surrounding culture.

For Christians, the options are exactly the same. Jewish ‘resistance’ has generally been of a somewhat mixed character, partly political, partly religious. But Christians’ ‘resistance’ must be purely religious. The current lawsuits against the government with regard to forcing religious organizations to provide free birth control and abortions is but one of several fronts on which this battle will be waged. Homosexual marriage is another.

I’d like to quote two paragraphs from a anonymous work entitled The Epistle to Diognetus, which best estimates date to circa 130 A.D.
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

“To sum up all in one word--what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them.” Epistle to Diognetus 5-6 (ca. 130)

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