“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21
Why is our conversation so conflict laden? Why do we accuse one another rather than listen with a rational open mind? All compromise and reason is gone. A line has been drawn between two major mindsets in our country devoid of common sense. It has not been caused by any one or many persons, but by one antagonist. He is as a tree that known by its fruit; in his case, EVIL. We can no longer speak to each other constructively. Not because we are not on the same page, but, rather, because we are no longer in the same book. Life is the issue, not death. Death can be obtained from life, but not life from death. Leastwise, not in the mind of the worldly whose faith is ill-placed. What we give our hearts to will root us in light or darkness; life or death. We must choose.
The pre-culture of death entertainment industry, 1950’s and earlier, produced “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ”. It won eleven academy awards in 1959. In 2004, “The Passion of the Christ,” received not one nomination in any category. Religious films once revered have now become reviled. More movies today are made of the demonic than faith based. Most that are faith based will not be found promoted by the established entertainment industry. The driving out of God from much of our daily lives as a nation – prayer removed from schools, the onset of the sexual revolution and, again, the metamorphosis of the movie industry – are a few of the events that have spearheaded a culture of death and convenience which has us where we are today. Distrust, anxiety and disharmony are at a peak due to a pervasive double standard of justice. It seems as though national tension is at its breaking point. Common sense, with reverence for natural law, for those who still possess it or are willing to acknowledge such, tells us that we have been headed in the wrong direction for nearly the last seven decades. Spurred on by raw emotion and subjective truth, we find ourselves on a slippery slope destined for destruction. Either from without or from within are threatened body, mind and spirit.
What can heal the hardened heart? For it is so conditioned by selfishness, enflamed by the antagonist; the Prince of Lies. Those who have been so seduced by him have become, wittingly or unwittingly, his disciples. He first encourages, then condemns. His method inculcates every vice through the perversion of each corresponding virtue. Any means necessary is an acceptable practice, no matter who is hurt, in the process to achieve the end goal. Along with this practice comes an admittance, that the harmful effects of perpetrations against a brother or sister of humanity may trouble one’s conscience, because it is inherent in each of us that to bring harm to another is a violation of the golden rule and an affront to God. We know such actions against the perpetrator would not be willingly tolerated by him if the shoe were on the other foot. Yet, though we may turn our backs on GOD, does He, likewise, turn His back on us?
Juda Ben Hur, was a Jewish prince, and man of business. He is betrayed by his boyhood friend, Masala, an officer in the Roman army after Hur refused to become an informant for the Roman Empire. Hur is sentenced to row in the galley of the Roman fleet and his mother and sister are imprisoned. All are left for dead. Yet Juda survives and gets his revenge against Masala during a chariot race in Rome. His mother and sister, although too still alive, develop leprosy from the abhorrent prison conditions and are banished to a leper colony. When compelled to do so by the woman he would marry, Ester, Hur, though not a believer, agrees to bring his mother and sister to Christ to encourage them in their suffering. Hate still held his heart captive, not having been quenched by the vengeance served upon Marsala. For it was not Marsala, but the ever present dominance of Rome – that ruined the lives of he, his, family, Marsala and his countrymen – which continues to fuel his hate. While witnessing the crucifixion he heard Christ say at the instant of His death; “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
When Juda returned home from the crucifixion he told Ester: “It was then that His voice took the sword from my hand.” At that moment his mother and sister, who had earlier returned from the interrupted visit with Christ, entered the room cleansed of leprosy. Their faith had healed them by Christ’s sacrifice. To know Juda’s story is to know the events that so apparently had irreparably hardened his heart. Yet, through only the sacrifice of the Lamb of God was his heart healed. No worldly condition could have done so. At the crucifixion it was revealed to him that love, not vengeance, is the conqueror of injustice wrought by evil. Love restores, hate destroys. Love is God, hate is Satan. Love is life, hate is death. Satan lost at his moment of victory. For in Christ giving His life for all mankind unto the forgiveness of sins, so, too, does death lose its sting and Satan is made irrelevant for those who choose to align their wills with God.
God was a relentless pursuer of Juda. He loved him so much that He gave him every opportunity to let go of hate and to embrace love, which is God Himself. What was done for Juda is done for us all. Just when we think that God has left us for good, it is then that we need but look over our shoulder, and there He is still. In avoiding God we affirm Satan’s own relentlessness. For every void must be filled. There are no empty spaces. Even in our hearts. That which releases good makes way for evil. When we turn from God, though we believe we are doing our own thing; in truth, eventually, we are doing Satan’s thing.
As with us all, Juda’s heart was restless. And so shall each heart remain should we not persist in seeking that which this world cannot give; absolute truth, perfect love and eternal life. Saint Augustine said it best: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
In Francis Thompson’s poem: “The Hound Of Heaven,” Francis is relentlessly pursued by God despite his every effort to elude Him. I include the poem below linked, for convenience, to read should any wish to return to this post when time may be less limited. But I will provide here the opening excerpt:
I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasmed hears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
All things betray thee who betrayest me.
G.K. Chesterton called it the greatest poem in modern English. He described it as a “many-coloured pageant of images and words” that had “the power of Dante”:
The awakening of the Domini canes, the Dogs of God, meant that the hunt was up once more; the hunt for the souls of men; and that religion of that realistic sort was anything but dead . . . . and that the hunt will continue until the world turns to bay.