Men are captivated with the idea of self-denial, and then they invent ingenious ways to make self-denial comfortable and easy. Phillip Brooks
There is no one in the world who cannot arrive without difficulty at the most eminent perfection by fulfilling with love the obscure and common duties. Jean-Pierre de Caussade
The Kingdom of Heaven is not for the well-meaning: it is for the desperate. James Denney
Toil together one with another, struggle together, run together, suffer together, lie down together, rise up together, as God’s stewards and assessors and ministers. Please the Captain in whose army ye serve, from whom also ye will receive your pay. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism abide with you as your shield; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as your body armor. Let your works be your deposits, that ye may receive your assets due to you. … Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35-98?), Letter to Polycarp
Seems to me like the Sermon on the Mount has gone rogue in the hands of some within Evangelicalism. It is being used to buttress political utopianism without regard of the natural rights of American citizenry to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The personal words of Christ to the soul of the Christian is being used as a political platform for what nations are to do, without regard to the just rewards of American citizens who have earned their freedoms and prosperity through hard work, sacrifice the offering of their own children in times of war to defend that freedom and the watch care of divine providence. It seems calloused to me to say to other Americans that Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount now requires of them to compromise this flourishing through the self-abnegations Christ teaches us in this most famous of all sermons. In this prevalent utopianism we are being told that open borders is what Jesus would do. We are being told that military strength is not what Jesus would do. We are being told that our national project should be brought down a few notches so that we have more in common with the have-nots. We are being told that Jesus would favor income redistribution because Jesus in on the side of the poor. In other words, we are being told that the USA should become a church.
This is the wrong use of the Sermon on the Mount and is based on what has been called “one kingdom” theology. In this theological model the Bible is interpreted theocratically, that is, the essential paradigm is that through the Gospel not only individuals but nation states will be converted to do the will of Christ in salvation. This is in contrast to “two kingdom” theology which rejects theocracy for the nation state but maintains that it has its own sphere sovereignty in the plan of God to keep order in society through the administration of justice. The other spheres are that of the family and the state. Each of these have their own order and their own laws. When these spheres become one in this fallen world, we begin to mix apples and oranges. In the new heavens and the new earth they will be one, which they then can be because there is no sin, no need for a system of checks and balances to restrain sin and selfishness. In the meantime in this fallen world to require of the state that it be the church and model it leads to a utopianism that fails to take into account man’s need to be restrained in his evil.
This irrationality of utopianism, a la Bernie Sanders, Jim Wallis and company, must be opposed in the world of ideas. It is a civilizational death wish and self-loathing of an over consumptive society that has lost its regard for its true treasures, the dreams come true of flourishing democratic society that has a history of facing its shortcomings and rewarding its citizens with self-determination. As history has taught us so dramatically, social utopianism leads to the tyranny of the gun. Leftist interpretations of the Bible tend toward the use of force to make sure people obey the Sermon on the Mount. As counterintuitive as it seems, this has been the track record of utopianism. It must be opposed, if for no other reason than that people should live and not die.
Blessed is the one whom God corrects, Job 5:17 (NIV).
Happy, because the correction is designed to bring him into paths of pleasantness and peace.
Because there is no unnecessary severity in it.
Because the disciplinary stroke is in the place of ten thousand strokes of divine vengeance for our sins.
Because the chastisement is not so much against us, as against our most cruel enemies— our sins.
Because we have abundant words of consolation
Because the sacrifice of a broken heart, and of a contrite spirit, God despiseth not.
Because there is at such seasons an influx of most precious knowledge.
Because whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.
Because all the good have had experience of this.
Because Christ has said, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
Because our light affliction is but for a moment.
“When I have this [gift] righteousness reigning in my heart, I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile.” -Martin Luther