According to English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), “The three great things that govern mankind are Reason, Passion and Superstition; the first governs a few, the two last share the bulk of mankind, and possess them in their turns; but superstition is most powerful, and produces the greatest mischiefs.”
It’s interesting that he uses the word “mischiefs”. Mischief is harm or trouble caused by someone or something. According to Locke the “bulk” of mankind is governed or ruled by its passions and superstitions. These two are the most likely to determine our behavior and reaction to any kind of circumstances. It makes sense. For example, when bad things happen we can be driven by our passions and superstitions to be upset, outraged, and up to no good. Our feelings can manifest themselves in all kinds of mischief and harm. We can become unreasonable and an unruly mob.
Reason, according to Locke, is only put in to practice by the few. This explains a lot when we look at humankind past and present. Instead of being logical, reasonable, or rational; we allow our passions or what we want to take over. Mischief takes the wheel. It leads us into chaos, anarchy, catastrophe, evil, misconduct, sabotage, vandalism, and wrongdoing. Yes, I consulted a thesaurus. The writer of the book of James understood where our desires could lead.
“But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 NIV
Not all of our passions are bad. God created us to be passionate. The problem is learning how to control our passions, even the good ones. We can overdo anything. If the “bulk” instead of the “few” of humankind used reason and rationality, we would achieve greater harmony or balance, and stay out of trouble.
We have a great resource that is available. One that is reasonable. Some may consider it a “superstition”, but it doesn’t promote mischief. It actually condemns it. Even though many would disagree, the Bible is practical, rational, and reasonable. It promotes harmony, balance, and unity, even with those who don’t believe or disagree with it.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
Jesus could have said it another way. “Love your enemy, even those you disagree with. Agree to disagree.” I’m not putting words in Jesus mouth, because earlier in the chapter He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, the merciful, and the meek.” Jesus wanted us to be reasonable even in the face of opposition.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, had three rules: “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.” These rules where inspired by the teachings of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want us to get carried away by our passions and beliefs to the point where we are causing harm or mischief. The Bible does not teach us to attack, judge, condemn, or hate. It teaches us to love, to be reasonable, and even to agree to disagree. Love your enemies or those in whom you disagree. If someone chooses not to believe in our faith or “superstitions”, it shouldn’t be a problem. God gives humankind permission to reject Him. Jesus never had a fit when He was rejected. However, He did get riled up when the religious leaders or His “own people” were judgmental, unjust, and/or hypocritical.
Several years ago, I read a book by Dan Kimball entitled, “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church”. According to Kimball, it’s not Jesus that people really have a problem with; it’s Christian subculture and the church. While, I don’t necessarily agree with all of Kimball’s conclusions, there is some truth to their rejection of Christian behavior and our “in your face” evangelism tactics.
“Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.” Romans 14:13 NIV
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV
Judgment is not my job. My job is to be a faithful follower of Christ, to “live such a good life among the pagans” or unbelievers that they may see God or Christ in me. Being passionate about what I believe is okay within reason. Passing judgment is unreasonable because I can never judge from a position of perfection. I can NEVER claim the moral high ground. I may not be guilty of what I’m judging someone else for, but I’m always guilty of something. Hypocrisy is a HUGE stumbling block. According to Dan Kimball and other writers that is one of the major chinks in our armor. Sometimes we are our own and God’s worst enemy. Instead of our behavior drawing people in, we are driving them away.
Are unbelievers guilty of being hypocritical? Of course they are, but we’re not supposed to be. We’re supposed to be authentic and honest about our weaknesses and point to the One who can heal our brokenness.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 NIV
“As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,” Acts 17:2 NIV
WOW! Instead of getting cocky, full of or drunk on myself, I can be reasonable and use “sober judgment”. If the Apostle Paul can do it, I can do it. I can be a faithful follower of Christ, trust in God’s word, care about others, and be reasonable. I don’t need to be mischievous or obnoxious. I can take a chill pill, live a life that points to Jesus, and let God do the rest.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the moms!
Hope you have a great weekend!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management