“We got a thousand points of light for the homeless man, we got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand. We got department stores and toilet paper, got styrofoam boxes, for the ozone layer, got a man of the people, says keep hope alive, got fuel to burn, got roads to drive. Keep on rockin’ in the free world.” – Neil Young, Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World
The preacher had a great message yesterday at Twin Rivers Church in Columbia, MD. (Please, don’t take that as an indication that his other messages aren’t great – I just don’t always reference them in a post.) If you care to take a listen, the online sermons can be found here.
Anyway, the message was about the healing of the lame man lying beside the pool in John 5. The allegorical reference would be that we as people tend to get comfortable with the mats, the crutches in our lives and lay there even when healing, deliverance, and restoration are at hand. We’ll be back to the mat in a second … first, let me go down a sidetrack for a second …
A few days back I wrote “Kids Applying to Run the Candy Store,” talking about some theologically absurd arguments that people use to justify their various positions. For instance, one young lady used “forgive us our debts” from the Lord’s prayer as an argument for a government policy that erases all student loan debt.
Another instance involved the standard left-right argument over the role of government in dealing with poverty or other social ills. For the record, my position on the issue of government solutions to poverty is that they are an egregious violation of the Golden Rule. In a democracy, a government-run solution amounts to a 51% majority dictating benevolent behaviors on the rest – and often using the money (that is, the life, liberty, and property) of the rest in the process. This isn’t how I want to be treated, so I find any support of such programs out-of-bounds on the simplest of moral grounds.
Note that in this argument I never claim “private enterprise will rise to meet the need.” I certainly hope that it will, but I don’t need to make such an argument. I stand by the original point as is. The old saying goes that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The forced extraction of life, liberty, and property for purposes other than the defense of those basic human rights is wrong, no matter how benevolent the end may be.
And yet, the second level of the argument is not meaningless. It is useful to consider what might happen if we did the right thing and ended all of these majority-rule benevolence programs. Would the individuals, the private citizens, the free people stand to fill the gap and meet the needs of the poor? I hope so. They wouldn’t need anywhere near the same level of funding (in some cases better than 70% of the federal funding of such programs iswasted). Further, the individual nature of the efforts is almost certain to bring about better results. But are we, the people who claim to want freedom, prepared to live with it?
Are we prepared to live without the mat, without the safety blanket? If the solution that we logically (and rightly, to my mind) advocate were given to us free and clear, would we be prepared to live in such a world?
Healing isn’t just healing. Freedom isn’t just freedom. When Jesus healed the man beside the pool, he didn’t just give him the use of his legs back so that his life would be easier than it was before. He gave him a totally and completely different life, and one that had much greater responsibilities and requirements. This poor fellow who had laid by the pool for “a long time” now had to get up and go live a life that was completely and utterly foreign to him. Not only did he have to get up and go make a living for himself, doing things he likely had never done before (until now he just laid there) – but the Lord added a call to holiness as well in John 5:14: Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
This is an encouraging thing, but a daunting one as well. If you are praying to God for something this morning, you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared for what will happen if He gives you exactly what you want. (That’s not to say the Lord only acts for those who are mentally prepared.) If you’ve grown accustomed to the crutch (security blanket?) that you want removed, then are you really prepared to live without it? If you’re asking the Lord to heal you from a deadly disease, then be prepared for the fact that He may well heal you, and ask of you a bigger, bolder life for Him on the back end. Be ready for that.
For those of us who apply the same thought to public policy, we need to be prepared for the prospect of freedom. If the government does the right thing, and takes away the theocratic-benevolence programs, then there will be a great call for aid from the poorest among us. Whether we are ready to answer that call does not obviate the need to have freedom in this country. But whether or not we are ready to answer may have a significant impact on our disposition as we stand before the Lord. Are we ready to live in a land that gets healed? Are we ready to shoulder the burden of what the Lord will demand if/when we are able to walk again?