By Ronald W. Kirk
Theology Editor, Nordskog Publishing Inc.
As a long time teacher, I know how hard it is to get peoples’ attention—young people’s attention especially. Things like America’s early history, Pilgrims, Founding Fathers and Constitutions and such may not make much sense to those who live on the Internet, IPods, video games, texting, hanging out—whatever. Do I really have to listen to another geezer talking at me?
Let’s give this a try. Have you ever had trouble getting along with other people? Have you ever had a bully pick on you? Have you ever been hurt or troubled by others for apparently no good reason? No one likes being picked on by a bully. And by the way, why are there so many of them?!
Bullies have always been one of our biggest problems. This is so because of a problem deep inside every one of us. This problem is known as sin. Sin is something powerful and selfish. It controls us from birth.
When we were babies, we cried if we didn’t get our way instantly. We cried for no reason! We always wanted something. When we grew a little older, if we had a toy and our friend had a toy, we would want both toys! We would try to take them, and we would even hurt our friend, or brother or sister, just to get our own way, to get that toy. We always wanted attention. Attention might not make us happy, but we wanted it anyway.
Some of us had wise parents. They gently corrected us, little by little. Sometimes they even punished us to help us learn a better way. Jesus gave us the better way: Love God and love your neighbor. We love by doing things for the good of the other person. It is the exact opposite of selfishness.
When we started becoming wiser ourselves, we realized that as more people did good to each other, the happier we were. (If you haven’t yet learned this yourself, it is true. God designed the world so that it is comfortable when many people are loving, and it is very bad and very uncomfortable when people are selfish.)
Interestingly, people without wise parents, tend to grow up with that in-born selfishness stuck in their hearts. The longer they allow sinful selfishness to grow, the meaner it gets.
People who continue to harbor their own sinful selfishness become uglier and uglier in their conduct. They become greater and greater bullies as they selfishly try to satisfy that something missing in their lives. They think controlling other people and taking things away from them will make them happy, but it never does. They actually become more and more miserable. Many of these people become thieves and murderers. They destroy other peoples’ lives and their own.
Some of these selfish people learn how to control other people officially. In an official job, official bullies use their power to make others do things or to stop them from doing things. Sometimes we work for bullies in our jobs. Bad parents might selfishly use their children as servants. Do this, and do that, they say. Good parents do some of this, too, to teach children how to be responsible for their own actions—self-governed and loving. But, some parents bully their children just to make themselves comfortable. (We parents must work hard to make sure we do not become bullies!)
Thoughtless parents teach their children to become selfish in the same way that they are selfish. They may not mean to do so, but it happens just the same. The children think, okay, I must take what I can get, when I can get it. They grow up that way, always hardening their hearts, and if they don’t seek Jesus’ help, they will get worse and worse. They will hurt others. They will hurt themselves. They will likely help to make bullies of other people.
This is the way of the world, young people. It has been so since Adam, throughout all of history.
God’s work throughout history has been to help people get along with Him and each other. He does this in two ways. First, He gives us rules to live by. The more people who follow those rules, the better life is for you and for me. These rules are found in the Bible. The Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Two Commandments are at the basis of these rules. The whole Bible teaches us that many other good rules grow out of these basic ones.
The second thing He does for us is to make us new, in our hearts. He makes us able to live well, to be loving and not bullies. He sends us His Comforter, the One Who Comes Alongside to Help. His Holy Spirit makes us able to love, to be unselfish, to treat others well, and to be happy with who we are. God Himself fills up the empty place in our hearts that we have been trying to fill the wrong way since we were babies. If we had wise parents, they trained our minds and hearts, our habits and manners to receive this gift of life, for when the time came, to fill us up with it.
Okay, but what does this have to do with the United States Constitution? I’m glad you asked. That means you are still paying attention!
The world is full of bullies. They’re everywhere! Sometimes they’re us! It is hard not to be a bully! Sometimes bullies have even convinced their neighbors that God made them head bullies to tell everyone else what to do! In very ancient times, they called themselves gods, such as the Egyptian pharaohs and Roman caesars. Later in history, they said God gave them the right to bully other men. These are called kings, governors and other names. Even Christians have practiced these things. (People, all of us, are very slow learners. It is hard not to be a bully, even for the good guys.)
The bullies keep reproducing themselves. Bullying was so widespread in history, that it took about 1600 years from the time of Christ, likely more than a hundred of your lifetimes so far, to get good understanding of these things. The job of government is to protect the people from the bullies. Yet, the selfish bullies somehow learned how to control other people using government. The kings seem mostly to have been bullies.
Finally, some good guys said to themselves, you know, I’m really tired of these bullies picking on us and ruining everyone’s’ lives. They make it hard to serve God and to live the right way. They said to themselves, Dude! There has to be a better way! (They didn’t exactly use those words, but that was the basic idea.)
Then those we know as our Founding Fathers, read their Bibles and said, you know, God did give a better way! Christians found the answers in the Bible. Then they formed an agreement, a Constitution, for getting along with each other better, to form a more perfect union. The Constitution is bully-control! It took some tough heroes to beat the bullies, real men and real women heroes. There were even child heroes.
After they successfully fought off the bullies, the British in this case, Americans found that the best way to get along with their neighbors was to make an agreement or covenant. In a covenant, we say out loud what the rules of the agreement are, so every knows them. Then we all submit to those rules for everyone’s good. For example, you submit to family and school rules so that you can get a good education with accomplished skills. Then when you are grown, you can live prosperously and contribute goodness to others. If you won’t abide by the rules, you can’t really get an education. Education needs your cooperation. Neither can those around you get an education if you are rebellious, because sinful bullying never stays put, but spreads everywhere and affects everyone. It only takes one bully to spoil a classroom. (By the way, good Christians try to help the bullies to become better, if possible. Again, one of the ways to help the bully is to stop him from bullying. Other ways include showing him how much better things can be. Sadly, not all bullies will listen.)
Using such this idea of covenant, the Constitution of the United States—our national covenant or agreement—was designed to make it hard for the bullies to take over and run our lives. It has worked pretty well, though never perfectly—for we are slow learners. It is hard to live well and do the right thing. Sometimes it is hard to know what the right thing even is, because our hearts can deceive us. So, admitting the Founding Fathers and the Constitution were not perfect, we can say our national system for getting along with each other is the best that history ever knew. God must get the glory for this. We are helpless when it comes to sin. But what is impossible for men is possible for God.
Another important element of the United States Constitution is that freedom is good for us. If we don’t hurt other people, the government should leave us alone. If we do hurt people, we need to be stopped. This is called justice. (There are right ways and wrong ways to stop bullies, by the way. Right ways are called due process. Due process helps stop new bullies from gaining power.) Another part is whatever we can do for ourselves in our homes and neighborhoods, shouldn’t be done by people farther away, because it is harder to keep an eye on them. So, the Constitution says the national leaders cannot do anything, except what the Constitution allows them to do. Also, we break up power so that no one can grab too much of it. The more power a bully has, the more damage he does. Another idea of our national covenant, the Constitution, includes choosing wise representatives to rule—people we can trust to do the job.
Your hearing this lesson today is important because the bullies are coming back in strength. Many people make promises to take care of us if only we will let them be our head bullies. History tells us we can’t trust those people. In the old days, they used to say we need to bind the hands of the tyrants (another word for bullies).
So, if we are going to be a free people, if we are ever going to stop the bullies from taking over, every one of us needs to know the good rules for getting along with each other. We need to learn how to use them in our homes and neighborhoods and schools. We need to practice asking for God’s help. When we grow up, we need to be involved in our neighborhoods and communities—not to take over because we think we’re smarter—that is what the bullies do. We need to know how to make good covenants, with good rules, and we need the ability to control ourselves so that we keep our promises to do good to our neighbors.
Curiously, the only places in history where any amount of bully-control has had any amount of success is where godly people, those who believe in God and His Bible, decide to live for Jesus and by His ways. The more people live to love God and love their neighbor, the more good comfort the people experience. The more the bullies control things, the worse things are.
I pray that any young person who reads or hears this will make every effort to live well, christianly and unselfishly, so as not to be a bully. (Remember how easy it is to be one!) I pray also that he or she will be like America’s Founding Fathers, and be a part of the solution to keep the bullies from taking over. This means learning all the Good Rules for getting along with others. It means being involved in politics. We cannot be saved by politics—by bully-control—because sin is our basic problem and it is in all of us. We need God’s Gospel plan first. But then, we can protect the life, liberty and property of our neighbors and ourselves—the life, liberty and property we need to do
the work of the Gospel for Christ’s kingdom. This is everyone’s job.
If the Foundations be Destroyed, what can the Righteous Do? (Psalm 11:3). Young people, we mustn’t let that happen.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by www.nordskogpublishing.com and is reprinted by permission. © ron kirk, 2010.