Christmas 2018

IF JESUS CHRIST HAD NEVER BEEN BORN…

Philip A Matthews © 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7—The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined… For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

 

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,

 It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth…

 

We have reached a time in the history of America and the world when we see Christianity falling in popularity and losing quite a bit of its luster and respectability in the eyes of society. There are reasons, of course: Catholic priest and other church scandals; the reluctance of Christianity to embrace same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and other so-called “enlightened” attitudes involving human sexuality; the alleged “hypocrisy” of evangelicals overlooking the immoralities and outrageous behaviors of President Trump; and so forth.

In such an atmosphere, there is always the temptation to reject religion and invalidate Christianity all together, but we have to be careful not to “throw out the baby with the dirty bath water!” In other words, we admit that Christianity has had its share of embarrassing scandals, problems, and human failings throughout history, but the principles and practices propagated by Jesus Himself and His disciples have brought about such profound and radical change in the world that they cannot be abandoned without negative consequences. So how would the world be if Jesus Christ had never been born?

Although it always involves a little conjecture and imagination when we talk about the “what if’s,” after looking back through the millennia of human history there are certain predictions, conditions, and expectations we can be pretty sure about. People are corrupt and self-centered, not naturally concerned about each other. Left to our own devices, we ALWAYS, “like sheep, go astray.” We have no light or good within ourselves, so if we just followed our own wishes and desires, the world would eventually be completely covered in DARKNESS. The evidence of encroaching darkness that we see every day—epidemic school shootings, modern day genocides, sexual immorality that is no longer immorality because who’s to say what’s right or wrong, sex trafficking and slavery, addiction and drug overdoses, racism that just won’t go away, greed, dishonesty, and corruption in the highest echelons of society—this is nothing new, just historically normal human nature and behavior. It always has been like this and always will be—unless something or Someone intervenes.

And that’s what Christmas is: A DIVINE INTERVENTION. GOD THE FATHER SENT JESUS CHRIST THE SON INTO THIS WORLD AND RADICALLY CHANGED IT FOREVER FROM TOP TO BOTTOM! This is undeniable whether a person believes in Him or not. He definitely changed things!

Jesus, through His miracle-working, 3-year ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection, would inspire and change the entire course of history forever, leaving the single greatest impact on humanity the world has ever known. There is very little evidence that we would enjoy living in this world if Jesus Christ had never been born. The changes He has directly caused have been profound, infinite, and eternal, whether the world today realizes it or not. The positive impact Jesus Christ and the Christian Church have made on the world in nearly every conceivable area—morality, health, sex, hospitals, art, music, charity, economics, government, science, education and the founding of America—has been extremely pervasive. But most people today don’t know it and take all this for granted. However, there was a time—before Jesus and His followers—when much of this did not exist.  This is what the world would be missing WITHOUT Jesus Christ:

  1. Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages—by Christians who believed they had the God-given responsibility to heal the sick. This was vastly different from the Greek, Roman, and even Jewish cultures, where the sick were cast aside and treated as inferior. Remember how Jewish society treated lepers and how the big crowd around Jesus condemned the woman with the chronic hemorrhaging problem. Though some in Greece and Rome got rudimentary medical care, it was only for the elite or soldiers. But care for ALL people, regardless of social class, status, and wealth, was a UNIQUELY Christian concept based on the revolutionary idea that all people have value as image-bearers of God. The Red Cross was started by Christians.                                                                                                         
  2. Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages. In addition, most of the world's greatest universities, e.g., Oxford, were started by Christian ministers for Christian purposes. Nearly everyone of the first 100 colleges and universities in American were started by Christians to teach students the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and out West, USC. And Christians started the first schools for the blind and schools for the deaf. Until they did, the blind and deaf were greatly neglected and despised.                                                                                          
  3. Literacy and education for the masses. America's public school system is part of the legacy of Puritan education. Public schools started in the churches of America—the little one-room school house was also the church house.                                                                                                                                                                       
  4. To this day, linguists are working all over the world, in the name of Jesus, to put native languages in written form and teach people to read the Bible. In other words, many native people would not have a written alphabet at all if it were not for Christian linguists who create an alphabet for them then teach them how to read and write!                                                                                                                                                                
  5. Capitalism and free-enterprise are based on the Puritan work-ethic.                                         
  6. The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times.

“Truly He taught us to LOVE one another.

His Law is LOVE, and His Gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,

And in His reign, all oppression shall cease”

(O Holy Night, verse 3).

On one hand, slave owners notoriously misinterpreted and twisted the Scriptures to support slavery. But abolitionists, who were inescapably Christian in their means, motives, and vocabulary, took the true message of Jesus to declare “slavery is sin” and America would need to repent from it to avoid God’s punishment. This was a very unpopular, politically-incorrect message, both then and now. Abolitionists, mobbed, shouted down, insulted, beaten, and burned out of their houses, fought for 30 years to successfully make the institution of slavery illegal in America. In England, William Wilberforce was a devout Christian whose persistent efforts ended slavery in the British Empire 30 years before the Emancipation Proclamation in America.

  1. Modem science. It was the Christian worldview—with its insistence on the rational order of the Universe and man's dominion over Creation—that gave rise to modern science.                                                                                                                          
  2. The elevation of women. Until Christianity, women were regarded as the “property of some man,” either her father or her husband. This was part of the Roman institution of “patria postestas,” power of the father. That is still the case in societies which have not yet been greatly influenced by Christianity. Women have virtually no rights. Girls seldom go to school, and sometimes are even starved and neglected. Girls infanticide has been practiced extensively in all societies for millennia. Entire Christian ministries in Asia exist only to find, feed, educate, and develop girls who have been neglected and abandoned by their families.

Indeed, this millennial-old bias against females has resulted in 63 million “missing” girls in India, that is, girls who should have been born but were aborted or otherwise eliminated. And there are 21 million “unwanted” girls.[1] It’s been estimated that there are 50 million more “missing” females in China[2]. In both of those countries, only a small percentage (1% and 8% respectively) of the population is Christian, thus having never been blessed with the principles that make all human lives valuable and worth saving.

In many cultures, women weren’t permitted to speak in public and were restricted as to when they could leave their homes. This is still true in many Muslim societies. In Roman culture, men weren’t expected to be faithful to their wives and openly obtained mistresses.  In fact, men were permitted to have their wives or daughters executed under some circumstances. Even in the Jewish tradition the testimony of women was thought to be unreliable, and women whose husbands had died or divorced them were at the mercy of whatever evil intent the men in their communities could devise. This occurs even today in many societies, e.g., India, where widows are often forced into prostitution to survive or at minimum forced to sleep with their landlords for rent. Ministries like Gospel for Asia are teaching these women job skills to avoid these unsavory conditions.

But the dignity of women was originally taken up by followers of Christ in the centuries after His birth. Jesus interacted with women in a dignifying way and the early Christians carried his example forth, as women were educated the same as men in Christian education institutions. The spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire correlated with a drop in infanticide practiced on baby girls because Christians were the first to abandon infanticide. Eventually Romans gave women more rights, including property rights, which came from the influence of Christianity, and marriage came to be viewed as monogamous.

  1. Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic. Pagans were surprised that Christians not only took care of their own needy people, but also provided for other people’s poor. The whole idea that people are supposed to help the unfortunate and downtrodden of society is uniquely Christian in its origin. The world wasn’t doing this before Jesus.                                                                                                                       
  2. Representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment. The separation of political powers. Civil liberties. Equal rights. Higher standards of justice. The elevation of the common man. High regard for all of human life. This is based on the “self-evident” truth that “All men are created equal.” But how is this even a true statement? We certainly don’t have equal opportunities, talents, and abilities. We are equal ONLY because God loves each of us the same. This truth is a Christian truth, and for this reason, Christians have tried to treat all others fairly—rich and poor, men and women, young and old, able and disabled, black and white.                                                                                                                   
  3. [Warning: Some of this may be politically-incorrect and offensive to others. However, it is still the biblical position but won’t be argued here.] The condemnation of adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions. This has helped to preserve the human race, and it has spared many from heartache. In fact, moral standards for human sexuality have been completely revolutionized by Christianity—although sexual immorality is still rampant in all societies.  Today, society has rejected Christian sexual morality, and just about anything goes regarding human sexuality.

This degeneration has resulted in many social ills we have no answers for and can barely deal with or pay for:

  • High rates of what was once called “illegitimacy:” Almost half (48%) of American children are born out-of-wedlock,[3] thus resulting in a greater chance of fatherlessness. Compared to children born within marriage, children born to cohabiting parents are three times as likely to experience father absence, and children born to unmarried, non-cohabiting parents are four times as likely to live in a father-absent home.[4]                                                                                                  
  • Fatherlessness—Almost 1 of 4 (23.6%) or 20 million kids live without fathers,[5] with all of its accompanying negatives. Fatherless homes account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of homeless, runaway children, 85% of children with behavioral disorders, 71% of all high school dropouts, 85% of youths in prison, and over 50% of teen mothers[6]. Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime. They are nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.[7] The University of Virginia cautiously estimates that the cost to US taxpayers when stable families fail to form is $112 billion per year, over $1 trillion per decade![8]                                                                                                        
  • Epidemic STD/STIs—According to the CDC, the US is experiencing steep and sustained increases in STDs. There are 2.3 million new cases per year, which is an increase of 31% overall from 2013 to 2017. Gonorrhea is up 67%, and syphilis up 76% during that short 4-year period![9] One in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25. 80% of sexually-active people will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives. About 1 in 8 people aged 14-49 in the U.S. has genital herpes, and 1 in 2 people aged 14-49 in the U.S. is infected with HSV-1, which is the typical cause of oral herpes and increasingly the cause of genital herpes as well. And, according to the CDC, 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV. The total estimated direct cost of STIs annually in the U.S. is about $16 billion.[10] A mutually monogamous relationship where both people have been tested for STDs and both partners are faithful is generally considered to be one of low STD risk. Biblically-defined marriage is such a relationship.

           What does Christian sexual morality include? The first tenet is that ALL sexual activity must be within the confines of marriage. Anything outside of marriage between one man and one woman for one life would be immoral. This includes premarital sex, extramarital sex, free and easy no-fault divorce, incest, bestiality, pornography, transgenderism, and homosexuality (because there can be no moral same-sex “marriage” under the Christian definition of marriage). If it’s sexual activity of any type not happening between married couples, then it is immoral according to Christian standards.

 Needless to say, this standard is very rarely practiced now, but if it were, society would bypass dozens of intractable social ills. Families would be formed properly and stay intact more often, and society would reap the many benefits. It is a proven fact that when the family collapses, society soon follows.                                                                                           

  1. Greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art. So much of the world’s literature, art, and music would not exist if it had not been created for the Christian Church: Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Stravinsky, Brahms, Schubert, and even Beethoven created music for the church. Michelangelo and Leonardo created great art masterpieces for the church.                                                                                                            
  2. The eternal salvation of countless souls, even among many barbarian and primitive cultures! This is the primary goal of the spread of Christianity. All the other benefits listed are basically just by-products of what Christianity has often brought when applied to daily living. When Jesus Christ took upon Himself the “form of man” (Philippians 2:7), He imbued mankind with a dignity and inherent value that had never been dreamed of before. Whatever Jesus touched or whatever He did transformed that aspect of human life. Many people will read about the innumerable small incidents in the life of Christ while never dreaming that those casually mentioned "little" things were to transform the history of humankind.                                                                                          
  3. But there is ONE great principle common to almost ALL of the above benefits: THE LIFE-CHANGING TRUTH THAT GOD LOVES AND VALUES EACH OF US EQUALLY AND PROFOUNDLY. The idea that we ALL bear the image of God and thus ALL have INHERENT VALUE is perhaps the most radical idea the world has ever known!

This truth that we ALL have inherent value because God loves each of us REVOLUTIONIZES LIFE because, when GOD REVEALS HIS LOVE to a person, it changes his/her SELF-WORTH and VALUE! Having a knowledge of one’s Self-Worth/Self-Esteem from God LIBERATES and FREES, changing a person’s BEHAVIOR and QUALITY OF LIFE! It is easily observed that when life is cheap, people self-destruct, mistreat others, disregard the rights of the individual, and in general, live only a step or two above animals. All of the evil and degradation, hatred, genocides, self-centeredness, and maltreatment of others that have characterized human life for millennia is a direct result of people’s lack of knowledge of how valuable we really are to God. As eternal souls made in the image of the eternal God, we spend our lives struggling for significance when God says to each of us, through the gift of Jesus Christ, “You’re infinitely valuable, and I love you unconditionally—no matter who you are!”

And this is where the Christmas carol, “O Holy Night,” comes in again:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth…”

It is absolutely essential for us to feel our worth. God did this by miraculously showing us His love—by sending us Jesus Christ. This LOVE has “raised the sons of Earth” and given His true followers the heart-felt, soul-lifting joy and confidence that they are infinitely, spiritually special. God loves them, God is for them, God is with them (Emmanuel means “God with us”), and there is NOTHING in this world that can DEFEAT them, DESTROY them, DAMAGE them, or DEVALUE them as long as God infinitely and unconditionally LOVES them. They are then FREE to LOVE others instead of only themselves, FREE to risk their lives for others, FREE to do what is morally right no matter the consequences, FREE to find joy in all circumstances, and FREE to live without FEAR! They are WINNERS, FOREVER AND ONLY!

THUS, HAVING GOD’S LOVE AS YOUR OWN MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD, AND JESUS CHRIST ENCAPSULATES GOD’S LOVE! Jesus embodied the depths of God’s love for Creation, showing that “God so loved the world that He would give His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16).

THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON, DO YOU FEEL YOUR WORTH?

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!

 

 

Sources for this article include: (a) Dr. D. James Kennedy, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, 1984. https://www.amazon.com/WHAT-JESUS-NEVER-BEEN-BORN/dp/0849920795;  (b) “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?”, The Journal, Volume 11 Issue 12, December 2011;  (c) Phil Ryken, “What If Jesus Was Never Born?”, Window on the World, December 11, 2005;  (d) D. James Kennedy, “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?”, https://www.truthaccordingtoscripture.com/documents/apologetics/jesus-never-born.php#.XAzbcttKjlW.

 

[1] https://nypost.com/2018/01/30/this-is-why-63-million-girls-are-missing-in-india/.

[6] “The Fatherless Generation,” WordPress. https://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/

Comments
No comments yet.