Friday: Our Highest Aim

Romans 12:2 In this week’s studies, we learn that if we are to avoid conforming to the world around us, we must learn to recognize God’s truth and pursue it.
Our Highest Aim

In 1989, Westerners were astounded by the political changes in Eastern Europe. Country after country repudiated its seventy-two-year Communist heritage and replaced its leaders with democratically elected officials. We rejoiced in these changes, rightly. But, though the American media with its blindness to things spiritual will not tell us, the changes in the Eastern bloc have not come about by the will of one person, Mikhail Gorbachev or any other, but by the spiritual vitality of the people. 

The strength of the Polish Solidarity movement, where the breakthrough first came, is that of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II has been a strong supporter of the people’s faith and dreams. 

In Romania, where President Nicolae Ceausescu just weeks before had declared that apple trees would bear pears before socialism should be endangered in Romania, the end began in the house of a Protestant pastor whose parishioners surrounded him, declaring that they were willing to die rather than let him be arrested by the state police.1

Willing to die? Ah, that is the only ultimately valid test of whether one is a practical materialist at heart, or whether one believes in something greater and more important than things. Do we? No doubt there are Westerners who are willing to die for things intangible. The blacks (and others) who were willing to die for civil rights during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s are examples. But today the masses of individuals in America no longer share this high standard of commitment and sacrifice. In 1978, during President Jimmy Carter’s abortive attempt to reinstate draft registration for the young, newspapers carried a photograph of a Princeton University student defiantly waving a poster marked with the words: “Nothing is worth dying for.” 

“But if nothing is worth dying for, is anything worth living for?” asks Charles Colson, who comments on this photograph in Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages.2 

Solzhenitsyn summarizes our weak thinking at this point when he says of today’s Americans, “Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during [these last] decades…. So who should now renounce all this? Why and for what should one risk one’s precious life in defense of common values?”3 

Christianity has an answer to that, and Christians in past ages have known it. It is to “gain a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35), which means to do what is right because what is right pleases God and that is what ultimately matters. But those who do that must be thinking Christians. 

1The generally neglected story of the role of the church in the changes that have come to Eastern Europe is told in part in the January 22, 1990, issue of National Review, “How the East Was Won: Reports on the Rebirth of Christianity under Communism,” 22-28. 

2Charles Colson, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1989), 33.

3Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart,” The 1978 Commencement Address at Harvard University, Harvard Gazette, June 8, 1978, 17.

Study Questions
  1. Why is the spiritual climate in the West inferior to that of Eastern Europe?
  2. What are the ultimate values of many Westerners?
  3. Why is a willingness to die a test of whether or not we are practical materialists?
  4. Who are some people from church history who were willingly martyred for their faith in Christ? What can you find out about them?

Reflection: What values are no longer held in the West as they once were? What accounts for this change?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Call to True Religion.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

For Further Study: Romans 12:1-2 has much to teach us about the importance of our minds, and what we both put into them and keep out of them. Order your copy of James Boice’s book, Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World, and receive 20% off the regular price.

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