Anchored to the Past
We are going to begin a Fall series today, which we have been seeing a need for, for some time, which touches on two cross over areas of theology: Christian Anthropology and Kingdom Ethics.
What is Christian anthropology?
Anthropology is the study of what makes us human – it looks at human where humans came from, human behaviour and how humanity formed cultures and society.
Christian anthropology looks at our humanity through the lens of the Bible.
What is Kingdom ethics?
Ethics is the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles which govern people’s behaviour.
Whilst within societies there are many different ways of doing life and value systems which underpin what is acceptable behaviour, within a society people’s ethics generally move to a common conscientious.
Kingdom Ethics looks at the virtues and value systems which underpin our behaviours as followers of Christ.
Why do a study on Christian Anthropology and Kingdom ethics?
What is the least read part of your Bible? According to BibleGateway.com it is:
- 2 John
- 3 John
Let’s refine it down some more to parts of the Bible that are the least read.
What is the least read part of Matthew’s Gospel?
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.
Papyrus served as the significant writing medium for the New Testament just as leather did for the Old Testament. Matthew needed about a 35 foot (10m) roll for his Gospel.
In Jesus’ day, papyrus was expensive. You couldn’t just head to your local Staples and pick up a papyrus of 500 sheets for $6.99.
The papyrus for Matthew’s Gospel would cost 2,600 Denarii (1 Denarii = CAD$100) for paper alone, which in todays money would be the equivalent to CAD$260,000.
There are 18,346 words in Matthews gospel = $14 per word.
Here is my point. Every word counts a lot. So for Matthew to write a 235 word genealogy (@$14 per word = $3,290) it meant this genealogy was important.
This is not the only genealogy in the Bible. In fact there are about 25 genealogical lists in the Bible. Apparently the Jews had a thing for knowing where you came from. But why did they think knowing where you come from important?
The genealogies of scripture had both material and spiritual values.
- Genesis Genealogies and World Population
- Bible Genealogies and the Nation of Israel
- Bible Genealogies and the Messianic Line
Knowing the heritage and origins of a person is important for the people of God.
Take a look at this: Youtube clip
NZ Maori Gang Problem
If you hear the country name New Zealand, what automatically comes to mind? Beauty, pristine, unspoilt…
It may surprise you but one thing New Zealand is infamous for is its problem with gangs. It is reckoned to have one of the highest membership rates in the world. In a population of 4.7m in 2017, police count over 5,300 gang members. To put this in perspective, the NZ Army has only 4,500 recruits.
Three-quarters of the NZ’s gangsters come from one segment of NZ society – the Maori people. As sociologists have sought to understand this phenomenon they recognize that there are a number of key factors that play into this, poverty being one. But there is another contributing factor, the loss of identity. The Maori people for many millennia were tribal people. Tribal people have a different sense of identity than us individualized Westerners. They get their identity from the being a part of a community as opposed to just referencing themselves. When a person looses this it created a sudden sense of being lost. Gangs are so popular because in a way they are a surrogate tribe. When you forget where you came from you become lost.
I want to propose to you that this problem of loosing our identity, by disconnecting from the past is not just a Maori problem. It is a worldwide phenomena. People are wanting to understand who they are and where they came from because they don’t know where they have come from.
Life without God Doesn’t make sense
In the middle of the bible is a strange book. I don’t know if you have read it? It is called Ecclesiastes:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who will come after.
Ecclesiastes is a strange book and you could be left wondering how it made the cut of the Bible?
What’s even stranger is that it was written by Solomon, who was the wisest person that every lived and the most wealthy person that ever lived – Not your normal candidate for such pessimism.
Yet he writes this book of meaningless-hopelessness that if you were not depressed before you read it you sure enough will be by the end of it.
The book looks at lots of different aspects of living:
- A. Science (the laws of nature), Chapter 1:4-11
- B. Wisdom and philosophy, Chapter 1:12-18
- C. Pleasure, Chapter 2:1-11
- D. Materialism Chapter 2:12-26
- E. Fatalism, Chapter 3:1-15
- F. Egoism, Chapters 3:16—4:16
- G. Religion, Chapter 5:1-8
- H. Wealth, Chapters 5:9—6:12
- I. Morality (the “good life”), Chapters 7:1—12:12
His take on life is that the entirety of life is meaningless from every angle.
What is the point of the book?
There is a phrase that repeats itself over and over again at least 20 times throughout the book. The phrase is, “under the sun”.
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun? (1:3)
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (1:14)
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun. (2:11)
Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (2:17)
What Solomon means by the phrase “under the sun” is a life without God being a part of it.
God lives above the sun. To live below the sun is to live life without God.
Solomon’s grand discovery was that no matter how much success you have in live, how great life is, how much fun you have, how much knowledge you have, how deep your personal relationships may be, life without God is meaningless; vanity – Like chasing the wind.
In other words, you can only truly know who your are when you are rightly related to your Creator and life will not be meaningless vanity. Whilst, there is huge benefit to reconnecting to your ancestry, as I have shown you, it stops one step short of what people are looking for. Anthropology without God will never fully satisfy the ache in your heart to tell you whose you are. What these people are truly hungering for us to discover who their daddy is.
God is our Father
We are going to look at this more in weeks to come, but the Bible tells us that everyone one of our linages can be traced back to the father and mother of humanity: Adam and Eve.
1 This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. 3 And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. 5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
6 Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. 7 After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. 8 So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died.
9 Enosh lived ninety years, and begot [a]Cainan. 10 After he begot Cainan, Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years, and had sons and daughters. 11 So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died.
You are no accident. You were created in the image of God.
Though the Fall marred this image in us, people are still God’s image-bearers who, though incomplete, like flowers in bud, can be slowly coaxed into full bloom by God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Kingdom Ethics: People Act out Who they Are
So what has this got to do with Ethics?
People act out who they believe they are.
In other words, you reveal through your behaviour who you believe you are.
When Meghan Marlke became the Duchess of Sussex after she married Prince Harry, it was reported in the papers that she would regularly visit with the Queen. The purpose of these lists was that Queen wanted to ensure that the Duchess knew the customs and value systems of the Royal Household. But in reality Megan Marlke will struggle in the Royal Household, not through want nor trying, but because she is not a Royal at heart. Children reveal whose they are.
The largest combined material in the Synoptics devoted to the teaching of Christ is something called the Sermon on the Mount. It is the ethics of the Kingdom:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the [a]earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Sermon on the Mount can come across as a list of laws at first glance.
It sounds like the Law.
But Kingdom ethics is not the Law (the 10 Commandments) dressed up in drag. It is not about setting a list of absolutes “thou shalts”, or “though shalt nots.”
In the Sermon on the Mount there is a phrase Jesus repeats throughout the message that is key to understanding it.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Sons of the Kingdom live out the virtues of the Kingdom. Your value system causes you to live out your life in such a way that dignifies your value.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the [e]right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:12 [Right = Authority/power]
Lion King is the Lion King
In the movie the Lion King, Rafiki the Great High Priest leads Simba on a journey to rediscover who he is.
Simba asks Rafiki “Who are you?” Rafiki replies, “The Question is who are you?”
Simba regretfully responds, “I thought I knew, but now I am not so sure”
Rafiki goes on to tell him, “You are Mufasa’s boy.”
Simba asks excitedly about his dead father, “You knew my father.”
Rafiki corrects him, “Correction, I know your Father.”
Fafiki goes on to show Simba that something of his father lives on in him.
Because Simba had forgotten who he was he was not dignifying who he was.