The Joy List; Invitation
A “prosperity-theology” take on what I’l like to blog about this Summer might be to “manifest prosperity.” But that would be selfish and shallow. Another, maybe not churchy angle might be using the law of attraction to bring about happiness and contentment. But for me, that still seems kind of self-centered or immature.
I’d like to look at something anchored in love and that will build relationships and community, not just “actualize” personal peace. What I want to think about and maybe even begin a discussion about will involve wrestling and reflection and maybe even doubt and struggle and emotional and intellectual work- but I don’t want it to devolve into just a self-help practice for self improvement in a secular/philosophical sense or a new kind of piety and purity practice or “works-righteousness” in a theological/religious sense.
I want to keep it real, genuine, authentic, honest, and basically “raw.”
I want to talk to seekers and thinkers, people open to conversation and exploration of philosophy and “spirituality” and basically being human. But I don’t want to hide or water-down my background and faith tradition to do that. But I also don’t want to be judgy or preachy or bossy.
Meanwhile, I also really want to talk to my “fellow believers” in order to encourage them to reflect and reconsider and allow themselves to be vulnerable to conversation without being on the defensive, or rushing to correct every ambiguity or subjectivity.
Mahatma Gandhi lawyer, human rights activist and political founding father or modern India read from the Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7) nearly every morning and evening for over forty years. “Christ’s Sermon on the Mount fills me with bliss even today,” he said “Its sweet verses have even today the power to quench my agony of soul.”
Humorist and science fiction author Kurt Vonnegut, famously questioned why, if Americans so often talk about this being a “Christian nation,” so many courthouses and government buildings have monuments to the ten commandments (Exodus 20) and not the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), after all, these are the very words of Jesus Christ, whereas the commandments come from the Mosaic books of the Jewish Bible.
We live in hard times. Inflation, high gas prices, political polarization, media saturation, school shootings, wars, international tension, the recent global pandemic, a resurgence of racism and antisemitism, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, drug abuse and suicide. Wouldn’t it be nice to find some bliss instead of so much angst?
To be honest, I don’t know whether the Sermon on the Mount is gonna be some kind of panacea. I’m cynical enough to bite my tongue when well meaning but perhaps inexperienced or just empathy-challenged Christians talk about how believing in Jesus made everything better.
Now, I’m also skeptical when non-Christians talk about the power of positive thinking or visualizing their goals or just making up their minds that they deserve better and that’s when things change.
But I also know that just “doom-scrolling” social media or channel surfing cable news (in or out of an echo chamber) certainly isn’t helping me cope or doing my mental health any good.
So, if you want to find out with me what this poor Palestinian preacher was telling people on a hillside why or how they can be blessed (religious jargon for happiness, health, joy, and/or good fortune), join me this Summer on a journey to (hopefully) bliss or beatification (or both?).
Talk to you soon.
I will try to post at least once a week, but I can get both impatient and busy (or lazy) so please be patient with me. Subscribe to this blog on WordPress if you want to be sure to be notified about updates. I hope you will participate in conversation in the comments, but please keep it civil, I reserve the right to delete, block or report trolls.
I DARE you to pray this today-
Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.
Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of
segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial
injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s
Dear Lord, let the dream of little children one day living in
a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by their character come true.
Lord Jesus, let freedom ring, let it ring from every
tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, help us to speed up that day when all of Your children,
black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and
Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of
the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God
Almighty, we are free at last.”
In Jesus name,
Who was MLK?
Rev. Michael King Sr. grew up a poor, Black sharecropper in Georgia at the turn of the last century. As a young man he moved to Atlanta, fell in love with a Baptist preacher’s daughter and eventually followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps and studied to become a minister.
In 1934, Rev. Michael King, Sr., attended the World Baptist Alliance in Berlin. He was so moved by the teachings and sacrifice of sixteenth-century German church reformer Martin Luther, that he changed his name from Michael King to Michael Luther King and finally Martin Luther King. His teen aged son chose to change his name to Martin Luther King Jr, after his father.
MLK Grew up in segregated Georgia during the Great Depression, but went on to become one of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement. Now, on the third Monday in January, Americans observe the legacy of his contributions with a national holiday.
King Jr. studied sociology in college and then went to seminary to become a pastor like his father and grandfather. While serving in Alabama, Pastor King became involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group of mostly Black pastors committed to achieving racial equality through non-violence.
Many people either think of Martin Luther King Jr. as just a Black hero, with nothing to offer to the rest of us. Others take him for granted as just another pop-cultural icon along with JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. For me, he is a hero of the faith. A courageous Christian leader like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who stood up to Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs.
One of my favorite books that I wish everyone on Earth would read is Dr. King’s “Strength to Love,” (1963) in which he explores the parable of the good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor and love your enemies, as Jesus taught. In it, he also wrote about the parables of the friend who knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight and the rich fool who hoarded his wealth in his barns, only to have his soul required of him that night. King addresses fear and speculated on what sort of epistle the Apostle Paul might have written to America.
I think that even in mostly white, rural Iowa, it would be good to consider some of the lessons of Dr. King today in 2008. We forget that he was a Baptist minister like Mike Huckabee and a PhD who could analyze domestic and foreign and military policies just like like a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton. We forget that King was a Nobel Peace Prize winner like Al Gore.
I recently found a speech that he made about Vietnam back in 1967 on April 4, 1967 at a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City. He was assassinated a year later on April 4, 1968 trying to help striking garbagemen in Memphis, Tennessee.
People wondered why a civil rights leader was suddenly turning into a war protester.
“I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for ‘the brotherhood of man.’…but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?”
After three decades of supply-side economics, Americans have seen the high-tech bubble burst, and the real estate bubble burst, the stock market repeatedly crash and rebound, more millionaires than ever before yet a disappearing middle class, disappearing manufacturing jobs, jobs shipped over seas, high gas prices yet record profits for oil companies and a widening gap between the super rich and the working poor. No wonder so many voters in Iowa responded to the messages of John Edwards as he railed on big corporations and unfeeling insurance companies.
King talked about our problem with consumerism in his 1967 speech too.
“…We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”
Black , White, Red, Yellow, or Brown, Dr. King’s teaching may have as much to say to us today, as it did forty years ago.
Strength to Love
Nearly every year I re-read a book of sermons by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called “Strength to Love,” from 1963. Many people would be surprised by what a Biblical teacher King was because we tend to take him for granted as a cultural icon or a Black leader or a political activist.
One chapter in particular struck me as something that we could all use these days. Let’s face it, this is a time of high anxiety and stress for many of us. Governor Culver recently tried to reassure Iowans that we’re in better shape than the nation as a whole to face the coming recession. But come on, things have been getting hard for all of us for a long time.
Wars, stagnant wages, increasing costs of living especially gas, food, heating fuel and health insurance, talk of climate change, cultural change, and global competition have all left us a little frazzled. Perhaps you’re finding that just the challenges of daily life, let alone personal tragedies and crises are wearing you down.
Rev. King talked about Jesus’ parable of the man who knocks on his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for bread found in Luke 11:5-8.
“The traveler asks for three loaves of bread,” Dr. King wrote. The three things we need most are faith, hope and love.
“In a generation of so many colossal disappointments, men have lost faith in God, faith in man, and faith in the future…in the midst of staggering disillusionment, many cry for the bread of faith.”
“There is also a deep longing for the bread of hope.” Dr. King continued, “In the early years of this century many people did not hunger for this bread. The days of the first telephones, automobiles, and airplanes gave them a radiant optimism. They worshiped at the shrine of inevitable progress. They believed that every new scientific achievement lifted man to higher levels of perfection.”
But as we all know, came WWI and WWII and the Cold War. We realized that technology won’t produce a futuristic utopia. We may have more than enough food to eradicate world hunger, but greed and corruption prevent us from ever being able to get the food to who needs it. The twentieth century left mankind wounded and disillusioned.
King lamented that “the light of hope went out, and they roamed wearily in the dark chambers of pessimism. Many concluded that life has no meaning… But even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”
If anything, we’ve learned too well that life is not fair. Some people don’t even see the point in trying anymore.
Finally, MLK pointed out what we are most starved for.
“There is the deep longing,” King wrote, “for the bread of love. Everybody wishes to love and to be loved. He who feels that he is not loved feels that he does not count. Much has happened in the modern world to make men feel that they do not belong. Living in a world which has become oppressively impersonal, many of us have come to feel that we are little more than numbers.”
We all need to find ways to get out of bed in the middle of the night and come to our neighbor’s aid. We all need to try to feed others in anyway we can but we should also remember where to turn when times get worst.
Luke 11: 5-8 has a man asking to borrow bread from a neighbor, but in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus teaches the disciples the Lord’s Prayer and in 11:9-13, He urges us to pray and ask God’s help for anything we need. If we need faith, hope, or love, all we have to do as ask, seek, or knock.
What is Fundamental Anyway?
I’m sorry. I just don’t get it.
To me, the fundamentals, the very foundation of the United States is equality, human rights, and community. Participating and compromising for the common good.
I got these ideas from Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and if they weren’t enough, also from Lincoln and both Roosevelts. And yes, Doctor King too.
But people who call themselves patriots, and nationalist and pro-America laud leaders who don’t believe in, let alone value, respect or protect any of those things.
And they let their anger, ignorance and disdain for the rest of us rage like a prairie fire.
But if I snap back, I have to consider relations and treat people better than that. If want to remind everyone of what our fundamentals are, I’m warned that I’ll offend someone, that they’ll think I’m too radical.
To me, the very heart, the basics, the absolute fundamental foundations of Jesus and the whole Bible, Old and New, is love.
Love the Lord your God with all your strength and all your heart and all you mind. AND love your neighbor as yourslef.
Love your neighbor? Who is your neighbor?
Love your enemies, pray for those that persecute you.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Seems clear. Seems fundamental.
But if you say that, they look at you suspiciously.
Who are you listening to? What are you reading?
Um, Jesus, the Prophets, judges, and teachers of the Torah and Jesus, Paul, John, the Apostles and Epistle writers of the New Testament.
That’s heresy. That’s reduction-ism. That’s liberation theology. That’s too liberal. That’s watered down.
Here I was thinking it was distilled, concentrated, liquor, jet fuel.
Essence. Spirit. Anything BUT diluted.
Accepting anyone into fellowship who doesn’t submit to every jot and tittle of the law would be like condoning their every error.
Grace itself becomes a work, after having been reminded over and over that our own works are worth nothing.
Not just adherence to orthodoxy, but allegiance to homogeneity is the only safety.
I think to much. I feel too much. I talk too much.
My fundamentalism is the wrong kind of radical.
I’m stupid. I’m crazy. I’m a problem. I hate our heritage.
Don’t point out our ignorance, our apathy, our inconsistency, our mental illness, our stubbornness.
I get it.
Judge not, let ye be judged.
I must have logs in my eyes.
What I thought was fundamental, the fundamentalists find too progressive.
I thought evangelical meant having a personal relationship with God and wanting to share the good news of His love. Isn’t to evangelize, to share, to witness? But the more I speak or share, the more I’m isolated and marginalized. Muffled. Stimied.
What I thought was egalitarian and democratic and just is apparently “socialist” and “elitist” and “unamerican.”
Do I really not understand the fundamentals?
“Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!”
— Thomas Jefferson
” Jesus wept.”
Deconstructionist before Exvangelicals
12 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ” Philippians 2:12-13
There’s a movement going on in American Christianity today. Many in the Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal and “non-denominational” communities have been reconsidering their traditions and finding that many of the practices, and teachings they had grown up with aren’t what they thought they were.
They’ve been realizing that Rabbi Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, isn’t a white, American, conservative. They’re discovering that mainline Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Coptics are Christians too and that John Calvin wasn’t the only theologian to ever study Scripture.
They’re learning that faith isn’t a transaction, it’s a transformation.
I grew up Lutheran. In many ways I couldn’t be considered fundamentalist or evangelical. I ‘m not feeling like I’m losing my religion, struggling with becoming atheist or leaving my denomination. But in many ways I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider .
“How can you be a Christian and vote for Democrats?”
As a child in the 70’s I knew that racism and discrimination were wrong.
As a teenager in the 80’s I was suspicious of televangelists and those who used religion for political leverage.
In the 90’s I was leery that the “pro-life” movement seemed to be more of a political movement than a spiritual or ethical one.
In the 2000’s I was worried about the influence of false teachings about the end-times on foreign policy and the growth of nationalism and “exceptionalism” as forms of idolatry. Etc. etc.
But it’s not social, economic or political issues that are most important to deconstruction. It’s about examining what you say you believe and asking why you believe it. It’s about wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24-31), about “working out your salvation.” Not working FOR your salvation, which is a gift of grace through faith, but letting God work on you.
Really, it’s a fairly Lutheran idea when you think about it. Luther saw the church drifting from the early, pre-empire days into complacency at best and corruption at worst in the days of the renaissance and sought to “reform” it- to deconstruct the hypocrisy it had become and reconstruct the Christ-centered, Cross-centered, Love-centered community it was meant to be.
The first of Luther’s ’95 Theses’ was “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” To turn from “sin” (straying from God’s way), to change one’s mind and get back on track.
That’s not about guilt and shame, that’s about daily discipleship. Continually seeking God’s heart.
If our religion is just going through the motions, if it’s more culture and tradition than learning who Jesus is and how to follow Him and treat others how he treats them (with love). Then it may just be more about us than God.
If you’re interested in the Christian Deconstructionist/Reconstructionist movement, here are a few podcasts to give a try:
Don’t miss the main point; Re-read the important stuff if you have to
I try to read through the Bible about once a year and it really all boils down to a few things. I’ve read the law and the prophets and the psalms and the proverbs in the old testament and I’ve read the gospels and the acts of the apostles and the epistles in the new testament and it all seems to come down to these:
Faith, Hope, and Love
Of course, the greatest of these is love. God is love, there is no fear in love. The whole of the law and the prophets is summed up in love the Lord your God with all your hear and all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. The greatest commandment is to love one another.
But still, people who call themselves Christian demand, compete for and cheat to gain and maintain control (showing a lack of faith). They use fear as a tool to get leverage and to motivate, and they seem to be motivated by jealousy, defensiveness and anger- all showing their lack of hope. And they behave and talk as if they’re motivated by hate. Even if/when they claim not to be, their actions and words convince other people that they are.
Now I don’t read Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, and I realize that whether I like it or not, many people seem to interpret Scripture very differently than I do. I’m only human and I pray that if I’m way off base, God will correct my thinking, but I guess my suspicion is that most people who throw around the Bible to support their political, social or philosophical positions haven’t spent a lot of time reading it, let alone asking God’s Spirit to truly work on their hearts or change their character to be much like Jesus’.
You’re right- I’m not an ordained minister, I don’t have a ThD or a PhD or a DivD or RelD, or whatever expert degree in Biblical history, literature or doctrinal studies to make me the ultimate expert. I’m not God. I’m just another sinner like everybody else.
If you really want some credentials, I’ve taken undergraduate college-level religion and theology courses, been taught about at least basic level hermeneutics and exegesis and was given a diploma granting me permission to teach religion classes to 7-12th graders in Lutheran schools. I’ve taught adult (not very well) and youth (not very well attended) Bible studies and helped my wife teach junior high Sunday School classes. I’ve served as an elder at two congregations and on the church council at one.
None of that makes me any holier than the next schmoe or more better, smarter, or the definitive expert on God’s Word- but even a numb-skull jerk like me can tell you that if your religion tells you to hate people, hurt people or deny them the same legal/social/economic/political rights as you, then there’s something very wrong with your religion.
May I suggest that either you’re not listening, you’re not willing to surrender and let God be God (and give up being god yourself) or you’re not bothering to read God’s Word as often or as deeply as you say you do (or as you think you do).
Ask yourself something. If God gave YOU your rights, your property, your money, your lifestyle, your position in life- what makes you think He hasn’t given those same rights to other people? Or don’t you think of all other people as people?
Which brings me to my next line of thought.
I end up reading through a lot of other things pretty much every year because I teach Civics. The Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitutional Amendments, our state constitution (Iowa,) a number of laws, treaties, Presidential speeches (including the Gettysburg Address) and number of letters and speeches from other noted historical figures like Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
And guess what?
It really all boils down to a few things:
Liberty and Justice for ALL
Some read the Pledge of Allegiance and focus on the flag, the republic for which it stands or on God, but I stick on last three words because I’ve noticed a pattern where these three concepts (at least in synonym form) keep showing up in document after document.
The Mayflower Compact doesn’t address freedom (liberty) and it certainly didn’t offer rights or equality to women, natives or other non-whites, but it does say that the signers would offer all DUE obedience to any JUST laws meant for the GENERAL good of the colony. That certainly seems to cover justice and all.
I teach my Civics classes that at the core of the Declaration of Independence is that King George III and Parliament had broken the social contract (been unjust) to the colonists, therefore Congress believed that they were justified in separating from the mother country.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created EQUAL and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable RIGHTS… to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, whenever any government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it…”
The three principles there are equality, rights, and justice (social-contract), or if you reverse the order; liberty (rights and freedoms), and justice for all (equality).
The Preamble to the Constitution implies and assumes equality when it begins “We the people.” The “blessings of liberty” means the right to partake in participatory, representative-democracy. Establishing justice is the first goal meant to help us form our more perfect unity.
The First Amendment describes our most fundamental rights (including religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. Other amendments cover many other rights and liberties and the Fourteenth Amendment in particular emphasizes the equal nature that justice is supposed to take.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address reminds us that America is supposed to be “dedicated to the proposition that ALL men are created equal” (as the Declaration says). Yet most people seem to miss that that proposition is the “great task remaining before us” to which Lincoln urges us to find increased devotion toward.
I contend, in fact, that his closing about “government of the people, by the people and for the people” embodies these same three concepts. It is OF the people because ALL people are created equal- there isn’t supposed to be a ruling class like in an aristocracy, oligarchy or plutocracy. It is BY the people because we all have a RIGHT (the LIBERTY) to participate- if not to run, then to vote, to speak up and speak out, to assemble and petition.
And this is the “creed” in his “I have a dream” speech that MLK imagines the United States rising up and finally living out. Keeping the contract that promised equal rights, because we’re ALL created equal and endowed by God with the same rights.
Liberty and justice for ALL.
I don’t see these three the least bit incompatible with faith, hope, and especially love. Bottom line; If you don’t believe ALL human beings are equal and therefore entitled to justice, equal rights, equal opportunities, equal dignity, equal respect and fair treatment- well, you’re not doing “America” right.
I recommend reading some of the documents that formed this great experiment in participatory government. You don’t have to be a History Major or take a graduate course in political science. The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address are all a Google-search away, for free. There are free versions available on many app for your phone. Look for whenever you see those three concepts of equality, rights and social-contract, AKA liberty, and justice for ALL.
If you STILL can’t see what I see, if you STILL don’t find that governments exist to protect rights and we have rights because we’re all created equal- if you still aren’t humbled or inspired toward altruism, compassion and community- if you’re still convinced that America is for only a chosen, exceptional few and government’s only role is to protect the privileges and property of those few- well, then, may I recommend that you start reading the Bible and look for the core message THERE.
End of sermon (rant/plea/manifesto- whatever you want to call it.
The Jesus Revolution
Great sermon by Brian Zahnd on Isaiah 56:1-8, Acts 8:4-32, & Galatians 3:28. Exclusion is legalistic, the Gospel, grace, love, & mercy are all INCLUSIVE.
This past Sunday was “Trinity Sunday” in most churches. The Gospel lesson at ours was Jesus’ theological discussion with a member of the council of priests in Jerusalem, a Pharisee named Nicodemus.
I was struck hearing this discussion found in John 3 by how much Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). In verses 3-8 He talks about being born in the Spirit.
Jesus isn’t talking about having to be “born again” emotionally or intellectually before choosing to be baptized as Fundamentalist Evangelicals or Baptists talk about. Nor is He talking about a baptism in the Holy Spirit or an “anointing” of the Holy Spirit as many Charismatics and Pentecostals talk about.
Jesus doesn’t separate the baptisms. He says we should be born of water AND Spirit. Not “or” or “then.” Maybe that’s why the Nicene Creed only mentions “one baptism…” it’s not we who do the work in this rebirth, it’s God the Holy Spirit.
Only God can resurrect a dead body as He did with the “first born (Colossians 1:18, Revelations 1:5) and only God can give new birth to a soul with His Spirit (breath, truth, essence).
Maybe God helped me make this connection because I’d been teaching Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address these last few weeks of school in my Civics class.
Did you just hear that needle scratching a vinyl record as the turntable abruptly stopped? Yeah, it was when you spat out whatever beverage you were sipping on with that epic “spit take.”
I know, how can I switch gears so fast from theology to American History. Hear me out.
In his famous two minute speech at the dedication ceremony of a veterans memorial cemetery, “Father Abraham” was using an Ancient Greek format for elegies at funerals. One that a learned scholar in Hellenistic, Roman occupied Palestine, like Nicodemus and Jesus (as the only begotten Son of the living God ) would probably have been familiar with.
The format was this; 1) Life, 2) Death, and 3) Rebirth.
For Lincoln, his speech followed the format like this:
1) America was founded on liberty and equality
2) The Civil War might just kill that dream of a country “so conceived and so dedicated.”
3) To give that country a “new birth of freedom,” we must become dedicated and devoted to a great cause, unfinished work- that same “proposition that all men are created equal.”
What good would it be if the Union had won the Civil War but not ended slavery with the 13th Amendment? Those who died that this nation might live would’ve died for nothing (“died in vain”) unless we the living aren’t devoted to “that cause to which they gave their last full measure of devotion,” namely the “proposition that all men are created equal.”
Likewise, Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand three truths:
1) God creates us to be in His image; Love. In relationship with Him as our God and in relationship with our neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:4), however
2) Sin & selfishness have left us spiritually dead. Incapable of loving God or our neighbors. We can’t see past our own desires, we’re blind even to our own needs and helplessness (Romans 3:23). There is nothing we can do ourselves to change this. Dead people cannot rescue themselves from death.
3) But nothing is impossible with God. He loves us enough to send his only begotten Son to save us (John3:16). He didn’t come to condemn us but to save us (John 3:17).
Yet what good is a savior if we rejectHis salvation? When we refuse His love & grace & mercy, we stand condemned already, we remain spiritually dead (John 3:18).
Also- What good is having the very Son of the creator of the universe teach us the Beatitudes if instead we continue loving only our friends and hating our enemies?