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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter II. The Solidarity Of The Human Family

The Social Principles Of Jesus by Walter Rauschenbusch

Chapter II. The Solidarity Of The Human Family

Every man has worth and sacredness as a man. We fixed on that as the simplest and most fundamental social principle of Jesus. The second question is, What relation do men bear to each other?

DAILY READINGS

First Day: The Social Impulse and the Law of Christ

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, trying him: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets. -- Matt.22:35-40.

Which among the multitudinous prescriptions of the Jewish law ought to take precedence of the rest? It was a fine academic question for church lawyers to discuss. Jesus passed by all ceremonial and ecclesiastical requirements, and put his hand on love as the central law of life, both in religion and ethics. It was a great simplification and spiritualization of religion. But love is the social instinct which binds man and man together and makes them indispensable to one another. Whoever demands love, demands solidarity. Whoever sets love first, sets fellowship high.

When Jesus speaks of love, what more than mere emotion does he mean?

Is love really the highest thing?

What do you think of the epigram of Augustine: AMA ET FAC QUOD VIS?

Second Day: Jesus Craving Friendship

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: abide ye here, and watch with me. And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words. Then cometh he to the disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that betrayeth me. -- Matt.26:36-46.

Jesus was personally very sociable. He evidently enjoyed mixing with people. He liked the give-and-take of life. He had friendships. A group of men and women gathered around him who gave him their devoted loyalty. He in turn needed them. The denial of Peter and the betrayal of Judas hurt him, partly because they were defections from the comradeship of his group. In Gethsemane he craved friendship. He prayed to God, but he reached out for Peter and John. The longing for friendship and the unrest of loneliness are proof of a truly human and social nature.

In how far is a need for others a sign of strength or of weakness?

What connection has the spirit of a team, or the loyalty of a college class, with the Christian law of love?

Third Day: Restoring Solidarity

Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. -- Matt.18:21-22.

Love binds together; hate and anger cut apart. They destroy fellowship. Therefore the chief effort of the Christian spirit must be to reestablish fellowship wherever men have been sundered by ill-will. This is done by confession and forgiveness. Forgiveness was so important to Jesus because social unity was so important to him. In the Lord's Prayer he makes full fellowship with men a condition of full fellowship with God: |Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.|

Are there any personal injuries which are beyond forgiveness?

Think back to any striking experience of forgiving or being forgiven. What was the religious and moral reaction on your life?

Fourth Day: The Christian Intensification of Love

Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. -- 1 John 3:16-18.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. -- 1 John 4:7-9.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us. -- 1 John 4:11-12.

These are quotations from one of the early Christian writings. They are evidence of the emphasis put on love as a distinctive doctrine of the new religion. Note how the natural social instinct of human affection is intensified and uplifted by religious motives and forces. Which of these motives are directly taken from the personality and life of Christ?

Do you remember any quotations from non-Christian literature in which a similar love for love is expressed?

Fifth Day: Solidaristic Responsibility

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. -- Matt.11:20-24.

We know that by constant common action a social group develops a common spirit and common standards of action, which then assimilate and standardize the actions of its members. Jesus felt the solidarity of the neighborhood groups in Galilee with whom he mingled. He treated them as composite personalities, jointly responsible for their moral decisions.

What groups of which we have been a part in the past have stamped us with the group character for good or evil? How about those of which we are now a part?

What have we learned from the Great War about national solidarity?

Sixth Day: The Solidarity of the Generations

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye witness to yourselves, that ye are sons of them that slew the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell? Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. -- Matt.23:29-36.

Jesus saw a moral solidarity existing, not only between contemporaries who act together, but between generations that act alike. Every generation clings to its profitable wrongs and tries to silence those who stand for higher righteousness. Posterity takes comfort in being fairer about the dead issues, but is just as hot and bad about present issues. The sons reenact the old tragedies on a new stage, and so line up with their fathers. In looking back over the history of his nation, Jesus saw a continuity of wrong which bound the generations together in a solidarity of guilt.

Does the connection consist only in similarity of action, or is there a causal continuity of wrong in the life of a community?

Is there anything in our personal family history or family wealth and business which threatens to line us up with past evils?

Seventh Day: Social Consciousness in the Lord's Prayer

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. -- Matt.6:9-13.

Is there anything more solitary than a human soul calling to the invisible Presence? Is there anything more social in consciousness than the Lord's Prayer?

Where in these petitions do you feel the sense of social coherence as the unspoken presupposition of the thought?(1)

Could Jesus have thought this prayer if the unity of the race had not been both an instinctive reality and a clear social principle with him?

Study for the Week

That man is a social being is the fundamental fact with which all social sciences have to deal. We may like or dislike people; we can not well be indifferent to them if they get close to us. As Sartor Resartus puts it: |In vain thou deniest it; thou art my brother. Thy very hatred, thy very envy, those foolish lies thou tellest of me in thy splenetic humour; what is all this but an inverted sympathy? Were I a steam-engine, wouldst thou take the trouble to tell lies of me?|

Sex admiration, parental love, |the dear love of comrades,| the thrill of patriotism, the joy of play, are all forms of fellowship. They give us happiness because they satisfy our social instinct. To realize our unity gives relish to life. To be thrust out of fellowship is the great pain. Many evil things get their attractiveness mainly through the fact that they create a bit of fellowship -- such as it is. The slender thread of good in the saloon is comradeship. (See Jack London, |John Barleycorn.|)

I

None ever felt this social unity of our race more deeply than Jesus. To him it was sacred and divine. Hence his emphasis on love and forgiveness. He put his personality behind the natural instinct of social attraction and encouraged it. He swung the great force of religion around to bear on it and drive it home. Anything that substitutes antagonism for fraternity is evil to him. Just as in the case of the natural respect for human life and personality, so in the case of the natural social cohesion of men, he lifted the blind instinct of human nature by the insight of religion and constituted it a fundamental principle of life. It is the business of Christianity to widen the area of comradeship.

Common human judgment assents to the valuation of Jesus. Wherever an effective and stable form of fellowship has been created, a sense of sacredness begins to attach to it, and men defend it as a sort of shrine of the divine in man. Wherever men are striving to create a larger fellowship, they have religious enthusiasm as if they were building a temple for God. This is the heart of church loyalty.

The family is the most striking case of solidarity. It is first formed of two units at opposite poles in point of sex, experience, taste, need, and aims; and when they form it, they usually have as much sense of sacredness as their character is capable of feeling. When children are added, more divergences of age, capacity, and need are injected. Yet out of these contradictory elements a social fellowship is built up, which, in the immense majority of cases, defies the shocks of life and the strain of changing moods and needs, forms the chief source of contentment for the majority of men and women, and, when conspicuously successful, wins the spontaneous tribute of reverence from all right-thinking persons. In using the equipment of the home, in standing by one another in time of sickness and trouble, and in spiritual sympathy, a true family practices solidarity of interests, and furnishes the chief education in cooperation.

Political unity was at first an expansion of family unity. The passionate loyalty with which a nation defends its country and its freedom, is not simply a defence of real estate and livestock, but of its national brotherhood and solidarity. The devotion with which people suffer and die for their State is all the more remarkable because all States hitherto have been largely organizations for coercion and exploitation, and only in part real fraternal communities. Patriotism hitherto has been largely a prophetic outreaching toward a great fellowship nowhere realized. The peoples walk by faith.

What evidence does college life furnish us of the fact that social unity is realized with some sense of sacredness? Why do the years in college stand out in the later memories of graduates with such a glamour? Why do students devote so much unpaid service to their teams and fraternities? Is it for the selfish advantages they hope to get, or because they feel they are realizing the best of life in being part of a solidaristic group? Do the dangers of college organizations prove or disprove the principle that fellowship is felt to be something sacred?

Any historical event in which men stood by their group through suffering or to death is remembered with pride. Any case of desertion or betrayal is remembered with shame. No group forgives those who sell out its solidarity for private safety or profit.

Insurance and cooperation are two great demonstrations of the power of solidarity. In insurance we bear one another's burdens, |and so fulfil the law of Christ.| The cooperative associations, which have had such enormous success in Europe, succeed only where neighborhood or common idealistic conviction has previously established a consciousness of social unity. They have to overcome the most adverse conditions in achieving success. When they do, the effect on the economic prosperity of the people and on their moral stability and progressiveness is remarkable.

II

Thus the instincts of the race assent to the social principle of Jesus, that fellowship is sacred. The chief law of Christianity does not contradict the social nature of man but expresses and reenforces it. It is the special function of Christians to promote social unity and expand its blessings. To do this intelligently we should take note where, at present, solidarity is frustrated.

For instance, it is important to inquire how social unity is negatived in commercial life. Is competition necessarily unfraternal? Would a Socialist organization of society necessarily be fraternal? Is it a denial of fellowship to exact monopoly profit from consumers, or to take advantage of the ignorance or necessities of a buyer? Is the law of the market compatible with a fraternal conception of society?

Where can you trace the principle of solidarity actually at work in industrial life? Give cases where you have observed a real sense of human coherence and loyalty between employer and employes. How had the feeling been promoted in those cases and what effect did it have on the economic relations of the two groups? Why is the feeling of antagonism between these groups so common? Does the wages system make this inevitable? How ought we to value the willingness of organized labor to stand together, especially on strike, and what connection does the bitterness toward |scabs| have with our subject?

War is a rupture of fellowship on a large scale. The Great War of 1914 has been the most extensive demonstration of the collapse of love which any of us wants to see. As soon as one nation no longer recognizes its social unity with another nation, all morality collapses, and a deluge of hate, cruelty, and lies follows. The problem of international peace is the problem of expanding the area of love and social unity. It is the sin of Christendom that so few took this problem seriously until we were chastised for our moral stupidity and inertia. The young men and women of today will have to take this problem on their intellect and conscience for their lifetime, and propose to see it through.

III

Does religion create social unity or neutralize it? Does prayer isolate or connect? Has the force of religion in human history done more to divide or to consolidate men?

Evidently religion may work both ways, and all who are interested in it must see to it that their religion does not escape control and wreck fraternity. Even mystic prayer and contemplation, which is commonly regarded as the flower of religious life, may make men indifferent to their fellows.

It is worth noting that the prayer experiences of Jesus were not ascetic or unsocial. They prepared him for action. When he went into the desert after his baptism it was to settle the principles on which his Messianic work was to be done; his temptations prove that. When he went out from Capernaum to pray |a great while before day,| it was to launch his aggressive missionary campaign among the Galilaean villages. Prayer may be an emotional dissipation. Prayer is Christian only if it makes us realize our fellows more keenly and affectionately.

It is one thing to praise love and another thing to practice it. We may theorize about society and ourselves be contrary and selfish units in it. Social unity is an achievement. A loving mind toward our fellows, even the cranky, is the prize of a lifetime. How can it be evoked and cultivated in us? That is one of the most important problems in education. Can it be solved without religious influences? Love will not up at the bidding. We can observe the fact that personal discipleship of Christ has given some persons in our acquaintance a rare capacity for love, for social sympathy, for peaceableness, for all the society-making qualities. We can make test of the fact for ourselves that every real contact with him gives us an accession of fraternity and greater fitness for nobler social unity. It makes us good fellows.

IV

The man who intelligently realizes the Chinese and the Zulu as his brothers with whom he must share the earth, is an ampler mind -- other things being equal -- than the man who can think of humanity only in terms of pale-faces. The consciousness of humanity will have to be wrought out just as the consciousness of nationality was gradually acquired. He who has it is ahead of his time and a pioneer of the future. The missionary puts himself in the position to acquire that wider sense of solidarity. By becoming a neighbor to remote people he broadens their conception of humanity and his own, and then can be an interpreter of his new friends to his old friends. The interest in foreign missions has, in fact, been a prime educational force, carrying a world-wide consciousness of solidarity into thousands of plain minds and hones that would otherwise have been provincial in their horizon.

A world-wide civilization must have a common monotheistic faith as its spiritual basis. Such a faith must be unitive and not divisive. What the world needs is a religion with a powerful sense of solidarity.

Suggestions for Thought and Discussion

I. Solidarity in Human Life

1. Are comradeship and team-work instinctive, or must they be learned?

2. Do the symptoms of hatred prove or disprove social unity?

3. Does a strong sense of social unity make a vigorous individualism harder to maintain?

II. Christianity and Solidarity

1. Give proof that Jesus felt a human hunger for companionship.

2. How does the place assigned to love in the teachings of Jesus bear on solidarity? How does the duty of forgiveness connect with this?

3. How does the spirit of the Lord's Prayer prove the place of solidarity in Christianity?

III. Jesus and the Social Groups

1. Where did Jesus treat communities as composite personalities? Would it be equally just today to hold cities responsible as moral units?

2. How did Jesus trace a moral solidarity between generations?

IV. Solidarity in Modern Life

1. Where do you see the principle of solidarity accepted and where do you see it denied in modern social life?

2. In what way does war outrage Jesus' principles of social unity? Does it ever promote fraternity and solidarity? If so how?

3. Is class consciousness a denial of social solidarity or an approach to it? How can group loyalty be made to contribute to the common weal?

4. How should we value the willingness of organized labor to stand together, particularly on strike? What light does bitterness toward scabs throw on social solidarity?

5. Why is the feeling of antagonism between employer and employe so common? Does a wage system make this inevitable? Can a real sense of cooperation be secured? If so how?

6. If a manufacturer has a monopoly, how much profit will loyalty to Christian principles permit him to make?

7. When is competition unfraternal? Would socialism insure fraternity?

8. Do college fraternities practice fraternity?

V. Strengthening Solidarity

1. How can the law of love be made the basis of modern business?

2. Does religion create social unity or neutralize it? How about prayer?

3. How does the Christian law of love bear on the relations of the races in America?

4. What have Christian missions done to lead society from the nationalistic to the international and inter-racial stage?

5. Can world-wide social unity be secured without the influence of Christianity?

VI. For Special Discussion

1. To what extent does our present commercial and industrial organization furnish a basis for experience of solidarity and education in it?

2. What aspects of modern advertising are Christian and which are non-Christian?

3. To what extent is the law of the market compatible with a fraternal conception of society?

4. Would a successful socialist organization create a stronger sense of solidarity or would divisive interests get in by new ways?

5. Which has the better inducements to loyalty, a college, or a trade union? Which has more of it?

6. How does the team spirit go wrong among students?

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