About Me

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Hi, my name is Justus, I'm a Christian.I attended Patrick Henry College for three semesters, and I transfered to College of the Ozarks in the fall of 2013 where I graduated as an English major in 2016. I love the Lord Jesus Christ the savior of my soul. He has made me new. He leads me in the Old Path; He is the Way. I am not perfect; my Lord is sanctifying me though.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Loneliness vs. Love

          One of my early posts was about loneliness. I think that loneliness is sort of like pain. It is  a warning that something is wrong. This social pain tells us that we don't have enough interaction with other people or that our interactions are not deep and fulfilling, as they should be. God said, "It is not good that man should be alone." So He made woman. Man and woman were created for several purposes, the highest being "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." To borrow the famous catechism. However, one purpose for man and woman was to procreate. God made us to be social creatures, and as social creatures, we need others to fulfill a need that we (especially introverts) neglect. (Extroverts, I suspect, have a tendency to leave relationships underdeveloped.) This need, social contact, is more than just the need to be around people, though it is impossible without that dimension. We need to be stimulated both emotionally and mentally. (This is for those of you who tend toward logic or are all "feels.") Emotionally, we need to be able to express our feelings to others, not just bottle it up or show one or two "good" feelings. We need to be able to develop our expression in a healthy way, and in order to do that we need to express ourselves to other people. Intellectually, we need to wrestle with our ideas and beliefs as well as with others. We need to be able to perform appendectomies on our wrong beliefs inflamed by passion. In order to do that, we need to know that we are wrong, which means someone has to contradict us, and we have to tease out the implications from their point of view.

          This pain of loneliness tells us that we need a logical appendectomy or that we are bottling up our emotions or wrongly communicating with our fellow men and women. Often these things are caused by our search for love or for our place in life; this is especially true for adolescents. Paul writes to the Church in Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)" I want to point out that things that love is not are often things that we get wrong when we are alone, or when we get our relationships mixed up. They are the things that can make us lonely. In particular, love "does not seek its own." When we seek after love, we seek for our idea of love. We're usually wrong, which is probably why God chose to define what love isn't rather than to say what it is in 1 Corinthians. When we do get love right, we usually just find it, from what I've been able to tell. (Even if just finding it is on an online dating site, most people don't seem to expect what we they end up with.) We often love our family members who, outside of being in our family have nothing in common with us. I was blessed to love my family and have a lot in common with all of them, but there are times that I doubt that we are even from the same planet. Seeking for love is a selfish action. We want something to stop the pain of loneliness, like aspirin, but we don't expect to find that real love requires sacrifice. Real love hurts. Loneliness can also be a phantom pain that we get when we imagine situations where we could have done something different or where we might do something wrong. We imagine who could hurt us and how, so fear of being with people builds up in our hearts. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." Punishment is pain inflicted by another; sacrifice is a personal choice to endure pain. Perfect love casts out fear because we have already endured pain, so the pain inflicted by another is nothing new. Love "bears all things" and "endures all things." The lover has acclimated himself or herself to pain, so they shrug off the pain others cause. Patience is an important part of love.

           I've noticed that very few relationships, romantic or otherwise, have equal input from both parties. That doesn't stop me from trying to develop relationships with others. On the contrary, I try harder when I see a relationship that I want to succeed begin to fail. Sometimes I fail, but I always hope for grace. Love "does not take into account a wrong suffered," "believes all things," and "hopes all things." On that note, I want to echo Paul's sentiment in Romans 1:11-13 "I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles." There are a lot of people that I've always intended to keep in touch with, and failed to do so. I'm sorry for that. Can I get a second chance?

P.S. Love tends to seek others' good before the lover's own good. Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." I hope I'm not being a hypocrite, but it's always hard to be honest about actions and intentions without conflagrating them. I intend to try to love those who are around me, but I am a selfish human, so I will forget. I ask you to gently remind me to love when I am not. I will try my best to do the same for you.

-Written from my dining room at home.
In love,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Be Good

     This semester has been filled with lesson after lesson after lesson. I think that the lesson about compassion that I shared earlier has had the greatest impact on me, but it was backed up by another lesson that I was (and still am) learning at the time. In the class that I have been writing about, we read Plato's Gorgias, which is a Socratic dialogue about the purpose of an orator and of persuasion in general. As Socrates tends to do, the conversation became an ethical argument. (Now I'm all for searching for the truth, but Socrates is really annoying about the manner in which he goes about it. That being said, I agree with him, with reservations.)
     The argument that Socrates eventually centers on is what power means. He insists that to be good is the only power. Socrates then argues that doing wrong is worse than suffering wrong. I agree with Socrates that doing wrong is worse than suffering wrong, but my argument diverges from his in that I don't merely see the effects of both as pain versus painlessness or pleasure. There are bigger things at stake here.
     However, looking at Socrates' argument and coupling it with Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, I learned that virtue is the only way to happiness on the earth. (I don't think that it is possible to be entirely virtuous until we have reached heaven, and I think that the happiness we get from virtue finds its source in being godly.) Aristotle's argument is a sort of corollary to Plato/ Socrates' argument regarding power. Aristotle insists that virtue is the only way to happiness, and Plato insists that goodness is the only (or at least the greatest) power. Plato, also through Socrates, argues in Phaedo that the purpose of rhetoric is to lead men into the Good. Coupling this with his argument in Gorgias, we must assume that Socrates thought that rhetoric is intended to make men powerful. Socrates' idea that good is the highests power is backed up in the Bible. Proverbs 3:27 says "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your power to do it." Other passages mention being in someone's power, which means they have the authority to do good or evil to you. That being said, Socrates' argument about doing wrong or suffering wrong is an argument about power. God has given us all some extent of power (2 Peter 1:3), and the more power we have the more good we can do, but when we have power we can also do evil. This is where Plato's argument and Aristotle's argument couple with the Word of God. If we have the power to do evil, but doing wrong is worse than suffering it, and virtue is the only way to reach happiness, then we need to be able to do good and to be virtuous in order to be happy.
      This is where Romans 7 comes in. In Romans 7, Paul is discussing his inability to do what he knows is right. He doesn't have the power to do it; even though he knows what is good and virtuous, he can't. Socrates would tell us that he didn't really know, but I disagree with Socrates' definition of knowledge in this case.
      I'm going to backtrack here. People want to be happy. And in our culture, "a virtuous person" is not on the top of many peoples' lists of "what I want to be when I grow up." They want to be happy, but they seek happiness outside of virtue; that's a surefire way to avoid happiness according to Aristotle. The Bible says, "Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’" Even when we were told directly by God that the way to peace and happiness is His Way, humankind rejected Him.
     If we want to be happy we have to follow God, but as Paul says in Romans "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." We can't do the good it requires to be happy. That's where grace comes in. At the end of this semester, I went to a friend's musical performance. She wrote of grace, and in order to help the audience understand her point, she had a theology professor explain some things about grace. He spoke about the practical implications of grace and what it meant to us once we are saved. We cannot be good without God's grace. We are slaves to our sin. However, once we have been set free from our sin, we are able to be good, virtuous people and to show the compassion I spoke of in my last post. It takes God's transformation of us to make us into good people. It takes God to make us happy. And though we will not be perfect on the earth, we are charged with being "perfect as [He] is perfect," "holy, for [He is] holy," pure "as He is pure," and "merciful [as He] is merciful." We will not reach it here, but our work on earth will bring glory to God and will last into eternity. We should think about what we do with eternity on our minds. Since virtue is the only way to happiness, it shouldn't be a chore, but rather a joy to do these things; besides, we have God's grace giving us the power to do all of this. Also, since it's Mother's Day, I thought I'd leave you with the admonition with which my mom sends me into the world: "Be good!"

P. S. Written from my dining room at home.
P. P. S. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

0h the Humanity!

Humanity-- to be humane-- human-- what does all of this mean? I have been receiving a lesson in this for my entire life, but over the last three months it has been especially emphasized to me. The professor who inspired the last three or so posts on this blog influenced me once again, along with another professor. In a class called Classical Ideals of Character, he suggested that to be human does not mean, as Aristotle defines it, to be a rational animal. He suggests compassion as the main trait that sets humans apart from animals. Learning to be human is what the humanities are about, so learning what a human is is of utmost importance to one studying the humanities.

As a side note, knowing what it means to be human is why the humanities are important in the first place. They aren't there just so that people can enjoy them, though if someone doesn't enjoy any part of the humanities I would suggest they need them more than those who love them. To hate art, literature, and history would be to hate the creations and stories that teach us what beauty, love, mercy, and all the other virtues are like. Someone who hates that would find it hard to exemplify those virtues to others.

Compassion is something I have always admired. Occasionally I lack compassion due to the miasm of the culture and my own shortcomings. And occasionally I feel the sharp pangs of empathy worse than anything I can imagine. But usually I am somewhere in the middle. Compassion links us together. It creates community and breaks the walls of isolation to pieces. We attend funerals to mourn the passing of a loved one, and we visit hospitals to encourage our friends, and we volunteer our time, money, and assets to help those in need. Without compassion, community and civilization would crumble. Humanity would fall.

When the Hindenburg burst into flames the famous cry was "Oh the humanity!" This was a spur of the moment lament that carried the sentiments of despair for life and compassion for death. There was nothing that anyone could do to save the lives lost in the accident, just like there is nothing we can to keep our bodies alive forever, until God makes them new. Death is a part of humanity, and compassion for the dead is part of that too.Consider "The Ruined Cottage" by Wordsworth. It is a poem about a man who meets another outside of a cottage in shambles. The second man, Armytage, is a peddler who knew the family that lived in the cottage. Armytage watched the family fall apart like the cottage when the husband went to war in order to keep them alive, since he could find no other way to do it. When the first man urges Armytage to continue his story after taking a moment, Armytage responds (emphasis mine):
It were a wantonness and would demand
Severe reproof, if we were men whose hearts
Could hold vain dalliance with the misery
Even of the dead, contented thence to draw
A momentary pleasure never marked
By reason, barren of all future good.
But we have known that there is often found
In mournful thoughts, and always might be found,
A power to virtue friendly; were’t not so,
I am a dreamer among men, indeed
An idle dreamer. ’Tis a common tale,
By moving accidents uncharactered,
A tale of silent suffering, hardly clothed
In bodily form, and to the grosser sense
But ill adapted, scarcely palpable
To him who does not think.
This response and much of the rest of the poem indicate that memory of the dead and mourning as a community create and hold community together. This is also evident in the Odyssey. When Odysseus is shipwrecked, the men who do not mourn his loss, the suitors of his wife, have forgotten him. They have left his memory by the wayside in order to further their positions in life, and this is cruel. The memory of the dead in the Odyssey is sacred. And without it civilization falls to pieces, which is why those people who did the unthinkable and did not consider those who had fallen while the kings and warriors were at Troy were punished through diverse means. Even in the Bible mourning was a public event, and the community participated in it together. (See the story of Jairus and the story of Lazarus for instances.) In today's society mourning as a community is much less dramatic. There is a short service and then most people just go on with their lives, leaving those most affected to mourn in solitude while we should be mourning together.

Compassion for the injured, sick, and dying is also something that makes us human. We cringe when we see a man do something cruel, such as the villain stepping on some helpless child's broken arm and laughing at their pain. That cringe is a moment of compassion that breaks through the numbness we have in our violent society. We even cringe when we're laughing at fail videos on Youtube. Compassion is inherent to what it means to be human. That's why visiting hospitals, sending get well cards, helping sick friends to take care of themselves, and all of these other gestures of compassion are seen as such essential parts of friendship. Friends are those people in whom we see humanity the clearest. We see their vices and their virtues, their cruelties and their compassions, and their hatreds and their loves. We know them by what makes them human, not simply by what makes them a fellow student or a neighbor or a coworker. Friends or enemies, when we see someone's compassion, we see them at their most human. They are participating in humanity with other humans by empathizing with their pain. (And this doesn't even just apply to compassion toward humans. See Proverbs 12:10. I have some trouble with this one because I tend to think that compassion is misspent on animals if people are still suffering, but I know that the Bible indicates here that compassion is for the suffering, not just humans. And the world groans with us, so why shouldn't I groan with the world? Romans 8:18-23) To participate in the pain of others, whether you have felt the pain yourself or not, is to participate in a community with them. We call that community between men "humanity," and participating we call "being human" or even "humane" when we are specifically talking about compassionate participation.

I have felt the sting of compassion. That is, I have had compassion that leaves me groaning with the suffering, but helpless to do anything to prevent the pain. The only action we can do in those cases is to pray to the One who has all power. In those cases compassion hurts, and why shouldn't it? It is an empathetic emotion and state of mind. Christ knows this feeling more deeply than any of us could fathom. He took all of our pain and all of our death upon himself and directly experienced it all. Isaiah 53 and Philippians 2 bear that out. To be compassionate is not only to be human, but it is also to be Christlike, to be Christian. That is why Christians throughout the ages have been involved in prison ministry, hospitals, insane asylums,  funeral homes, slums, third-world nations, war hospitals, and even social justice movements. The Church has always been compassionate. The Church has a long history of mistakes, but those mistakes are only clouds that will burn away when the sun rises on the eastern horizon. When Christ comes back the Church will be glorified for the compassion she has had in this world. How will you contribute? How will you be Christlike? How will I?

P.S. God wants us to have compassion for our enemies too. Proverbs 24:17-18, Matthew 5:23-28
Written from my dining room.
P.P.S. Bonus verses: Psalm 25:6