From Jim O'Brien
December 16, 2016

Hi Friend,

The Third Member

When Jesus instructed his disciples to go and make disciples of all men he spoke from an underlying assumption. Namely that all men are made in the image of God and thus all men were created with an internal receptor for the Spirit of God.

On the one hand Christians are to be different from the world. The Jews went so far as to create physical barriers to divide them from Gentiles. There was a wall erected in the temple courtyard forbidding Gentiles to pass beyond on pain of death. It was an obvious symbol of the difference, magnified, between the two. So it took some adjustment for 1st century Christians, most of whom were Jews, to recognize the sameness of spirit that makes all men equal.

The Apostle Paul acknowledges this universal characteristic when he said "...for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them..." (Romans 2:14-15 NKV)

This kind of talk angered the Pharisees so much they attempted to murder Paul. It was nearly impossible for them to acknowledge that the Creator God was the Father of all mankind. But that meant that the Law of God was meant for all mankind.

The writer C.S. Lewis said, "The base of all human ethics comes 'down' to man from God." That law is the measuring stick of how a person ought to live. It is the ruler placed in the heart of man to be used by the Creator as an objective measure of human conduct.

Carpenters use a ruler to measure their work. When there are two boards to compare for correct length, there must be a "third member"-the ruler to determine which is the correct length. The ruler cannot be one of the boards used for construction. It must be different. It stands apart from material used for building.

What is the third member for mankind, the universal measurement of conduct for human beings? Every person, whether he believes in God or obeys Jesus Christ, has an instinct that embraces the Christian ethic. For example, if a robber breaks into a man's house-whether Jew or Gentile-the victim expects the law against stealing to be universal.

A man living in a neighborhood surrounded by thieves, should one of his neighbors rob him, will seek justice. This very action is recognition that he looks "up" to a set of ethics higher than those of his neighbors. And he expects that society in general will look up as well.

Let's say a man is an atheist. He believes the community should set its own standards without interference from religious busybodies. As a result he believes there should be no community restrictions on pornography. Now let's say the community decides to confiscate his property by a law of imminent domain and pay him a fraction of its worth. Though he scoffs at those who worship God he will immediately appeal to a higher sense of ethics than the community displays by stealing his property.

I knew a woman once who was contemptuous of the Ten Commandments. However, when her husband was unfaithful she instinctively reacted as a person who believed in a higher ethic. The irony was that even when acting from her natural instinct, she never stopped to recognize the source.

One of the greatest strengths of a Christian is to understand that the law is the "third member" of every relationship. Effective evangelism is recognizing that quality.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien