A Surety of Truth- We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

My country was founded on the belief that there are certain truths which do not have to be proven because they are “self-evident.” The assumptions is that a simple examination of them will reveal their inherent rightness, and they were therefore chosen as the fundamental building blocks for all that the nation should pursue and preserve.

But just because a truth is claimed to be “self-evident” does not mean it cannot be disagreed with. The fact is there have been many other nations that have rejected the “self-evident” truths of my own country, and have instead chosen fundamental principles that are totally different.

Indeed this is a common pattern of popular philosophies through the ages. A great many of them claim to be unquestionably true, given that they have been built upon self-evident truths, which will be obvious to anyone who simply regards them. But no matter how confident the author is in the theory, there always follows mass criticism, and the founding precepts of that philosophy are rejected by another competing philosophy. Though it has been claimed that the opening assertions are obvious to everyone, they frankly are not.

Now of course, I do happen to believe that there still are universal, self-evident truths. I believe the injunction to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is valid, and self-evidently so. It is perfectly balanced, applies universally, does not discriminate, and perpetuates only an increase of good.

But even though I believe there are universal, self-evident truths, I acknowledge that calling them out is not as simple as one might think. Indeed, self-evident truths are actually very rare and precious, and when one is found it should be considered most sacred.

The Need for Law- Social Law vs Divine Law

Yesterday we looked at natural law, and what principles of law we can glean from it, which principles we would then expect to find in moral law as well. And yet we usually struggle to see moral law as being as “real” of a law as natural law. We see the forces of gravity and magnetism as universal and uncompromising, yet believe we can make bargains about moral rights and wrongs. Not only that, but we believe that if there are moral laws, we can transgress them, and yet avoid consequences through bargaining or concealment.

Why is this? A major reason is because we have human “laws” which defy all of the principles we found in natural law. Where the forces of nature never change, apply equally to all, and are cannot be petitioned for cancellation, both the laws of government and the trends of society do change, do not apply equally, and can be petitioned for cancellation.

Our first lesson in this likely occurred when growing in our childhood homes. Parents are forever inconsistent in how they respond to the same behaviors. Sometimes they let misdeeds slide and sometimes they don’t, they might punish incorrect behavior at a severe level one day and at a more measured level the next, sometimes they let one child get away with a certain action but never the other child. Parents can be persuaded and bargained with to let go of their principles. In short, parental law is extremely organic, based a great deal on their mood in the moment, and teaches a pattern that morals are flexible.

In school we learn about our governments, and the principles and laws upon which they are founded. We are told that those laws are meant to be administered universally and indiscriminately, but obviously they are not. Different officers and judges of the law act on different biases. What is more, their presence is not total enough to respond to all queries or misdeeds, making holes in the law’s coverage of the nation. Laws can be changed and even abolished, and the laws of one nation are different from the laws of its neighbors, an artificial boundary changing the legality of one’s behavior like the flipping of a switch. This starts to make us believe that moral law only applies so far as it can be seen. That it can be compartmentalized, hidden from, and vetoed by a strong enough consensus.

Social law, of course, is the most flimsy of all, the same behaviors being simultaneously applauded and condemned by different circles at the same time. There is absolutely no consensus whatsoever, a million different voices saying a million different things. This suggests to us that moral law is worse than organic, it is non-existent. All that we call morality is opinion, and has no universal binding whatsoever.

Our mistake is taking all these imperfect forms, and trying to extrapolate from them how Divine Law must work as well. We assume that certain commandments no longer apply, because society has come to a consensus to vote them out. We assume that if we hide our sins, then we need not pay the price of guilt. We assume that if we butter God up with love in other ways, then He might give us a pass on our misdeeds. We use the strategies that work with our fellow man, and try to apply them where they can never work. Divine Moral Law, to be Divine Moral Law, must be constant, universal, unchanging, non-negotiable, all-reaching, and all-encompassing. And even more than it needs to be all those things, we need it to be all those things. For with anything less than a totally sure foundation, nothing permanent can ever be built.

The Need for Law- The Principles of Law

Each of us is a member of our mortal world and are therefore subject to its laws of deterioration, entropy, and death. Or in other words, the laws of physics are inescapable to us. We are forever under the powers of gravity, force, action and reaction, magnetism, electricity, temperature, and everything else that is baked into the matter of this world.

We do not have to like these laws, but we do have to adhere to them, simply because we have no other choice. These laws are not elected, they just are.

These laws are impersonal and unbiased. They can work for our bad, such as tripping and being pulled by gravity into a hurtful fall. They can work for our good, such as jumping in the air and being pulled back to where its safe instead of floating out of the atmosphere.

That is the nature of pure law. It is entirely unbiased. It enacts itself the same way to a king as to a slave, and it never varies in its order. Also, it never ceases to apply. At all times and in all places the laws are in full effect. In fact, multiple separate laws may apply to the same subject at the same moment, but each will have its full realization, none will be denied effect by another. They will each control what they control, and not what they don’t.

The laws of nature not only give our world structure and predictability, they also serve as excellent schoolmasters for understanding law itself. If there is a moral law, then to be a law it must also be impersonal and unbiased, just like natural law. There can be several facets of moral law, but to be a law, then each of those facets must have full expression, with no variance in how they execute themselves on one subject or another. To be a law, moral law must apply at all times and in all places, it simply must be. Also, to be a law, it must apply to what it applies, and not to what it does not.

And that last point is why we find it far more difficult to accept the existence of moral law than natural law. For where natural law applies to the forces of nature exclusively, moral law applies to the soul exclusively. Thus we can see, hear, and touch the evidence of natural law with our external senses, but we cannot perceive the effects of moral law with our external senses. That simply is not the realm of its jurisdiction. We only perceive them in our heart. Not only that, but where the forces of natural law are often immediate, the effects of moral law are often enacted over a prolonged amount of time, making it difficult to draw the correlation of cause and effect.

But though it is harder to recognize moral law, it is still there.

How Do We Pray for Others- Summary

I really was not sure what I would find when I decided to do a study on how to pray for others. Even when I selected John 17 for my research, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to glean for it. I have honestly been amazed at the wealth of messages that are in this short chapter, though, and the promise of “ask and ye shall receive” has been abundantly filled! In the Great Intercessory Prayer I feel that Jesus lays out a perfect template for how to petition for our brothers and sisters. Let’s do a review of what we learned.

Get Yourself Connected First

First and foremost you need to consider your own connection to God. You need to know His goodness before you can pray for it in others. If we try to pray for the love of God to come into other’s lives and we have not experienced that love ourselves, then we are just praying a “wish” instead of praying in “faith.”
19- And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified.
23- … that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Secondly you need to be connected to those you pray for. Even if these are strangers you are praying for, you can have your heart drawn out in common humanity for your fellow brothers and sisters. Jesus knew those he prayed for clear through to their very souls. He knows their goodness, and he knows their failings. He truly was their shepherd.
8- For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
12- While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition;

Make this a partnership

We’re not meant to treat God like a genie and ask Him to do everything for us. Neither are we meant to treat God like a taskmaster and who demands us to do everything on our own. One of the messages that comes through clearest to me in Jesus’s prayer is the relationship he and God have as fellow workers in the same field.
8- For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them.
22- And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;

ask for the universals

If you’re unsure of what to specifically ask for those you pray for, pray for what you know. You know that everyone needs God’s love in their lives. You know that everyone needs to feel the reality of being God’s own child. You know that everyone is their best when they see themselves the way Christ sees them. You know everyone needs forgiveness and Grace. Jesus prays for universal goodness that all of us can echo in our own prayers.
15- I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
17- Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth

Ask for unity

And recognize that your desires for others all come back to the need for you and those you pray for to come to a common ground: God’s common ground. If there is a rift between you, each of you coming to God will close that gap. If there is a hurt or a wound, God’s presence will heal that. If there is a desire to serve and love, God’s guidance will show your hands the work to do.
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

How Do We Pray for Others- John 17:21-23, 26

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

COMMENTARY

That they all may be one…
…they also may be one in us
…that they may be one, even as we are one…
I in them, and thou in me…

Jesus’s intentions come across very clearly here, don’t they? He finishes his prayer with an intense focus on perfect unity. He really wants these disciples to be one with him and the Father. That’s what his gospel and his sacrifice are really all about. Jesus died so that we could be one.
And I think if we examine our sincerest prayers we’ll find that unity is all we’re really asking for as well.

“Help me to alleviate their pain…”
“Bless them to feel thy love…”
“Show me how to forgive them…”
“Give me the words to speak to them…”

Each of these are prayers to take down walls of separation, to bring in empathy, understanding, and a shift of perspective. It isn’t just unity between each other, either, that wouldn’t be enough. It has to be a unity with God, a three-way meeting of the minds between us and Him. If ever we obtain real peace, it will only be by all parties converging on Him.

How Do We Pray for Others- John 17:15-19

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

COMMENTARY

And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
This continues that idea from a few days ago of how Jesus is only imparts the same as what he has received. He has to be sanctified by the truth before he gives that same sanctifying truth for others.
Once again, if we seek to bless the lives of God’s children, first we need get ourselves living in harmony with God. Remember when Peter’s faith failed and he started to slip into the sea? Jesus wouldn’t have been able to help him if he had been treading water himself.

…that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

It struck me that Jesus is praying for universals. Everyone needs to be kept from evil and to be sanctified through the truth.
One of the confusions I mentioned at the beginning of this study was not knowing the specific life-experiences everyone else needed. Therefore I didn’t feel bold in knowing what to pray for them. From these passages I’m starting to think that that might be okay.
While I may not know whether my friend should get that job he’s applying for or not, I do know without a doubt that that friend needs to feel the love of God in his life. I know it because that’s a universal need, so I can be praying specifically for that.