As we reflect on the spiritual significance of Christmas, it is appropriate and natural for us to consider the wonderful gifts of salvation, justification by faith, and Redemption from death unto life. But if we are not diligent, it is easy to overlook some of the more earthly and natural outcomes of the little Baby in the manger. While the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ yields far too many benefits to comprehensively list here, let’s take a look at just a few:
The Elevation of Women
In the ancient world, women were often treated little better than dogs. They lived and served almost exclusively at the pleasure of men. In the marketplace, women needed a man to validate their contracts, and in courts of law their eye-witness testimony was little better than none at all. Jesus turned the world on its head by allowing women to participate openly in his ministry, He made them the first witnesses to His resurrection and included them in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
The Apostle Paul would later write to the Galatian Christians, “There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) He also commanded the men at Ephesus to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for it. (Ephesians 5:25)
The Teaching of Radical Forgiveness
Genghis Khan is said to have once answered the question, “What is best in life?” with this answer: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.” While this may seem incredibly vicious and cruel, it wasn’t far from normal for the times. Jesus came preaching and teaching a totally different approach. He told His followers that if they would forgive others when they sinned against them, then God the Father would forgive them as well; and if they didn’t forgive, they would not be forgiven by God. (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:26).
Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44) He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) When asked about the limits of forgiveness Jesus told Peter to forgive an offender seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:22) In other words, don’t keep count. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
Education for All
While education was certainly esteemed by ancient cultures it was often reserved for the powerful and wealthy. The expansion of the Hebrew concept of the “Imago Dei” by Christians taught the world that we are made in the image and likeness of God. As such, everyone is deserving of educational enlightenment. The formation of monasteries led to academic guilds which were motivated by the directive to “love God with all one’s mind.” (Luke 10:27)
It was the drive to create people of strong Christian character and intelligence that led to the formation of universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and many others. In fact the very first legislation to fund public education in the colonies was called, “The Old Deluder Satan Act” and was based on the premise that Satan is the father of lies and God does not want any of His children to be ignorant of Satan’s schemes.
Public Access to Great Works of Art
Art was once primarily focused on the powerful. Engravings, sculptures, songs and drama were often given as gifts to rulers and adorned grand palaces. With the advent of Jesus, a huge shift took place in the world of art. Art began to be consumed by the public, not just the rich and famous. Additionally, no book in history has had a greater impact on art than the Bible. Countless paintings, sculptures, musical scores, dramas and other works of art have extoled the stories, characters and precepts of the Bible. In addition to the direct impact on the art world, there is also a tremendous indirect influence. The message of redemption, for example, is not only found in the biblical account of Peter’s denial (Matthew 26) but also in more secular stories such as “Les Miserables,” “A Christmas Carol,” and even modern Hallmark Channel movies.
Sadly, that’s all we have time for today. I hope you will return next week to catch four more often overlooked ways Jesus changed the world. To make sure you don’t miss any of my blogs, please sign-up for my email list at www.restorethepaths.com. In the meantime, live blessed!