"Slap her," a boy is told. "Slap her, hard! Come on." He refuses. Why? "Because you're not supposed to hit girls." And that's the point of a now-viral video on domestic abuse. A filmmaker asks boys one by one what they like about a pretty girl to whom they are introduced. The boys blush. One says, "I like her eyes." Another says, "Everything." But when the off-camera voice then asks them to slap her, every one refuses. And that's obviously as it should be.
There's something in us that knows right from wrong. "The voice of conscience," some call it. "The natural law," others say. Plato believed that our souls "remember" the perfect state from which they originated before being placed in our corrupted bodies. Justin the Martyr taught that God placed the "seed of truth" in each soul.
It's popular today to claim that there are no absolutes (itself an absolute truth claim), that nothing is objectively right and wrong. Try telling that to a boy told to strike a girl. Or to a survivor of the Holocaust.
One of our innate instincts is to leave a legacy, to live a life that matters when we're gone. Doing the right thing because it's the right thing is part of the story. Who of us wants to be remembered for our worst mistake? But choosing the priorities that give our lives lasting significance is also vital. If our compass points south instead of north, how can we arrive where we should be?
Legacy is much in the news these days. After six State of the Union addresses, what is President Obama's place in history? Will the furor over under inflated footballs stain Patriots coach Bill Belichick's reputation? Will changing Cuba-U.S. relations make things better or worse for the island and its people?
We can live for present-tense acclaim or for eternal reward, but seldom for both. Many who make a great impact for God's Kingdom don't know it at the time. For instance, C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity has impacted me more than any book I've ever read besides the Bible. I was five years old when he died in 1963; obviously he never heard of me. And Lewis is far more popular today than he was then.
Consider the most transforming figure in human history. Baptist pastor James Allan Francis said of him, "Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
"He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. . . . He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness." But today, "all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life."
One of the boys in the video explained why he would not slap the girl: "Jesus doesn't want us to hit others." How will he extend his legacy through yours today?
Publication date: January 26, 2015
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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