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The New Teacher

The New Teacher
The Marion Weekly Star
May 11, 1912

By William T. Ellis

The International Sunday-School Lesson for May 12 Is “The Law of Love.” Luke 6:27-38, Romans 13:8-10.

A picturesque Persian whom his American followers call “Master” and whom his Persian followers acclaim as “Messiah,” has come to these shores and is getting considerable attention from the public prints. Abbas Effendi, as he is commonly known, or ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as he is really named, claims to be one in the succession of the long line of revealers of truth to the world. He brings a mild teaching of brotherhood and tolerance and universalism. In the long reach of things, neither the man nor his creed will figure very prominently, but it is wholesome at the moment to contrast him and the greater religious leaders who have gone before with Jesus and His philosophy. A fresh look at what Jesus taught is always profitable.

We scarcely would care to dignify our Persian guest by contrasting his little philosophy with that of Jesus. It is fair, however, to call to mind the great founders of faiths which have won the allegiance of human hearts throughout the centuries, and to compare their philosophy with the philosophy of Jesus. Buddha, with his word of self immolation; Confucius with his doctrine of human relationships; Zoroaster, with his teaching of the sanctity of the elements; all have made contributions to human thought. But nobody who possesses discrimination and poise and intellectual integrity of the present day scholar would think of giving these men rank as philosophers alongside of Jesus of Nazareth. The teachings of Christ are not only more comprehensive than those of any other, but they meet the pragmatist’s test of making good. The Sunday-schools for two months are devoting their lessons to the utterances of Jesus which embody His mind.

The Disappointed Expectations.

All who heard the words that fell hot from the lips of the gentle Teacher, sitting amid the waving lilies of the Galilean hillside, looked forward to the coming of a king who should be great in temporal might. That error is fundamental to human nature. We all greatly admire a king, the man of power and pomp and vast achievement. Only dimly are we learning the cry. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” George MacDonald has put the truth in his beautiful lines.

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high,
Thou cam’st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry,
“O Son of man, to right my lot
Nought but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road thy wheels are not
Nor on the sea they sail;
“My how or when thou wilt not heed,
But come down thine own secret stair,
That thou mayest answer all my need,
Yea, every bygone prayer.”

Most of us have not eyes to see that this deep human note which was struck by the manner of Christ’s coming and by His words of life, aimed at the hearts of men, is of first importance. The kingdom must come in the realm of character. Singular saints are the salt of society. New minds make new men, and new men make a new world. People count for most: Christ dealt not with abstractions but with truths that commonplace men and women could work out in their own characters.

The Paradoxical Law.

Probably Jesus would not get first-page headlines in the newspapers, today, were He to come campaigning as of old. His platform is not highly spiced enough for popular taste; He did not utter dramatic sayings of the ear-catching kind; there are no majestical egotistical epigrams in His credit. Instead, He came quietly talking to people about the law of love.

Instead of telling men how to become great and mighty and rich and how to overcome their fellows, He bade them give up their rights, endure wrongs, and serve mankind to the last drop of blood. To love in spite of all and to keep on loving with a self-forgetfulness and a self-abnegation that are bewildering, was His prescription. He was after a new society, created by the loving hearts of individuals. His goal was a kingdom, the kingdom which ultimately comprehends all men. We are beginning to understand this truth, which He put into these words.

But I say unto you that hear, love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again; and as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them, and if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners to receive again as much, But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High; for He is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be ye merciful, even be judged, and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; release and ye shall be released.”

The Gentle Conqueror.

The world has come far since the incredulous ears of mighty Rome’s subjects listened to the paradoxical utterances of Jesus. It is amazing to contemplate how humanity has swung around to Christ’s conception of what is most important. These hillside teachings of unselfishness, of forgiveness, of service, and of self-denial are today agitating the whole world. The law of otherism, for which men frankly give credit to Christ, is being written into the political platforms of our time. Great governments are adopting it and are finding that it pays — actually pays — better than the old law of greed and selfishness and might.

The spirit of society is being affected by the teachings of Jesus. The very strain of the race is being altered. We see that the welfare of humanity as a whole is wrapped up in Christ’s magnificent philosophy of love unto the uttermost. As a certain modern poem expresses it.

Humanity is one; no weakest brother
Can fall or falter, sin or suffer woe
But that the suffering reacheth every other,
And all the world with him doth fainter grow,
“Humanity is one; who thinks to conquer
By crushing down a weaker in the way,
Knows not that in his own unreasoning rancor
He beatheth down the steps that lead to day,
“Humanity is one; thou that o’ercomest,
O thou be strong for those who are but weak;
So shall a thousand triumph where thou winnest,
And many find what few know how to seek.”

The Setting of the Golden Rule.

A working basis for the practice of the high teachings of Jesus is to be found in the familiar words of what common opinion calls the “Golden Rule,” which we find embedded like a jewel in the center of these teachings. Now, the “Golden Rule” is not the highest law — not nearly so lofty as some of the teachings, which surround it. He who goes all the way with Christ will find himself far beyond the reign of the “Golden Rule,” which only makes self the standard.

The law of love simply puts self out of the question. It is not a reciprocity in benevolence, but magnanimity: not bargaining, but bounty. Jesus bids us give and expect no return, except the ultimate return which in the long run is meted out to the unselfish. This is the principle of which we are feebly getting hold. A world of good people becomes a good world. The law of love given sway becomes the most practicable of laws.

The Family Likeness.

Some gentle, loving, unworldly persons make us think of God the minute we see their faces. Their presence turns men’s thoughts heavenwards. Thus Jesus bids His friends show the likeness of the Father. “Be ye *** as your Father.” Again, “Ye shall be the children of the Highest.”

Thus the disciple is to prove his birthright. Even as the family likeness appears in sons and daughters, so that when we see a child we think of the parent. The Christian is so to pour out his life in love and mercy and forgiveness that all men will be reminded of the love and mercy and forgiveness of the Father in heaven.

Impossible” these standards have often been called, but they are the standards that have lifted the world up to its present level, and that are still making it liker every day to the kingdom of heaven, where love holds absolute sway.