Before Jesus came to the earth the world was a much more brutal place. Everyday people didn’t seem to mind seeing people flogged to death, hung on crosses, burned or whatever other despicable thing that could think up. The Colosseum in Rome is a living monument to the absolute brutality and heartlessness that mankind is capable of. It was that brutality that was characteristic of the time before Jesus came to earth.
Prior to Jesus coming infanticide was common practice. In the ancient world it was commonplace to see each morning unwanted babies on the rubbish dump, placed there by their own mothers.
After Jesus came to earth His followers ended infanticide and the gladiatorial contests. People wanted to emulate Jesus who taught, ”in everything do to others what you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-31)) Because of this change of heart and belief, society started to change.
In our world we take our values on human life for granted, we are shocked and outraged when we see atrocities, and brutality against others. We react because in our society we’ve had a regard for human life embedded in our culture for centuries. But had Jesus never been born, it would have been a far different story – human life would be quite cheap.
The morality of any society can easily be judged by the view it holds on human life. Remove the influence of Jesus in the world, and you will quickly see how cheap human life becomes.
Jesus increased the value of human life by elevating the value of women. Mistreatment of women was common around the world. Sati – widow burning is an example of this, where 1000’s of girls as young as 13 years old were married to men who were fifty or sixty years old. When they died the young women were expected to throw themselves on the funeral pier, and die with their husbands. Through the agitation of Christian missionaries in India, finally it was made illegal in the 1830’s. Thousands of women even now owe their lives to the influence of those missionaries.
A Hindu woman once said to a missionary, “Surely your Bible was written by a woman.’ ‘Why?’ he asked. “Because it says so many kind things for women”.
Before the spread of Christianity there was no organized charitable effort at large in the world. The example and teaching of Jesus changed the way the world reacted to those in need especially the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.
The bible repeatedly teaches to love your neighbour, to give, to have compassion and to bear one another’s burdens. “He who despises his neighbour sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” (Proverbs 14:21)
Hospitals as we know them began through the influence of those who sought to follow Jesus way’s and teachings. This gave rise to nursing care, and organisations started by Christians such as The Red Cross are an example.
The phenomenon of education for everyone has its roots in Christianity. It is Christianity that has give rise to the concept of education for everyone. The greatest universities worldwide were started by Christians, for Christian purposes. While many of them may today be quite hostile to the Christian faith, the fact is that it was through the labor and sacrifices of Christians that Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and others were created.
I recently read an account, which reveals just how radical a change Jesus coming to earth has made. It’s the story of a servicemen in World War Two who was out in the jungle in one of the pacific islands when he came across an indigenous man carrying a big bible. He pointed at it and said “we don’t believe in that book anymore”. The man looked at him and smiled, “well it’s a good thing for you that I do, or you’d be in here by now”, and he pointed at his stomach.
The spread of Christianity caused the widespread practice of cannibalism to decrease as people came to know Jesus and to follow his teachings.
One scholar said, “Without Jesus’ influence in our society we would not have benign neutrality, but a sinister form of secularism, where life would have diminished value.”
Jesus Christ was born; He did come to earth, and it’s important to understand what a difference historically and individually He has made. One, because it affects our life both now and for all eternity, and two so that we are ever mindful to continue to protect and stand for that which is pure, holy, loving and good.
I encourage you this Christmas time to not take for granted, or forget what Jesus has done for all mankind. It is just as the angel said on that starry night. “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:10)
Prayer: Jesus, help me to not take for granted or underestimate the difference you coming into the world made. You are the one who taught us how to love, to be compassionate, how to reach out to the hurting, the sick, and the lonely. Please help me to be as you are in my world today, and especially at this time of the year. In Jesus name Amen