The Enemy from Within

Today’s quote is from a first century BC philosopher and politician:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for s/he is known and carries his/her banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his/her sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; s/he speaks in accents familiar to his/her victims, and s/he wears their face and their arguments, s/he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men (and women). S/He rots the soul of a nation, s/he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, s/he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Here are a few comments about Cicero’s life from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Marcus Tullius Cicero was born January 3, 106 BC and was murdered December 7, 43 BC. His life coincided with the decline and fall of the Roman Republic and he was an important actor in many of the significant political events of his time. His writings are now a valuable source of information to us about those events.

He was, among other things, an orator, lawyer, politician, and philosopher. Making sense of his writings and understanding his philosophy requires us to keep that in mind.

While Cicero is currently not considered an exceptional thinker, largely on the (incorrect) grounds that his philosophy is derivative and unoriginal, in previous centuries he was considered one of the great philosophers of the ancient era and was widely read well into the 19th century.

Probably the most notable example of his influence is St. Augustine’s claim that it was Cicero’s Hortensius (an exhortation to philosophy, the text of which is unfortunately lost) that turned him away from his sinful life and toward philosophy and ultimately to God.

Cicero’s warning 2,000 years ago: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.” Could that be true in both the world and the church today?

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The Head. The Guest. The Listener.

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Today’s quote is from Confucius: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

All-knowing Wikipedia says Confucius was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC.  He was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher who emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity.

In addition to being quoted frequently in Chinese fortune cookies, Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts, emphasizing common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives.

He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government and espoused the well-known Golden Rule principle, stated a bit differently from the more familiar rendition: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

Better than the words of Confucius are the words of the plaque on the wall of my childhood home: “Christ is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” Wouldn’t it be great if that plaque were hanging on the wall in every home?

And how about what Jesus said to the man who asked, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

If those who looked at the words on that plaque and who held the words of Jesus in their heart would take them seriously, putting the world in order would be not only possible but also feasible and attainable.

That’s a big “if” in our world today! But we have to start somewhere. How about in your home and heart … and in mine? Love Jesus with all you are and all you have! Invite him to be The Head, The Listener, The Guest in your home!