The Case for Idealism

by MW Cook

He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did. It’s your father’s lightsaber. – Obi-Wan Kenobi

No one could ever really disagree with the ultimate goodness of the wildly idealistic advice of Jesus and the idealistic way the first Jesus-followers ordered their lives. Here you have a teacher who claims it’s best to allow slap you twice, give aid and comfort to your enemies and to give more than you’re forced to give. Here’s a group of people who sold everything that was superfluous and shared it with one another and with the poor. Here’s a philosophy of life built on that wildly idealistic and, most would say, unrealistic charge: Do as you would be done by.

Idealistic. Unreasonable. Too high.

Because if I am slapped and I allow my attacker to slap me again, I’ll get hurt. If I don’t resist my enemies, they will cause more suffering. If I give aid and comfort to the opposition, I am a traitor. If I sell all I have and share it with like-minded Jesus-followers, I won’t be able to enjoy God’s material blessings. If I do unto others as I would be done by, I won’t have much time left for myself.

And so we feel like we have no choice but to pull back from the ideals laid out by Jesus and the first Jesus-followers. Because they’re unreasonable. Because they hurt. Because, while they look good on paper and make a great pie-in-the-sky ethic, they just don’t work in the real world.

And there is the tragedy. Because there is only one reason that the high ideals of Jesus don’t work in the real world: The world isn’t living by them.

And there is only one reason why the world isn’t living by them: The world does not follow Jesus.

And there is only one reason why the world does not follow Jesus: They do not value his Way as the best way.

And there is only one reason why they do not value his Way as the best way: Those who claim to follow him are not living out the wild, pie-in-the-sky ideals Jesus laid out, which would show to the world how glorious and wonderful and happy and freeing and energizing it is to be a part of the Jesus Movement.

And there is only one reason why those who claim to follow Jesus are not living out his wild ideals: They think they don’t work in the real world.

And we come to the end of a sad and pathetic circle. And we sit in our churches and bemoan the ethical state of our culture and cannot understand why people do not come to seek our Jesus. And we rarely stop and think, ‘Why would they seek a philosophy not unlike every other philosophy they are offered?’

I suggest that if we threw caution into the wind and lived in the manner expounded by Jesus and displayed by the first Jesus-followers, the moral decline of the planet would cease as everyone slowly came to see the beauty of the Jesus-life. It would be hard for the first who tried. But nothing good is ever easy, is it?