Continuing our series on disruption, and the “greatest disrupter of all time,” let’s take a look at the patterns that changed in the time of Jesus, and now.
The mindset of the time was set in an empire that encompassed the whole known world: the Roman Empire. This empire included Palestine, where Jesus grew up and had his ministry. There were considerably differing groups in Palestine—the Jews themselves, the Roman soldiers, and other tribes such as the Samaritans. These peoples all had different mindsets, patterns and goals.
The era was one of flourishing—the Roman Empire was at its height. The emperor at the time of Jesus’s birth was Augustus Caesar, whose reign began the greatest period in Roman history, known as Pax Romana. It is associated with its highest point of territorial extent and stability.
In that day and time, before the scientific revolution occurred, the mindset very definitely included a view of life after death. It was oriented on, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is life all about?” It was only after the scientific revolution, which occurred in the 17th-18th century, that science became the center of everything. The shift became, “here and now.”
Today people are starting to realize that “here and now” isn’t everything after all. In the 1950s and 1960s, we began in earnest to look out to the stars—there was a total desire to reach out into the universe. There even became a desire to travel through time, manifested in films like “Back to the Future.” In 2004, we saw the truth of this universe, when the Hubble Telescope revealed to us that there are billions of galaxies out there.
Covid19 has brought this question about “more beyond this life” to the forefront, simply because people had, up until this time, kind of forgotten that life can end so abruptly.
Renewing Our Mindset
Our current mindset has brought us to where we are today, with all the issues we have. Has this pattern helped us overcome our issues? Can we say that this lockdown was just a hiccup and we can successfully move on? Or (as I said in my first article of the quarantine) has this time been the best chance we’ve had in recent history to renew our patterns? If so, how do we do that?
The answer is simple: we must renew our mindset. And why is this important? Because we’re realizing that this life isn’t all there is. If that’s true, perhaps we should consider our lives in a bit of a different light.
Some people are intensely worried about the earth, and that everything is going wrong. But a favorite quote of mine from Martin Luther is one we should really take to heart: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Such an attitude is vital in renewing our mindset because we know that after we plant an apple tree, it takes years before it bears fruit. It’s not “instant gratification”—the McDonalds mentality.
We can say the patterns which we were practicing have not brought us to a very prosperous society—there are too few winners and too many losers. Capital is exponentially increasing for some, while for others—those who are truly contributing to society—it is barely enough. We see in the media that caregivers and first responders are highly valued, but the people who could care less about them continue to amass fortunes. In the last 2 months, while many such as these caregivers have been struggling, some funds have grown by hundreds of percent. While I’m a capitalist, I still consider this to be way out of proportion.
So again, what kind of mindset should we now have, that we should change to? There are certainly enough philosophies out there to choose from, and they’re engaged in endless arguments. For example, the capitalist is engaged in conflict with the socialist. Some hope that there is a middle ground between them but, fortunately, or unfortunately, there is not. The only real constant we have economically is that the consumer dictates the future. When that ceases, we have no more producers or venders.
We can liken this scenario to politics, for as voters we are actually “buyers.” The politicians we elect—and pay—should actually be servicing us. Some of them are behaving like kings or dictators of old, but they should remember that democracy has led us to the point where we don’t have kings or dictators, and they have no right to arbitrarily order us. We do have commercial “kings”—like the self-declared “king of cars” or “king of chocolate.” If such a king loses their customers, they lose their power. That’s the beauty of a free-market society.
The Mindset Jesus Brought
Now, how does all this compare with the pattern of the time when Jesus began his ministry? It was truly an unbelievable change because he totally challenged the patterns of his day. His challenge was not only to religion but also to society. For example, it was illegal to provide aid or assistance to someone who was ill or required care on the Sabbath. There is an account of Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath, and being taken to task by the synagogue ruler because of this law. Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman…be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
Jesus was challenging the fact that the rules and regulations that religious leaders had established were being placed in much higher importance than human beings. These rules and regulations were not established by God or by some power higher than humans. Therefore, anytime humans feel that regulations are no longer suiting needs or solving problems, they can be changed. This is certainly something we could take into consideration today.
I talked in the last article about how Jesus lived what he preached—a major difference between him and many of today’s leaders. But he not only set an incredible example, he also brought us a new mindset. That mindset was communicated to the very large crowds (in the thousands) who came to hear him speak, in his Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, he challenged the value system of society at that time. He challenged who was considered important, and emphasized who should be embraced.
Today we value people who attempt to pack everything into one life and become super-successful, and we’re not even questioning how they become rich. A person might have become wealthy through fraud, but nobody cares as long as they’re rich. These were the kinds of values Jesus was challenging.
Now we can ask what exactly he meant by this message. How was it different from other messages? Why, over thousands of years, does this still challenge us?
In some form, the more you are gifted—the more you are blessed from the very beginning in status, education, intellect, and perhaps even with physical beauty—the more you should use your gifts for others than yourself. The challenge is to be more responsible, the more you have because there are others who are weak. You should, therefore, protect them, guard them, take care of them, in any way possible. It’s even true that people born in different societies, different circumstances, with different traits, have the resources to establish their own giftedness.
Today it is exactly the opposite—the “strong” are using the weak ones, the poor ones, the needy ones to enrich themselves instead of heaping them.
It’s time for us to engage a new mindset and totally turn around.