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THE CHRISTIAN MEASURE OF
E use the words Christian measure of greatness deliberately, for the ideal of greatness
held by the world is quite antipodal to that given by Christ. Christ was very conscious of this and put his own ideal over against it most emphatically—“The world says this, but I say .. all through his words either in direct utterance or by implication. But the line is as sharply drawn after two thousand years as it was in Christ's mind. One has only to talk ten minutes with the first man he meets, or read the first paper, magazine or book he chances upon, or see a play, to realize how far the world's idea of greatness is from Christ's.
Thus the great man from the world's point of view is the man who can get the most. Christ's ideal of the great man is he who gives the most. Christ never sought anything for Himself. His life was one of self-giving. His meat and drink was to do the will of God, and that will was the giving of all He had, even His life, to the world.
The great man from the world's point of view is
he who can make others serve him, who can free himself from the necessity of inconvenience and sacrifice, who can make everything minister to his pleasure. Christ's ideal of the great man was he who, forgetting himself, passed his life in ministering, even at the cost of inconvenience, pain and sacrifice, to the needs of the world. "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you; but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The world's ideal of greatness is power. Power is worshiped by the world. Ask the world who are the great men and it answers Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Bismarck. In Germany the great men are the war lords. In America the great men, from the world's point of view, have been our steel kings, our coal barons, our railroad magnates, our famous brokers and financiers, our successful politicians. He is great who has power. Christ never seems to have given any thought to power. Love was to him the distinguishing mark of greatness. The gentle, meek, merciful, ministering man was His great man. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples (that is, share his greatness), that ye have love one toward another.” And
Paul, who knew the mind of Christ, puts love as the final test of greatness. Likewise John, who leaned upon Christ's breast, when he comes to write upon Christian greatness has only one word, love, not power.
Another outstanding trait of greatness in Christ's mind was the possession of a great measure of the life of God in the soul. He was greatest who had most of God in him. He closes His last great prayer with the ardent supplication that his disciples may remain “in us,” in the Father and Himself. So they shall be great and bear much fruit by abiding in Him and the Father. Humanity becomes great when infused with divinity. Men are great when they are sons of God. Human weakness becomes transfigured into divine greatness when God permeates it. Creatures of time become eternal, the mortal puts on immortality here and now, when God is in possession. The great man, no matter what his station, condition, rank, position, is he who is filled with God. This was what made Christ great, this, with the love and compassion which always flow out of this greatness—that he was God-filled.
We cannot leave this subject without expressing our extreme joy that at last the Christian Church is beginning to demand that nations submit to the same test of greatness it applies to men. In England, France and America the leaders of the churches are everywhere beginning to say that the
things which make a man great are those which make a nation great. It is one of the fine fruits of the war. The great nation of the future will be the nation which lives to give instead of living only to get; which lives to serve humanity and the weaker nations of the world instead of living purely for its own rights and privileges; which speaks for the world in terms of good will, instead of in terms of power; which wants nothing for itself it does not want for other peoples. Great Britain is infinitely greater giving of her life for Belgium than in giving it to acquire South Africa. The United States is infinitely greater going to war for the saving of civilization and the right to live, for all the world, than it would have been in going to war to secure the safety of property or the lives of its own people. When a nation which has nothing to gain for itself makes a great sacrifice, laying down its life for the sins of other nations and to save the nations sinned against, it is measuring up to the gospel standard of greatness.
Nowhere have these gospel ideals of greatness been applied to nations more strikingly than in the various utterances of the President of the United States, made since the outbreak of the European war. Let us rejoice that in these things our nation leads. It will be well to bring some of these applications of gospel greatness to nations to our attention once more:
“We are at the beginning of an age in which it
will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among nations and their government that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states.”
“Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honour steady to a common end and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.”
(We quote the above sentence because of the striking implication that the great nation, the nation of the future, will prefer the interests of mankind to any interest of its own. This is straight gospel greatness.)
"When I have made a promise as a man I try to keep it, and I know no other rule permissible to a nation. The most distinguished nation in the world is the nation that can and will keep its promises, even to its own hurt."
"The only excuse that America can ever have for the assertion of her physical force is that she asserts it in behalf of the interests of humanity.”
“It means that you have not only got to be just to your fellowmen, but that as a nation you have got to be just to other nations. It comes high. It is not an easy thing to do. It is easy to think first of the material interest of America, but it is not easy to think first of what America, if she loves justice, ought to do in the field of international affairs. I believe that at whatever cost America