17 Inches

Let not anyone pacify his conscience by
the delusion that he can do no harm if he
takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men
need nothing more to compass their ends,
than that good men should look on and do
nothing. He is not a good man who, without a
protest, allows wrong to be committed in his
name, and with the means which he helps to
supply, because he will not trouble himself to
use his mind on the subject. (John Stuart
Mill—inaugural address at the University of
St. Andrews, February 1, 1867)
A familiar quote is, “The only thing
necessary for the triumph of evil is for good
men to do nothing.” This quote is commonly
attributed to Edmund Burke, yet there is
strong argument that it actually originated
from John Stuart Mill in the aforementioned
inaugural address. Honestly, it makes no
difference in my mind whether it was Burke or
Mill or some other person who initially made
the comment. The fact is that it contains truth.
It is certainly accurate that good men—good
people—too often support the advance of evil
by silence and inactivity. Before anyone gets
all stirred up, by the way, please note that this
is not a cry for public activism. If that is your
bent, so be it. This is more than that. It is an
invitation to consider how we might live up to
the standard of Christ. It is a charge for us to
be the people we claim to be; that is, to not
only voice our commitment to Christ, but to

also live out that same commitment. This is a
call to holiness. It is an appeal to virtuous
living, as defined by the life of our Savior. It is
a siren song for courage in our everyday
walk—to be courageous like Jesus.

It is not overstatement to say that, for
many of us, the most stimulating, inspiring,
and convicting section in all of scripture is
the Sermon on the Mount, found in
Matthew 5-7. In just three chapters Jesus
teaches his disciples the fundamentals of
living for God. In that ancient environment
(and in this modern one!), this teaching is
radical. It is unlike anything the disciples—
and whatever “overhearers” there were—
have ever heard. In fact, Matthew records
at the end of the sermon, “The crowds
were astonished at his teaching, for he
was teaching them as one who had
authority, and not as their scribes.” This
teaching was distinct, and they were
amazed. Jesus taught things that were
unique in the world. He delivered a
message that was stimulating, inspiring,
and convicting.

Speaking for myself here, the most
challenging statement in this sermon is
found at the end of chapter five. “You
therefore must be perfect, as your
heavenly Father is perfect.” With this
demand, Jesus calls all disciples to
maturity. He insists that each of us who
claim him as our Savior understand—and
live by—the holy standard that God has
defined for us. He summons us to reject
the errant path of the Pharisees and the
scribes, a path that is strikingly compatible
with the world (see Matthew 6 and 23 in
particular). Instead, Jesus leads us to
think, act, and live what he taught and
modeled. We are to be women and men of
great courage—courage that comes from
deep belief in God and in his plan. This is
courage that we receive from our risen
Lord. It is courage that emboldens us to
live up to the standard set for us by the
great God who not only demands from us,
but who also, through Christ, empowers us
to live in holiness. –Ricky

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