Right in the centre - Learning from past mistakes


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

In John 8:31-33 in the New International Version (NIV), it is written, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Those last few words have been repeated throughout history by preachers and politicians on thousands of occasions. I trust that most of the preachers believed their words, but I question if the politicians held as tightly to their meaning.

If politicians– and we might include kings, emperors and generals– actually believed what they were saying, we would be a lot better off. If the truth had been known (and followed), we would not have had two world wars in the 1900s. It’s doubtful we would have ever had wars if these words had been truly followed.

Most wars begin with a lie, a pretence of offence, an old grudge re-kindled. That was certainly the case in 1914 with WWI and WWII. Once the offences were re-kindled, nothing could stop the committing of new offences and all-out war broke out.

The truth that Jesus was speaking was stated to correct a major misunderstanding of his purpose and an even larger misunderstanding of Biblical history. God gave us the Ten Commandments, which people quickly edited and expanded to over 500 rules for life and living. History shows that mankind is rarely satisfied with simple, straightforward rules. The slipping away from the Ten Commandments into several books of Old Testament laws is a prime example of that. Unfortunately, today’s bureaucratic (and, dare I say, politically correct) world does the same. The more rules you make, the more rules you have to make.

The Bible is divided into the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) or the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The OT is mostly history, a great place to learn from and visit, but a very poor place to live. The NT, or New Covenant, is where God wants us to live.

In Matthew 22 it states, “34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

If all people, at all times through history, had followed, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, there would be no wars, no conflict between individual people or nations.

In recent months, Canada has been grappling with Truth and Reconciliation. That is a good thing. We need truth and we need reconciliation and lots more of it.

I have made a habit of reading a history book or two every month. History books can reveal a lot of truth, but only if they are accurate. I am midway through a book called Halifax, Warden of the North. It traces the history of what is now the City of Halifax back hundreds of years, when it was just a bay where large ships could find shelter. The reason Halifax is where it is today is because of that bay, a deep sea port.

But it’s not the city that caught my attention, but rather the violence and outright stupidity. The book was written in 1956 and tells of intrigue, violence, battles, adultery and just plain evil. There are stories of jealousy, lust, power and greed. The author refers to the Indigenous people of the area as “Indians” and “savages”, which is ironic, given that the book does not gloss over the inhumane actions of the French and English of the time. In times of war, both sides of a conflict take action that can be considered savage. One governor built his house so he could overlook the city square where public hangings took place. It brought a certain pleasure to him to see a few people hung if they didn’t follow his rules.

Instead, if people had followed “Love your neighbour as yourself”, there would not be hangings, wars, hatred, jealousy, murders, assaults and all the other things that tear us apart.

“Love your neighbour as yourself” is the “the truth (that) will set you free”. If it was applied to every facet of life as individuals, people groups and countries, we could live in peace.

Is it too much to ask to review history, be it our own or our world history, and ask how much better off we would have been if these teachings were followed?

Then look forward to today, tomorrow and the future beyond and ask how much better off we will be if we adopted them fully, as nations? If we do that, we will have learned from our history and be able to write new and better chapters in the future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.