On this date, Jan. 10, half a century before Jesus’ birth, Julius Caesar faced one of the most historical decisions in the chronicles of the Roman Empire.

He led his 13th Legion across the Rubicon. The Rubicon was a shallow river that served as the northern border of Italy. To cross it with troops was tantamount to insurrection. On the bank of the Rubicon, he paused long enough to declare “alea iacta est” (“The die is cast.”). The ensuing battle for Rome led him to become a living god to the Romans and dictator for life.

Egomaniac that he was, Caesar was committed, a quality virtually absent in the mindset of our present culture. In marriages, civic clubs, careers, patriotism — almost every relationship in life has suffered for this deficiency, including the church. A nationally known denominational leader recently asked the question, “Why is it that when our lives become overwhelmed with commitments to community, career, family and friends, that in order to solve the problem we drop church responsibilities first? Why not forego overtime work instead of ceasing to serve meals in the church soup kitchen? Why not drop out of the bridge club instead opting out of Sunday school?”



Allow me four observations.

First, a major shift in society has occurred while we, the church, were asleep at the wheel. This more mobile, affluent generation does what they want as opposed to what they should. The church is no longer the focal point of society, nor is the home.

Second, technology now rules the world, not morals or manners. Blame iPhones, internet, TV, computers for they consume us more than we consume them. Our relationship with digital apparatus is more impersonal and stronger than our relationships with people. It is on the verge of them ceasing to be instruments improving our minds and easing our work. Like HAL of “2001 A Space Odyssey,” they nearly control us.

In the third place, we have “individualized” morals, ethics and even common courtesy so as to rationalize almost any rude, vulgar, harmful or unethical behavior. Worse is that the importance of family has been lost.

The last observation of influences undermining our sense of commitment is the addiction-like value we place upon entertainment. In a population accustomed to over 700 television channels, more theme parks than can be counted and free diversions at the touch of a button, there is a reason why our culture has coined the term “football widows.” Some people can obliterate from their minds the needs of their spouses during certain seasons, but such faults are not limited to the male gender. A repeated scenario is for a family to enter a restaurant, sit around a table and all the children immediately retrieve their computer games and iPhones, each one isolating him/herself from the others.

But honesty compels us to ask, does this justify our inability of commitment? The answer is a definitive no! We are still spiritually responsible beings.

It would be an improved world if, like Caesar, we could dedicate ourselves wholly to important endeavors. Actually, I would prefer to use Joshua and his assertion of allegiance, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

But in truth, most of us are more like Simon Peter. We make broad affirmations like, “Lord, even if all fall away on account of you, I will never fail you.” But when the moment of trial comes, we falter.

However, remember Peter matured in his faith and eventually became the ‘rock’ that Christ needed.

We can too.

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Johnny A. Phillips is a clinical chaplain of the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center.

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