How to Topple Tyranny

Recently, I started reading The Gulag Archipelago, the life inside the communist concentration camps in Russia, written by the Nobel Prize laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He said,

“One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

That stimulates my thoughts significantly because it’s so true. We have seen these people in our recent history, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Aung San Suu Kyi—unfortunately, Burma regressed. Solzhenitsyn himself triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union with his book.

It doesn’t have to be about bringing down a government but any form of tyranny. Martin Luther King, Jr. toppled the tyranny against civil rights. Abraham Lincoln toppled the tyranny of slavery. He achieved it through honesty and integrity, so people called him “Honest Abe.”

I read some Palms lately depicting we live in a world of liars. At first, I thought that sounded too cynical, but as I observed people around me, I discovered almost everyone lies. The longer they talk, the more lies they speak. Some tend to talk boldly and intimidatingly to cover up their deceit.

A Burmese proverb says, “Without lies, words are not smooth.” It means your words sound crude or boring without lies; you need a little lie to spice up your words. In English, we have “white lies.” These traditions hint at permission to lie, but gradually it becomes a habit, and we cross the fine line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.

I remember I felt particularly irritated when my children lied to me. Guess who they learned from?

Then I reflected on my words and found I tell no fewer lies than anyone else. You would expect someone in my position should tell fewer lies, if not none. It reminds me of Paul saying he was “the chief of all sinners.” Like Paul, I am the chief of all liars. Confession is the starting point of the road to recovery. Now, I am a recovering liar.

It all began with discovering Solzhenitsyn’s statement, “One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.” Honest people are intimidating to tyrants. That’s why they imprison or eliminate them. Tyranny is sustained by people who join the lie for survival. If stopping lying can make you so powerful, what does it take to stop lying?

Solzhenitsyn received his enlightenment in the concentration camp, where starvation was one of the systematic tortures. Maybe the fasting state raised his consciousness. Similarly, Viktor Frankl also received his wisdom in the concentration camp and wrote his seminal book Men Search for Meaning.

I have been fasting for Lent, and I can see that fasting is like a self-imposed concentration camp. I hope something good can come out of it for me instead of starving to death. Let me tell you a story,

Confucius and Yan Hui

Yan Hui, one of Confucius’ favorite students, came to him and said, “Master, I came to say goodbye!”

The master asked, “Where are you going?”

Yan Hui replied, “I am going to Wei, the neighboring country. You know Wei is ruled by a young tyrant who frequently kills his citizens on a whim. Even the rivers are running red by his bloodshed. Master, you told me a doctor is most useful in places with serious diseases. So, I am going to Wei to serve as an advisor to the king to persuade him to stop killing.”

Confucius said, “The tyrant will behead you as soon as you tell him he is wrong. That’s highly risky. Since you have decided to go, you must have devised some strategies already. Tell me how you are going to accomplish it?”

Yan Hui said, “Master, I will go there and seek a job as the king’s consultant and befriend him. Then I will gently advise him like a friend to stop his murderous actions.”

Confucius said, “It won’t work. Haven’t you read about those renowned historical sages beheaded by tyrants for advising them? Are you smarter than them? Tyrants hate anyone who opposes their will. I am sure you will die soon after entering the palace.”

Yan Hui said, “How about this? I’ll become a history teacher at the palace and indirectly show the king the fate and short shelf-life of the tyrants in the history books. Then he will blame the books instead of me.”

Confucius said, “It won’t work. Tyrants can easily smell your motives and kill the messenger before destroying the message.”

Yan Hui presented a long list of strategies and schemes to Confucius, but the master refuted them one by one.

Yan Hui became frustrated and asked, “Master, what should I do then? I want to save the lives of the suffering people of that country.”

Confucius said, “Go home and fast. Then I will tell you what to do.”

Yan Hui went but suddenly turned around and asked, “Master, you know my family is poor. We hardly eat meat or drink wine. We usually eat vegetarian. Aren’t we already fasting?”

Confucius said, “No, that’s ritual fast, but I am talking about ‘mindful fast.’”

Yan Hui went home and fasted. After some days, he returned to Confucius saying, “Master, before I fasted, I was full of myself, but after many days of fasting, I noticed I have lost my ego.”

Confucius said, “Now, you can go to advise the king. Make sure you follow the direction of the Holy Spirit.” (End of story).

This story reveals that you cannot topple tyranny with manipulation and deception. Confucius taught Yan Hui to improve his honesty and integrity before trying to persuade the tyrant. Providence goes with honesty. King David said,

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart
.” (Ps 51:6).

God teaches you wisdom secretly when you are honest to the core. That’s what “in spirit and truth” means, as we discussed last week. How can we reach that stage of total honesty—pure in spirit?

The good news is, in today’s scripture lesson, Jesus gives us a step-by-step process to attain it. It is also a blueprint to topple tyranny. Whatever tyranny you want to topple—physical or moral, corporate tyranny or ideological tyranny. Let’s begin!

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]

The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to John 5:1-12. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:1–12).

[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]

From the outset of his ministry, Jesus laid out a plan to topple the tyranny locally and globally. His disciples were considering armed insurrection against the government. Instead, Jesus tried to develop honest disciples and showed them how they could topple tyranny without arm forces.

Using our recent metamorphosis metaphor, we might say caterpillars symbolize creepy liars, and butterflies are honest people. In this passage, Jesus taught eight stages of spiritual metamorphosis. Each stage is a blessing.

1. Consciousness and Confession

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:3).

Poor in spirit means a lack of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are signs of honesty, and that’s why the Bible says, “there is no law against such things.” (Gal 5:22-23).

To begin our metamorphosis from creepy liars to honest butterflies, we first need to realize we are creepy liars. It’s a big step, but it’s also a blessing to realize and confess your sin. As Reformed Presbyterians, we begin our worship with a prayer of confession for this very reason.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who confess. It’s like the kingdom of butterflies is for the caterpillars that confess.

2. Abandonment

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mat 5:4).

Consciousness is not enough; you must abandon the creepy caterpillar life in the cocoon, like a funeral. You lost that comfortable life crawling and eating the leaves, destroying the vegetation. But you will be comforted to know you will soon become a beautiful butterfly that propagates the vegetation by pollinating plants. What a contrast! The death of that creepy ego is worth it because you can now serve a higher purpose.

3. Rebirth

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Mat 5:5).

After abandoning your old life, you are reborn from the cocoon as a meek and humble infant, spiritually speaking. We know infants do nothing, but they attract love and care from adults. Innocence attracts Providence. You inherit the earth means you have abundance. Like King David said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Previously, you were in want because your ego was your shepherd.

4. Edification

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mat 5:6).

Like a growing infant, you begin to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness, a mature form of innocence and honesty.

Edification is for nourishing your spirit to gain wisdom, just as education is for nurturing your mind to gain knowledge. Those who thirst and hunger for righteousness will be filled because God has given us the Bible for our edification. It also involves Worship, Bible Study, Personal Devotion, etc., that quench your thirst and fill your hunger for spiritual growth.

5. Forbearance

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Mat 5:7).

One of the most important lessons to learn in life is to practice mercy. God forgives you, but if you don’t forgive others, God’s forgiveness is incomplete. You must complete the circle by extending your forgiveness. Jesus has taught this quantum paradox repeatedly.

If you don’t forgive the liars, you might retaliate with lies. Then you lose your newborn state of honesty. Your metamorphosis will stall. I call it forbearance because it encompasses both mercy and forgiveness. It’s a form of tolerance.

Between exercising abandonment of the ego, forgiving, and being forgiven, you attain a purity of heart—total honesty, leading to the next stage.

6. Refinement (Righteousness)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mat 5:8).

At this stage, you reach the ultimate honesty, symbolized by a pure heart. The result is you will see God. How do you see God if “God is Spirit,” as Jesus says? Spirit doesn’t have a form. It means you see Providence because Providence is evidence of God’s presence with you. As King David wrote,

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart
.” (Ps 51:6).

When you secretly receive wisdom from God, you realize God appears to you.

After committing myself to the self-imposed concentration camp of fasting, I have delivered sermons above and beyond my own wisdom. Many people have given me stunning feedback. (LJ) They are not my work, but messages downloaded from the “Head Office” above. For me, that is seeing God; it’s both shocking and humbling. Solzhenitsyn said,

“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It’s like a butterfly thanking the cocoon. Without this stage, your social justice attempts can go wrong. For example, communism is a social justice movement, but it replaces a tyranny with a worse tyranny.

After this stage, you are ready to topple tyranny because you have Providence.

7. Enlightenment

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mat 5:9).

At this stage, you become a peacemaker, making the world better like a butterfly pollinating the flowers. You can topple tyranny without guns and cannons; that’s social justice done right. That’s what Jesus did.

You may be persecuted, but tyranny will continue to collapse after your sacrifice. Jesus was crucified, but the culture got hurt. That’s a profound scenario: Jesus was crucified, but was he hurt? No, the creepy culture got hurt. Satan got hurt.

Enlightenment has a double meaning: receiving light or giving light. You shine brightest when you are honest. That’s why the tyrants will hate you. But God will recognize you as his children because you behave like the Son.

8. Endurance

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:10).

You must prepare for this because tyranny hates honesty. They will persecute you to turn off your light. But, you must develop endurance to handle the persecution. This stage is so vital that Jesus uses two additional verses to reinforce it.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Mt 5:11).

Hating you equals hating Jesus because you are his disciple toppling tyranny his way, using his nonviolent subversive movement. It hurts them at the core. It goes on Jesus’ account, so don’t take it personally and give in. How Jesus teaches you to endure it:

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:12).

Rejoice—don’t lose your sense of humor or get discouraged. Jesus gives us two reasons to rejoice:

First, your reward is great in heaven. It means you are fulfilling a higher purpose of toppling tyranny. That’s more rewarding than kowtowing to the tyrant.

Another reason is to remember that the persecution is not new; they did the same to the prophets before you. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and it’s a long list going back to the Old Testament.

A prophet is someone who sends the message of God’s justice to tyranny. They are the Honest Abes. You should rejoice because you are in the heroic community of the prophets; you’ve joined the communion of saints; you are part of the spiritual Mensa society.

With those in mind, endure the temporal ordeal with joy because it means tyranny is hurting due to your honesty. They are collapsing.

Notice these eight steps for an acrostic: CAREFREE. I made it easy for you and me to remember. Each time I review these eight steps, more wisdom reveals.

In his very first sermon, Jesus laid out his blueprint to topple tyranny, which is why Jesus talked in cryptic language to prevent getting arrested prematurely. This is not just a blueprint for physical and mental tyrannies but also spiritual tyranny—namely, Satan. The rest is the fulfillment of this blueprint.

Now let me encourage you with what we started:

“One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It takes only one person; it could be you if you take these steps. There are many tyrannies to take down—social or moral, corporate or ideological tyranny. The world needs you. Our world will never be the same if every one of us becomes an Honest Abe. Let’s achieve it together!

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.


Bye now!

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