Today as I sat in church I was struck by the thought “don’t let religion divide us.” I am not sure why that came to me so strongly but there it was and it kept repeating itself until it was rooted in my mind.
There have been wars about territory, water rights, expansion of empires, money and whatever else. There have also been wars over religion. The middle east (or the fertile crescent) has changed hands so many times. Mostly is has been about territory but religion was involved. The fertile crescent had many different religions over the centuries but the Jewish worship of one god persisted.
As Christianity grew it encountered other faiths and prevailed over most of the ones in Europe. A form of the Jewish faith moved south and morphed into Islam with Mohammad.
During the middle ages Christianity and Islam battled in Spain and the Holy Land. The crusades were launched to recover the Holy Land. Many died in this conflict.
Later Christianity became obsessed with itself and the Inquisition had many innocents slaughtered in the name of religion.
Conflict rose again with the protestant reformation and Catholic and reform groups both suffered.
Religion has added prejudices to the ones about skin color, nationality, and anything that makes someone “other.” Now there is much disagreement among Christian denominations.
If we add the widening influence to other cultures and their faiths: Buddhism, Hinduism and many others we now have a world with religions bumping into each other everywhere.
I think all of this leads me back to my original thought. Do not let religion divide us. It already has with Islamic extremists planning death to “infidels,” fighting between India and Pakistan and conflict almost everywhere.
I love the God that I believe in and I don’t think that his/her intention is for us to slaughter each others over our faith. Instead we are called to love everyone. We are told to turn the other cheek. We are not told to murder others because of their beliefs. God is greater than us and his plan is beyond our understanding. Please Lord, help us not to kill each other over religion.
Romans 8:7 New International Version
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Today I was reading another blog on this passage and it brought some things to mind. When we read passages about the “flesh” we tend to think in terms of sex. This passage is way broader than that. Paying attention to our flesh is to think of ourselves first. It is to put ourselves in the place of God. We create idols and worship them.
One of the worst is money which is connected with power. Some people want the money for moneys sake. I had an aunt who spent the early part of her life so poor that there was nothing to eat. She did not spend money as she acquired it. She squirreled it away so that she would never be that poor again. For her money was a life line. There was always that fear controlling her.
For others money is about luxury. Things. Having the best of everything. Being able to go out and buy anything you want. This is connected with one up-manship. This is wanting money to be better than someone else. This is trying assuage the hole in your soul with things.
Then there are those who use money for power. Their lives are spent manipulating those around them. They love being in control. They seldom think of anyone but themselves.
Although all of these things are connected to money each is flawed on its own. Each of these things create idols that are worshiped instead of God. Each of them takes us further and further away from what is real and meaningful.
Worship of the body itself is another idol. Our society loves this one. Youth and a beautiful body are all that matters. They cannot see ahead that each of us is dust and to dust we will return. God does not ask us to ignore our bodies. In fact we are called to care for ourselves as his creation. Just not turn it into worship.
There are many more things than sex connected with the flesh that become idols. We need to think broadly and see the truth. “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
Life can be so frustrating. Things can begin to pile up and then they push us over the edge. And we fall. Tonight I spent time talking with someone who is being pushed and is maybe too close to the edge.
Living with anxiety and depression can be hard for us but it can be terrifying for those we love. They can see the cycle happening and want to do something but everything they try doesn’t help. They sense the danger and can do nothing. This can lead to overreacting. Being anxious and feeling watched for signs of stress doesn’t make life easier. The sad part is that we know it is about love but we also can do nothing.
The books that came out in the 1950’s and 1960’s talked abut what life would be like if we were being watched. “Big brother” is always watching. This idea is unsettling. It takes a toll and makes life even more difficult. It adds on guilt for seeming to be a burden and making those around us afraid.
This is a heavy weight to carry. Someone watching our habits…sleeping…eating…living and questioning our level of wellness can actually set healing back. I don’t know what the answer is. To be loved is what all of us want and need but it can be overwhelming.
Each of us needs to find the middle path between our loved ones anxiousness and our own search for wholeness, wellness and ability to function on our own. We must accept their loving care but need them to know that we are aware of their fear of harm for us, understand but also need space to just be be ourselves.
We are so good at putting ourselves down. We don’t need any other critic. The one inside of us does a good enough job. We think that we have to be perfect and that it is expected of us. We need a reality check.
Our reality check can be found in the Bible. When we look at who God chose to do the things he wanted it should give us hope. God called Moses to go and convince pharaoh get people out of Egypt. Moses was supposed to talk to pharaoh. Give a great speech. Unfortunately Moses stuttered. What a choice for God to make!
Next we take a look at Rahab. She was a women who live in Jericho. This was where the Israelites were to enter the promised land. They need information and sent spies into the city to the home of Rahab. Since she was a prostitute they felt they would not be noticed there. Their mission was successful and they promised to spare Rahab. She was to hang a red cord outside the window of her house which was in the outside wall. She and her family were spared when the Israelites attacked. A prostitute….chosen by God.
Now lets look at David. David sent his friend and soldier into battle to get killed so that he could have his wife. An adulterer, a king and favorite of God.
Mary was a teenager who got pregnant before she was married and told Joseph a tall story about carrying God’s child. Fortunately Joseph believed her.
Then there are the disciples who promised to follow Jesus but kept messing up. One of them turned him into the authorities and another denied him three times.
If we want to put ourselves down we are in good company. Anyone is good enough for God to choose. We are loved. We are chosen. We are OK.
My grandmother (who lived to be 100) lived in a world we can only imagine. Born in the late 1800’s she was raised on a rice farm. Some of her stories about growing up were fascinating. She reminisced about watching the workers put the rice in (what sounded like} a large mortar and pestle, beating the rice and then throwing it up in the air to let the husks fly away.
An image that is way out of my understanding.
She did have one trait that sometimes bothered me….especially when I was a child. If life was too good or things were going along too well she worried about something bad happening. Almost as if each of us has a quota of good and if we reach that limit then the bad will come our way. She once said that my youngest child was too good. Knowing her thinking it bothered me for a while. I was able to shake it off and move on.
One of the reasons that this seemed so against her character is that she was deeply faithful reading her Bible and praying. I never saw a day go by that she didn’t pray morning, noon and evening. She rested after lunch and read her Bible. Thinking about it now I wonder how her faith in God aligned with her “good and bad” thinking. Maybe she never connected the two. Maybe it had to do with God’s image from the Old Testament.
I belong to the camp that believes that God wishes only the good for us. Nothing in scripture promises that our lives will be perfect. We are not perfect. We are promised that God will be with us every step of the way. Always ” God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46
There are so many ethical issues that we have today. Some of them almost seem insoluble. Advancements in gene studies have given us major things to wrestle with. Where do we draw the line.
When I was working in Neonatal Intensive Care ( many moons ago) there already was the issue of which babies should be saved and which ones to let go. King Solomon wouldn’t know what to do. Now it is even worse. We do invitro fertilization and have eggs left over. Scientists want to use eggs that will be discarded tto get stem cells which can be used to help many diseases. Are they “potential” babies or not?
Medicine has challenged many ethical and moral ideas over the centuries. We can do so many things that were not done before. We are living a lot longer and there is a question about prolonging life beyond what is reasonable and moral. Are we using up resources that could better be used for others?
The Bible does help us with its basic moral ground but these things were not issues when the Bible was written. We have to learn to ask questions and spend time understanding the answers in order to make judgments. Even then there may not be any clear path. Sometimes there are two good choices….sometimes two bad. Who is to decide? It seems that it is up to each of us to understand and make a decision based on our own beliefs. This means that there will be differing opinions and we will have to learn to accept that others may not agree with us. It is important for us to view their decision with tolerance even if they can’t see ours.
God, as always, will be present and knows that we will try to make the best decisions with prayer and compassion.
Recently, my granddaughter, who is taking linguistic anthropology said that she realizes that people seldom understand each other. Language can mean so many different things. If we grew up in different places our usage of words can be very different from others. This can lead to some pretty interesting mistakes.
A friend of mine from Britain once said that her downstairs neighbor knocked her up each morning. When I asked for clarity she said he took a broom and knocked on the ceiling of his flat to make sure she was awake.
Language is a vague and nebulous way to communicate. Too often we think we have been clear when that is far from reality. My college roommate used to say she was going to red up the room. I had no idea what that meant but found out she was going to clean up. She and I are both from the same country.
Language is tricky. Expressing ourselves and opening ourselves to others can have unwanted results. We don’t know how someone is going to react. I know that some blogs have received hate mail in response to something that was posted. It is very easy to misunderstand when someone is sharing thoughts and feelings. We need to be generous in our response to others and know that we may be misunderstanding. It is also possible that we may not agree but it is fine to disagree. Just know that someone is entitled to think differently. We are not all alike!