Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Messages of Peace

The urge to kindness is found somewhere in every human heart. Even the most degenerate may be fond of, say, a pet. There certainly is not, nor can there be, any lasting religion that does not emphasis the love of its deity. Christianity is blaringly clear: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Only begotten, of course, means "one-of-a-kind" -- monogenes, in the Greek.

It's this urge in us to comfort the wretched that makes us, in human terms, worthy of redemption. God, of course, looks not at our actions, but at our hearts -- and alas, there He finds little to commend itself. But I have loved betrayers, so I understand how God can overlook what is vile.

How wretched, the man who loves an unfaithful or whorish woman. This was never my case, but it's not hard to empathize. Yet God loves us, everyone, for all our ingratitude and betrayal. The desperate need for mercy is taught in Islam as well, for how very often is it said, in the Koran, that Allah is Merciful, and Compassionate. But the man who loves a whorish woman is a fool. As for the woman, well, she is a whore. My point? The heart has reasons, of which reason knows nothing. God, for his own purposes, loves an unfaithful humanity. And while He can be no fool -- for a father who loves a wayward child is not a fool (we mustn't think there is only one metaphor) -- humanity is certainly unfaithful. By humanity, I mean myself. And you.

The Children of Israel are God's oracle people -- they are not better or worse, just held up as an example of what humans are. Be glad He didn't pick you, for that job. And the poor prophet Hosea, who married a prostitute, was told to do so by God (Hosea 1:2). What?! Hosea was a type for God, and the whorish wife, a type for Israel -- and more appropriately, for mankind. Not too much mercy for poor Hosea, there, but pity those whom God uses. That's why the Jews are so hated, from Abimalech to Haman to Harod. Because God has used them. God used me, a little, and I was crushed by the burden of it. Ouch.

Youssef, a compassionate man, has looked at my Confessions, which speaks obliquely of being crushed, and he offered consolation in the idea that "everything coming from Allah is good for them, even if it looks bad in their eyes, and that's why Muslims usually say Alhamdulillaah ("Thanks for Allah") for anything that happens to them." I noted the same idea, in "whom God loves, he chastens" (Hebrews 12:6). And of course, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God..." (Romans 8:28) A powerful verse, and moving, to me, speaks of God's universal love: He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all..." (I Timothy 2:4-6)

We are all, or most of us, taught peace. Every parent teaches peace, even if it is only within their own household ... well ... every decent parent teaches peace. And whoever could find no comfort in his religion, will change it if he can for another. Even in the face of a painful world, Christians are told to "Rejoice, always." (I Thesselonians 5:6) And certainly, where there is true joy, there is true peace.

But I, being a man like any other, do not always rejoice. Paul learned, "in whatsoever state I am, to be content. I know both how to be humbled, and I know how to abound.... I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13). I am not Paul. Like a discontented, like a spoiled child, who will not be satisfied, I demand, sometimes, in my lesser moments, more than what the world will rightly provide. I am blessed beyond what can be reasonably expected, and it is not enough.

I make myself smile, at my foolishness. It's like becoming aware of yourself as you stand staring into space with your mouth hanging open -- ogling into vacuum like a hillbilly in the big city. We should make ourselves smile, the way monkeys make us smile. Because I don't count this ingratitude, this discontentedness, against myself. How perfect do I have to be? God already knew I was a fool, when he started first in loving me. After all, he gave his only begotten Son, for me -- already knowing I'm a fool. In His compassion for my foolishness, I find mercy.

And I am blessed, for all my folly. There is a dear, kind man named Youssef, who remembers me in his prayers. May blessings be upon him. That we can reach out across the continents, as God reaches out across the ages, and share in our common humanity, makes my heart glad. Because the world is not all sorrow. Every father knows this, from the joy the little children bring, and the pride the young men inspire. There is no contradiction, in the complexity of our hearts.

The shortest verse in the Bible is, "Jesus wept." (John 11:35) He wept in compassion and in empathy. Such a man. "Jesus wept" is the shortest verse in the Bible -- the English language Bible. But the shortest verse in the Greek -- in the original language -- is, "Rejoice, always." In these two shortest verses, we find not just the heart of Christianity, but the story of the human condition. Between these extremes, we live our lives.



Miroslav said...

Jack H,
Hey there. Total stranger here. Happened upon your dialogue with Youssef on HIS site and navigated here. I think you communicated Christ's message quite well to him.
Well spoken, sincere, respectful, and yet unwaivering in your beliefs.
You are both to be commended.

Should you have time and the desire, please feel free to stop by my blog sometime. I've been a passionate follower of Christ my entire life (youngin' here... 28) and find myself all at once in a state of disbelief. I'd be curious to your thoughts and input.

I've got some silly, off topic stuff on my blog too, its not dedicated to just 'serious stuff' ... so um... here is a good link for you to check out if you feel like diving in head first in to the mess that is/was my faith. There is much more on the subject on my blog, but this would give you a good start:
Written Confession

Oh, and just Just FYI... I like your writing style and approach so much that I just added your blog to my likeable blog list.

Jack H said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jack H said...

And thanks for the link. Remember, on election day, a vote for Jack is a vote for good government!