New Ways

hand of friendship

We are living in chaotic and uncertain times. Events in the Middle East and in North Korea are affecting the whole world and the threat of yet another war hangs over our heads. Meanwhile, the war on terrorism is going in circles. Those seeking the terrorists are begetting more terrorism in retaliation for their actions. Can this cycle ever end? Is revenge really the answer? If not, what is?

The answer is the opposite to revenge. It is God’s way of responding with understanding and love. To understand that we are all in the same boat is the first thing. We all have a dark side that gets us into trouble and needs to be faced up to and dealt with. Difficult life circumstances bring out our destructive behaviours and this is how God brings these behaviours to our attention. Anger and bitterness are the terrorists within us and, just like the terrorists outside of us, the more we fight them on our own strength the more they endure. What we resist persists.

But when we allow God’s love to heal the hurts of our past, the impulse to hurt back is quietened.  By the same token, if we were to respond to the terrorists of the world with efforts to understand the reasons for their crimes and make approaches towards them from concern for their welfare as fellow human beings, we should find that the violence abates considerably. A person needs to be listened to and heard and to allow acceptance and love to heal their hurts. This doesn’t preclude putting them behind bars to think about what they have done and for the safety of others. But we are all one human family of many colours, races, and creeds. This is illustrated in the Bible in Romans 12:4, 5:

We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body.

Verse 17 says:

If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.

Let’s take a new approach to solving our problems and bringing us all back together as the one body of humanity, bridging the gaps in our relationships and seeing if we can’t appreciate the wonderful diversity among us.  Everyone is in freedom to choose who they wish to be in this life so we should not judge but celebrate the magnificent variety in the body of humanity, a picture of the infinity of God. Let us be united in love for one another and look for ways to shine a light on our dark side so that healing can take place.

There is the promise of a new future for all of humanity and it is pictured in the Book of Revelation by John’s vision of a golden city coming down out of heaven. This city is now descending as we join together from all corners of the globe with love in our hearts to show the world a new way of being – a way of peace and harmony for everyone.

Jenny

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Happy New Year

worshipping

It is easy to believe that our happiness depends on things outside us – wealth, “success,” status. But is this true? When the children got their presents at Christmas, they were over the moon but that happiness did not last long. The happiness of so many married couples on their wedding day lasts only a few years. Some people have a naturally happier disposition than others.

According to one author, happiness is an inside job. In other words, it does not depend on external things but on inner ones, i.e. attitudes and beliefs.

A happy person in biblical times was Asher. He was Jacob’s seventh son. His name literally means happy or blessed. We are taught in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg that the twelve sons represent all the spiritual qualities found in a loving and wise human being. Happiness is one of them. So, yes, God’s goal for all of us is to find the happiness of heaven. Our problem is that we often suffer the illusion that happiness is an “outside” job and not an “inside” job. Asher represents happiness that comes from charity. Here charity does not mean giving to the poor but acting from a love for our neighbour.

Spiritually, our “neighbour” is what is good. This goodness is the presence of the Lord in ourselves, others, organisations and communities. If we seek to love and serve this in our work and relationships we will find the happiness of heaven growing within us. It will be quietly present despite difficult and unhappy circumstances. If we can continue to patiently and courageously love what is good then God can flow into the situation and in time will be able to bring good out of it not only for us but good for all. This is what many have found who have had to face the consequences of disability and disease. They become opportunities to find a deeper happiness.

This is in contrast to the experience of people who love themselves and material things above everything else. God’s blessedness does not exist in any way at all with those whose dominant delight is that of self-love and worldliness, for these loves are quite the opposite of it. People ruled by these loves, therefore, are not at all able to understand how any blessedness can exist apart from that of being promoted to important positions, being venerated as if they were gods, having an abundance of riches, and possessing more wealth than others.

Do notice the list of priorities for people who have self  love and worldliness as their motivating loves. This is the list which the world promotes through the media and accomplishments of many of the rich and powerful. The media also shows us the sad consequences for many of them in realising their dreams of happiness. Despite this, we human beings are still attracted to them  like moths to a candle.

The new year is a good opportunity to run our goals and ambitions for the coming year past God, the Source of all happiness. We may need to adjust and balance them before being fully committed to them. He is quite clear in his guidance to us. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

John Sutton