On loving our enemies

Today, I read an insightful devotion in the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Night Prayer. I think it speaks to the world today—especially in light of the controversy in the U.S.A. around building an Islamic centre [some have called it a mosque] near the former twin towers of the World Trade Centre, and the proposed Koran burning by a Christian pastor in Florida. I’ve been following news coverage of these issues on the internet and have been dismayed by the number of angry people—Christian, Muslim, and others—who have threatened violent means of dealing with these issues and speak words of hatred toward one another. Instead of hatred and violence towards our neighbours and yes, even our enemies, the following words of wisdom make for a better way to live and work for a peaceful world where true religious freedom is respected in every nation.

 

   We are called to bless even our enemies. How much more should we pray a blessing on others in the Body of Christ!—especially those we disagree with, or who hold a different view from our own.

   If we ask a blessing on them it is up to God to decide what He can and cannot bless in what they are and what they are doing.

   We are not asked to understand each other first. If there are some elements in the church who really aggravate us it may be more useful to pray a blessing on them than to interact with a critical spirit. As we pray we begin to realize just how much God cares about them.

   We can pray blessings on non-Christian folk, too. It is like pouring glitter over a home-made Christmas card—wherever the glue-stick has prepared the card the glitter will stick, the rest only rolls off, and even a little of the glitter can be enough to spell out a clear message.

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Peace and goodwill

Peace and goodwill

In the book of Proverbs 17:14 we read: The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.

Quarrelling is often the consequence of egocentric, sinful living; of speaking without listening; of personal pride and power; of forcing one’s will on others without respecting them. In the world of politics, it’s often the ethos of dictatorships, and following the way of evil, not of God.

Peace and goodwill are given opportunity to flourish, according to Jesus, when a kingdom and a house are not divided against themselves (Mark 3:24-25). How can you and I, in our personal and public lives, avoid the divisions of kingdom and house?

Thoughts on forgiveness

Thoughts on forgiveness

Forgiveness is at the heart and core of Christianity. When asked if there were limits to the number of times a person should forgive, Jesus replied: “seventy times seven,” which is not to be taken literally—rather, it is a figure of speech meaning that forgiveness has no limits. Jesus was the perfect exemplar of forgiveness too, while dying on the cross, he prayed for his enemies-those who crucified him: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on forgiveness understood Christ’s teaching, when he stated: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act it is a permanent attitude.”

 

In Jewish tradition, forgiveness is also emphasised, especially during the ten-day period from the start of Rosh-ha-shana to the end of Yom Kippur, known as Aseret Y’mai Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. However, the four-step process of repentance applies throughout the year: i) Regret: Realise the extent of the damage and feel sincere regret. ii) Cessation: Immediately stop the harmful action. iii) Confession: Articulate the mistake and ask for forgiveness. iv) Resolution: Make a firm commitment not to repeat it in the future.

 

In addition to the significance of forgiveness in the Judeo-Christian tradition, scientific studies have found that forgiveness is good for our health. According to Professor Kathleen A. Lawler-Row, studies have shown that more forgiving people have lower blood pressures. They are less aroused during stress. They recover off thinking about this experience more quickly. When we look at surveys samples and a variety of measures of health, fatigue, sleep, physical symptoms, number of medications, in every case the more forgiving the person, the better their health.

 

Some identify two basic stages of forgiveness: i) The letting go of the negative aspect as you think about the other person and how you feel. ii) The positive wishing the other person well, which may even involve at times compassion for the offender or seeing them in a more complex light than merely the perpetrator of the offense.

 

It’s also interesting to see that people seem to get a little more forgiving with about every decade in life. With college students, starting at eighteen, there’s certainly a wide range of forgiveness. But with each decade the average level of forgiveness goes up. People get a little bit more and a little bit more forgiving, regardless of personality. They just seem to be a little more ready to forgive the other person with age. Thank the LORD for the gift of forgiveness!

More than 1 billion hungry

More than 1 billion don’t have enough food to eat

According to a CBC news report: United Nations food agency says a record 1.02 billion people are hungry around the world, largely due to the global economic crisis and stubbornly high food prices. Read more about it here.

What can we do?

  • Give generously to benevolent NGOs like Canadian Lutheran World Relief,  who work on the front lines to improve the quality of life in the Two-Thirds World with community based projects.
  • Pray for “daily bread” for the now over 1 billion starving people in our world. (Note: In Lutheran tradition, following Martin Luther himself, daily bread is an all-inclusive phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, and refers to: food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, good government, and a peaceful, just society).
  • Work or volunteer for an NGO that compliments your faith and/or worldview.
  • Speak with your political representatives and encourage the government to increase their benevolent giving to the Two-Thirds nations without strings attached.
  • Make connections with people from the Two-Thirds World; learn from them, become a neighbour, befriend them.
  • I’m sure there are a host of other activities that you, kind reader, with all of your creativity, can add on to my brief list here, and pursue.

New Year thoughts in different directions

New Year thoughts in different directions

The arrival of another new year brings with it many open doors of opportunity. The old adage, when you’re so far down, there’s only one way to go, up, may well describe the present state of the world.

 

On the international scene, Christmas and New Year’s headlines focussed on the conflict in the Middle East, the breaking of the six month truce between Israel and Hamas, and the bombings of Hamas military targets by Israeli planes. The psalmist’s age old lament-question, “How long, O LORD,” is as applicable as ever. The issues, of course, are as old as the days of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. Questions, criticisms, and advice are legion—however, solutions are still as enigmatic as ever. Fundamentalist and evangelical preachers with all of their eschatological scenarios are a dime a dozen. A Bruce Cockburn line comes to mind: “Everyone wants justice done on somebody else.” Or maybe a little more hope in a Leonard Cohen line: “Ring the bells that still can ring forget your perfect offering there’s a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” Maybe we all need to pray for more cracks and ring more bells. What is the international community—including the so-called moderate Muslim nations—doing about the escalating anti-Semitic rhetoric and the Holocaust denial conference of Iran’s Prime Minister? Remember, the Nazi movement also started with rhetoric and escalated into anti-Semitic political policies, which in turn, resulted in the Holocaust. Why is the international community criticising Israel to no end, yet failing to act to declare suicide bombings a crime against humanity? Israel has a right to exist in peace with her neighbours. Do her neighbours accept or reject this right? My hope and prayer for 2009 is that the peace movement among Israelis and Palestinians shall flourish, and the press focus more on what they are doing to make a difference in everyday life for both peoples.

 

On the national scene, we had a bit of a political crisis, with the threat of a coalition between the NDPs and Liberals, and the BQ promising their support. Most Canadians may not have voted Prime Minister Harper into parliament—since the voter turnout was rather pathetic!—yet, I think the majority of Canadians would consider such a coalition with a separatist party holding the balance of power rather dangerous. I empathize with the Governor General; she had a difficult decision to make; however I think she made the best one, considering the alternatives. Our M.P.s in Ottawa from all parties need to stop playing destructive political partisan games and consider the overall well-being of the nation—that’s what Canadians gave them a mandate to do, to govern responsibly in a minority situation by working together regardless of their political ideologies. The growing—statistics may not support this—violence, or at the least media coverage, is a concern for every Canadian. What are the circumstances and other factors that draw people into gangs and drugs? Do we need to be more proactive? How can we as a society meet the needs of people in order that they would not turn to gangs, violence and drugs? We all need to struggle with questions like this and work together for a more peaceful society. Rather than signs of despair, these are doors of opportunities, for where there is life there is hope and vice versa. Happy New Year and God bless us one and all!

Header

This new header is from a lithograph by artist Amram Ebgi, titled: “Jerusalem for Peace.” You can view it in more detail under Jerusalem over at The Text This Week, and click on art index.