It Only Works when You Commit

angel with sparkler wings
Photo credit: <a href="">Cameron Russell</a>

Galatians 3:6-9

Here’s the deal. Just like Abraham “committed to God, and that commitment was what made him right,” so in the same way everyone who commits to God are Abraham’s children. As far as scripture is concerned, heathen come to God the same way. It even says, “All the heathen will be blessed in you, Abraham.” So anyone who commits gets the same blessing Abraham got by committing.

There’s no such thing, if you take Paul seriously, as evangelism by procreation. You are not, spiritually speaking, what your parents were. You make your own commitments.

In it’s original context, it means you didn’t have to be Jewish to follow the Jewish God Jesus believed in. That was pretty radical in it’s time.

Now it also means that you don’t have to belong to any religious family just because you were born there. It means that you can be anything you want to be. You have to make your own commitments.

Of course, if you have to make your own commitments, you have to put some effort in. You can’t just cruise along through life saying, “I’m a Presbyterian,” (or whatever you say you are) without really committing to it. An uncommitted Presbyterian (or Methodist, or Baptist, or Catholic) isn’t really a Presbyterian (or Methodist, or Baptist, or Catholic) at all. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of atheists who are as uncommitted about their atheism as many religious people are about their religion, too. And it probably works for Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus.

The point is that with religion, like with anything else (mathematics, art, business), there is no benefit without commitment.

Do Right

this way, that way street sign
Image credit: <a href="">Lori Greig</a>

1 John 3:1-6

Look here. God has given us the kind of love that makes us God’s children. The only reason nobody else recognizes that fact is that nobody recognized Jesus either. Dearest friends, we are God’s children right now. It remains to be seen what will become of us, but whatever that is we know we’ll end up like Jesus. We’ll see Jesus with undistorted vision. Anyone who puts their hope in him will be vindicated, just as he was vindicated.

But people who continue to do wrong are rebels. Wrongdoing is rebellion. If you’re with Jesus you don’t do wrong, and if you do you haven’t really gotten Jesus.

Some people spend a lot of time second-guessing their faith, fretting over whether they’re “right with God.” Most of this worry can be avoided by simply asking the question, “Am I doing right? Or not?”

This isn’t the same as asking whether you made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone miscalculates. Everyone fails. The point with mistakes and failures is to learn from them and to not repeat them.

But the question is do we do wrong. Do we do (or fail to do) what we know we need to do. The difference between a mistake and a wrongdoing is deliberation. Whether anyone else in the world recognizes what you’re doing as being right or wrong doesn’t really matter. You know.

And by that alone, you know whether you’re “right with God.” Whether you choose to do anything about that is what remains to be seen.

Choose Happiness

woman holding book and robot doll
Photo credit: <a href="">Tara Hunt</a>

1 John 2:7-11

Dearest friends, what I’m writing to you isn’t anything new. It’s the same instruction you’ve always had. It’s the same idea you’ve heard before. Or, maybe it is a new instruction, but it’s nevertheless the truth: true for him, true for you. The night is over, and the true dawn is already breaking. Whoever says, “I’m enlightened,” but hates a brother or sister, isn’t. They’re in the dark. People leading enlightened lives love. Such people won’t trip you up. But a hater is in the dark. Haters live in the dark, blinded and lost.

Someone once said that there are two kinds of people: there are the kind of people who divide people into two kinds of people, and there’s everybody else.

John is the first kind. Chances are we’ve all had some experience in both camps, as lovers and haters. One of the complicated aspects of being human is that people have the capacity for both. But, it may be possible to discern that people are bent or predisposed toward one direction or the other. And some cases are more clear than others.

In the final analysis, though, lovers win. Haters can make lovers’ lives miserable for a time, even a long time. But if you’re really a lover, you’ll find things to love in spite of the haters, and the joy that comes with loving is its own reward. And since it comes from within, the haters can’t ever really take it away.

But the closest haters can come to joy is a passing glee that needs constantly to be regenerated from the outside. The only laughter, the kind that comes at someone else’s expense. Which is why, no matter how much stuff some folks collect, no matter how obliging the people around them, or how great their empire, they’re still dissatisfied, restless, and mean.

Enlightenment is a choice. Happiness is a choice. They are both consequences of a choice one makes (and making it is a continuous act) about how to dispose your heart.

Your Choice

desolate land
Photo credit: <a href="">Eric Wüstenhagen</a>

Zechariah 7:8-14

God spoke to Zechariah, and said, “Here’s what I say: Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, foreigners, or poor folk. Don’t conspire to do what you know is wrong.”

But they refused to listen, shrugged their shoulders, and ignored what they heard. They barred the doors of their hearts so they wouldn’t have to hear what the law said, or what God inspired previous truth-tellers to say. So God was totally pissed.

“Just like when I called they wouldn’t respond, so when they called I wouldn’t respond,” God says. “And I blew them away all across the map, to places they’d never heard of.”

The land was left desolate. Nobody lived there and a wonderfully good place was ruined.

You can say that God is totally pissed, or you could call it karma, or you can simply recognize that the both the sustainability and desirability of a place and of a community is dependent on how it treats it’s most vulnerable:

…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

-from Hubert H. Humphrey’s last speech.

 A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

-Mahatma Ghandi

More recently Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating study, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, in which he connects the collapse of civilizations to mistreatment of the land they inhabit.

It’s not that warning signs are lacking. Whether you interpret them as coming from God or as the natural feedback of the biosphere, it’s the refusal to take corrective action in favor of clinging to short-sighted advantages that leads to ruin.

The flip side, of course, is that by paying attention to the signs, and doing what you know is right, things can also be redeemed from desolation.

You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution. Your choice.