Choose Happiness

woman holding book and robot doll
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/missrogue/457911556/">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.

How Not to Prove You Love Someone

twins
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/raleene/2109917367/">Raleen Cabrera</a>

Malachi 1:1-5

A word of advice. God’s advice to Israel via Malachi.

“I’ve always loved you,” God says. “But you say, ‘How have you loved us?'”

“Isn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” God says. “But I loved Jacob and hated Esau. I’ve desolated Esau’s hills, and made the territory he inherited into a wasteland for jackals. As often as Edom says, ‘We may be down, but we’ll rebuild the ruins,'” God says, “They may rebuild. But I’ll keep tearing it down until they realize that they are the evil nation with whom God is eternally irate.

“You will see this with your own eyes and say, ‘God is great, even outside our borders.'”

Here’s an instance of a common misconception codified into Biblical stone. The misconception is this:

To know what love is, you have to know what hate is by comparison.

You’ll often hear it as: “If you didn’t have the bad, you wouldn’t be able to recognize and appreciate what’s good.” Same thing. The idea that the only way you can know about one thing is to know about its opposite.

But it’s just not true. Think about all the people living in tropical parts of the world that know what hot is without ever having experienced cold. Or all the Eskimos who never made it to Puerto Rico or Hawaii to experience what hot is.

You can experience love without proving it by comparison to hate. Good without comparison to bad.

It would be wrong, of course, to say that some of us will never experience hatred or evil. We will experience those things, too. But you’ll certainly be able to recognize them for what they are rather than by what they are the opposite of. Both certainly exist. And yes, they’re opposites. And yes, good and love is preferable over evil and hatred. But one is possible without the other. And who I love isn’t predicated on whether I hate someone else in equal measure. Same goes for you. Same goes for God.

So either God is mistaken about the need to be eternally hateful to some in order to prove God’s love to others, or Malachi is. I prefer to think it’s Malachi.