Letting God do the impossible task: to love your enemies

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Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”   It’s a parallel to Jesus’ sermon on the Mount in Matthew ch. 5-7. 

When I think on this, there are days when I might think to myself, “Yes, I can obey Jesus’ law to love my enemies—that’s easy.”  But in all honesty, there might be some bad days when I feel I cannot even love my friends or even my family, let alone my enemies.

There can be a real challenge in following through with this command.  For some, this might be easier to do depending on the day and on our circumstances.  It might depend on where people are at in their lives.  For some, our hurts and traumas can easily override our ability to love others.  The last thing we can expect someone who has been hurt is to love their perpetrators. 

A person’s visceral reaction in anger might be: “I’m going to wipe them out!  Give me a rock…give me a button… give me a trigger… At certain times in one’s life, it would not surprise me one bit if a person could do it without shedding a tear or breaking out in a sweat.  Jesus’ command seems to stand in stark contrast to the desire of our flesh.

How do we interpret this passage of Scripture?  Was this a piece of good advice or nugget of wisdom?  Or was it a command?  What if the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Luke and Matthew was meant to describe the impossible? What humanism has wanted to achieve perfection in humanity might actually be next to impossible. 

If the latter is true, it forces you and I to turn to God for mercy and grace each and every day.  You might see human perfection as a possibility. For me personally, at this point of time in my own life, the possibility of achieving human perfection is impossible.

If Jesus’ sayings from the Sermon on the Mount were meant to be prescriptions of laws that we must obey, then I would definitely be a failure.  Over time, we might, at one point or another, fail to live up to most or all of Jesus’ commandments.

When we are in the flesh and operating in the needs and desires of the flesh, it is very hard to love our enemies.  Our flesh will naturally want to destroy or defeat our enemies using our human means and methods.  Yes even when we are living as Christians, praying hard and committing ourselves each day to live with Christ, this spiritual battle won’t be easy.  But when we are operating in the love of Christ, there is less reason to give into the flesh.  Jesus asks us to give him all of our worries.

When Jesus asked us to bless those who curse us, it is because there is something that happens in the spiritual realm that we do not see.  On the surface, there is nothing to be gained eternally by blessing those who curse us.  If this was a command, then what reward would there be? 

There is a blessing in simply loving others without expecting to receive anything in return from our fellow neighbor.  We can love others just for the sake of loving others.  There is no ulterior motive to love our neighbor.  This is pure freedom. Christ can free us from the fleshly desires in this world so that we can love the unlovable, do good, and give without expecting anything in return (v.35).

To truly love our enemies who have full intentions of hurting us without mercy is the hardest thing to do in the world.  Personally, I know I don’t have the patience or the strength within myself to love my enemy.  My human flesh tells me to kill whoever might want me dead.  I do not have the tenacity to wait it out to see what happens.  To me, this command is like telling me to fail. 

After recognizing my human weakness, I realize that I need to fall upon the grace and mercy of God.  I would rather hold my hands up and say to the Lord, “Lord, if you are real, give me your grace. I cannot love my enemies.  I cannot stop hating them for even one second.  Pour out your grace upon my life.  Have pity on this poor soul.  I need you God.”  This would be me after God has driven me to utter submission.

Seek God’s kingdom

Luke 12:31-32 – Jesus told his disciples:  “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

In these words is a secret that is hidden in plain sight. When we allow worries and anxieties to overtake us, we stumble and fall and resort to our own human will rather than allow God’s sovereign will to take charge in our lives.

Why do we worry?  We worry because we do not have faith that we will have enough.  We also worry that others will stop us from getting what we desire.

As a result, we get angry—angry with those who stand in our way.  We might even find ourselves directing our anger toward those we love, and toward those who may be trying to comfort our hearts.

If we can stop for a moment to calm down. Give ourselves space to reflect.  Reflect without anxiety and fear.  Ponder on the Lord without worries floating within our minds.  Think on godly things. Put aside things that prevent our hearts from feeling God’s love.

God who might be trying to get our attention might have a good message for us.  Focus on God and the spiritual things that belong to the kingdom. 

Things that concern God’s kingdom might be totally different from what we desire for our own kingdom.

Ask God. Pray.  Seek God.  See if he has something else within the kingdom for our lives.

Be open to receiving different things that we might never have expected.  Such things might result in becoming a huge blessing in our lives.

How I came to faith

I will share some very personal moments about how I came to faith and into ministry. I did not think I would ever do this so publicly on my blog and I don’t know why I’m doing this now… but here it goes.

As a teenager, I was raised an evangelical and attended a small Asian church in Vancouver. I remember wondering to myself in Sunday school class if God was real. The teacher was talking like God was real but I had not yet experienced God for myself.  I said to myself that if God was real, I needed to know more of God.

my first church

That day came.  It was at a Pentecostal summer teen camp somewhere between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. I was about 15 years old.  I remember distinctly being filled with the Holy Spirit.  This was my coming to faith in Christ.  This cannot be fully explained or understood using words.  It was a spiritual experience–an existential moment that I will never forget.  God poured his Spirit into this teenage boy.

At summer camp, I witnessed teenagers on their knees.  They were praying.   Seriously praying.  There was no kidding around with them.  No looking down at their Nintendos and pretending to pray.   They were praying like they knew God was real.  I had seen adults praying in church, but never young people like this.  It was the first time I had seen teenagers and young people praying in one large group.  A totally new thing to me.

It caused me to wonder and ponder if I was missing something in my life.  I remember telling God:

“God, if you are real, please make yourself real to me.  I want to know that you are real…that you really exist…and that you care about me.”

I looked up to see if anyone stopped praying.  No one stopped praying.  So I continued to pray and asked God to show me something.  Give me sign that you want to make yourself known to me in a personal way.

Then I began to feel a tingling sensation come over my body. It was like 10,000 volts of electricity. This sensation started in my hands.  It spread to my arms, then covered my entire body.  I was covered with God’s presence and filled to the brim.  It was an electrifying experience–literally.  How can I describe this?  It felt like a warm sensation, like as if I was set on fire.  I now knew that Acts 2 was real.

The summer camp speaker, a pastor, spoke prophetically and authoritatively.  He said that God is here in this place and is making himself real to you.  He can make himself known to you in a variety of ways. That was God’s way of making himself known to me that left me without any doubt about his existence in this universe, and in my life.

I knew then and there that God was real.  He satisfied my doubts, filled me with his love and presence.  I was weeping and sobbing with tears of joy.  I was oblivious to everything else around me because now, it was just me and God… together.  I told God that I would serve him.  I didn’t know how this service would look like though–until many years later.

God gifted me with a real presence that day.  He poured faith into me.  Where I once questioned God’s existence, I no longer doubted. He became very personal and tangible to me.  Simultaneously, I also realized the severity of my own sins, and experienced God’s love and kindness toward me, and of his mercy and forgiveness.

I had already learned all this stuff in church and Sunday school but it had never really sunk in until that day.  The revelation of God culminated in one moment on a single day at church teen camp.

1984 Vancouver CrusadeAnother experience. I was 16 years old when evangelist Rev. Billy Graham came to BC Place Stadium in Vancouver for a series of evangelistic meetings. Each night, he would give an invitation to come down to the front–an old-fashioned evangelical altar call.  I still remember Rev Graham quoting from Matt 10:33, “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

That was enough to motivate me to want to acknowledge Jesus in front of thousands in the stadium.  I decided to publicly acknowledge Christ. Upon mustering some courage, I walked down to the front. I typify this as is a sort of combined evangelical version of a ‘confession of faith’, plus a personal commitment to walk with Christ.

Later, as a university student, I was baptized in an Alliance church.   I remained engaged in Christian student clubs on campus (e.g., IVCF, Power to Change, etc.).  As a young adult, I continued worshiping at various denominational or non-denominational community churches.

lsa torontoAfter finishing my studies at Regent University, I packed my things and moved to Toronto. I lived there for a number of years and found work in the financial field.

During this time, God led me into lay ministry by using my spare time to serve as a lay-pastoral leader in a small local ethnic Pentecostal church (English-speaking congregation). I did this for almost one year and did not have any expectation of ever being called to ministry.

It was then that I began sensing and contemplating God’s Call.  This experience gave me an idea of what pastoral ministry could be like.  I reassess my life and asked myself if I could do anything for the rest of my life, and money wasn’t a factor, what would I want to do?  My answer: pastoral ministry.

I began to explore the idea of pursuing some theological education in order to prepare myself for the challenges of vocational ministry.  I returned to Saskatchewan.  I began inquiring with seminaries in nearby local provinces.

My parents were attending a small bible study started by a local Lutheran seminarian and I visited the open house at Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS).  This intern-seminarian also recommended this place.

I prayed that the Lord would show me the way. I had a dream during the night.  In this dream, I saw a white dove perched on top of the letters ‘LTS’. This bird flew off, swirled around a few times, then very quickly, landed under my left arm. It jarred me awake. Both legs shot up. I became fully awake.

7Wl

I asked myself, “Was this a nightmare or a sign from God? If it’s a nightmare, I have nothing to worry about.  But if it is a sign from God, I better pay attention.”

That very next morning, I decided to visit the seminary a second time.  I had some questions to ask. I spoke with one fine professor who cared about ministry (who returned to parish ministry).  After our conversation, he encouraged me to apply and see where it would take me.

awardsThroughout seminary and my discernment process, I had some enlightened ‘aha’ moments and also countless moments of doubt. I asked myself, “Do I belong here? Why don’t I just leave? I don’t know anything about liturgy or theology.”

I was not a born and bred Lutheran.  Most Lutherans are just born into the church and cannot recall a specific point in time when they had an existential spiritual experience in coming to faith.

I do believe that God still gives us signs. God works in different ways in different people.  Some receive subtle signs.  Some are lightening-struck.  God’s calling comes to each of us in different ways and will be different for you.

For me personally, this sign of the white dove was a constant reminder of God’s calling to me. It kept me from veering off the path whenever I had doubts about whether to stay in seminary.

The rest is now history.  I thank the Lord for his direction, and for the guidance I received from God’s servants.

Love your enemies: Possible or impossible?

Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

How do we interpret this? Was this a piece of advice or wisdom? Or was it a command? Or was Jesus trying to show us plainly that this was an impossible task for people to follow through?

The challenge in the follow-through might depend on where people are at in their lives. Some people might be very hurt individuals. Their visceral reaction might be: “Screw this! I’m going to wipe them out! Quickly or slowly, nevertheless, painfully!

Another’s reaction might be: “Well, I know it’s hard. I can try. I know I won’t be able to do this but what the heck. I’ll give it a shot and if I fail, I fail. If I can love that x!?@#%!?x#, then I’ll do it. If I try and fail, then what do I have to lose, maybe just eight bloody knuckles that’ll heal up in a few weeks.”

Often we are caught in a dichotomy of two impossible options. We know what Jesus said over 2,000 years ago.  You might say, “But that was for yesterday. Today’s challenges are different.” Well, I beg to differ. There were huge challenges of life and death for early Christians during the Roman Empire– perhaps even impossible challenges to resist the Emperor.

jews halocaust

Even today, anger and hatred still boils in the blood of survivors.  Every generation has its own challenges to love one’s enemies.  The halocaust of Jews during Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  The militaristic Japanese take-over of Asia.  Today’s violent Islamic terrorism of ISIS/ISIL against the non-Muslim world.

We know if we fail this impossible command to love our enemies, it just shows how human we are.  We will have to acknowledge our need for God’s grace.

We also know that if we can manage this, good on me. “I managed to not swear and flip the finger back on someone who called me a !x%$&*.  I simply ignored him.  That made me the better person.”  In this latter case, our need for God’s grace is decreased. We managed to fulfill the law of love.  Okay, that may have been easily accomplished.

But then what about next time? What if a bully were to come after you with a gang of thugs to pulverize you to smithereens? Do I continue to “turn the other cheek” and “give them my other coat”? Where do we draw the line?

Love your enemies-thugs?

More difficult yet.  What if the victim were your own son or daughter this time around? Yes, this makes it an impossible task to “turn the other cheek” and give the gang of rapists and child-molesters your own daughter or son for the taking.

Let’s make it harder…they’ve got a gun to your head.  There are no police around anywhere. You’re in an isolated place.

If possible, most people would be tempted to pull out defensive arms and use it accordingly…without hesitation.

Getting the picture? Seems to me, Jesus saying depends upon the context.

Now then… was Jesus’ saying in Luke 6:27-38 meant to be a word of advice or a command?

I’m of the opinion that Jesus’ saying was meant to be description of our human sinfulness versus a prescription to obey God’s commands.  It’s possible that the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was meant to be a description of our human incapacity to be perfect human beings.

If this were the case, it forces us to fall upon God for mercy and grace.

If Jesus’ sayings from the Sermon on the Mount were prescriptions (i.e., as laws we are to obey), then we’d all be failures.

I’m of the opinion that we will all inevitably fail as good human beings. Thus, the consequence is that we will all die and end up in dire straits on the Last Day, separated from God, perhaps eternally.

Thankfully, that is not the ultimate destiny. God has given us a way out. The only way out of this predicament is to fall upon the mercy and grace of God.  This is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Hypocrisy: A Sickness that leads to death

People have been hurt by hypocrisy. I didn’t realize how detrimental and serious hypocrisy was.  Later, when I was on the receiving end, I realized what hypocrisy can do to others and to ourselves.

hypocrisy mask

Hypocrisy is a deceptive and sinister type of sin.  It can be hidden and camouflaged… hidden behind religious talk, good deeds, spiritual acts of kindness.  Sometimes unaware, we Christians fall for it and even turn a blind eye to it.

Who might be victims and perpetrators of hypocrisy?  Ordinary people, including Christian leaders: priests/pastors, pastors spouses, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, council/board members.  Religious leaders in Jesus’ days fell for it too, including Barnabas (Gal. 2:13).

It includes people inside the Church and also outside the Church. It happens within greater society and also in sub-cultures.

It is practiced everywhere… by almost everyone at some point in their life.  By politicians…by Moms and Dads…aunts and uncles, by business people, by your friendly local cashier at the grocery checkout,  and yes, maybe even by your local cafe barista.

In others words: by anyone you can think of.

Sad. When we are bound by hypocrisy, it’s hard to recognize our own hypocrisy.  We are numbed by our own self-deception and our deception upon others.

It seems hopeless especially when hypocrites never get called on it.

There is a powerful technique that successful hypocrites use. Fear and intimidation.

Thus, hypocrisy gets further perpetuated. We hide behind a veil of moralism but still feel guilty.

I have seen it in others. I have wanted to expose it.  I have struggled with it myself.

It’s all an act.  We fear that someone might “spill the beans.”  There’s fear… fear that there will never be genuine forgiveness if we confess our faults, weakness and mistakes.

And apologize?  “Why should I apologize when I can just cover it up with a few falsehoods?  It’s safer, cleaner and simpler to just cover it up.  Nobody needs to know.”

We would rather continue hiding behind our lies.  One lie covers up another lie — one stacked upon another.  We are so blinded by our own hypocrisy of lies our consciences can become seared that we no longer feel guilt (1 Tim. 4:2).

Peter puts it in the same category as malice, deceit, envy and slander (1 Pet. 2:1).  So yes, it’s a serious matter.

Sad when we’ve been so cold for so long that it no longer matters. We rationalize it.  “If it doesn’t matter to me, why should it matter to the next person?  They might not even be aware of my hypocrisy anyway.  So who cares?”

Paul said, “Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).  When we heap our hypocrisy upon others, it shows we don’t love them.

It’s like when you accidentally shake hands with someone but have mistakenly or innocently forgotten about your flu or cold?  You feel guilty about spreading your germs because you didn’t confess.  Later, they get sick.  Your guilt intensifies.  By then it’s too late.

I didn’t recognize my own hypocrisy.  I saw hypocrisy in everyone else except for the hypocrisy within myself.

God knows there are many more hypocrites in Christendom.  Probably a lot more than I had thought.  It’s one of the symptoms of our sickness… and it’s in the Church.  Yes, even in my own church, and it might very well be in your local congregation or parish too.

We buy into a false belief. “If I act like a saint, God will approve of me.  God might even close a blind eye to my false pretenses, self-deception and deception of others.”  Why? “Since God is love, and I love Jesus, everyone ought to love me too.”  We vainly take God’s love for granted and refuse to truly love the other.

It’s an utter perversion of the heart.  Master-minded by our false pretenses.  It strikes a chord at the level of evil matched only by Lucifer. I know… it sounds dark.

We subconsciously justify it when we put ourselves on a higher plane above others.  “I can do it because I’m better than the other person.  I’m smarter, more beautiful, more deserving, or more righteous than that person.”

See how sinister hypocrisy can be?  You don’t buy it?

hypocrisy meter

Another false belief here…

“My fellow church friends will see me as spiritually mature.  Just act and perform well.  Use my smarts.  Mix some “innocence of a dove” with a little “deception of a serpent.”  Sprinkle it with just enough sugar….

…Abide by generally accepted norms of morality and goodness. All the while, staying within what sounds biblical and Christ-like…

…Make others think I’m spiritually “with it.”  Perform a few Christ-like deeds…

…Mix it in with a little Christian-ese lingo.  Regurgitate a few of Christ’s words from Scripture.  And voila!”

I know this can sound harsh on the ego.  Jesus also had some not-so-pretty words for the religious leaders of his day (Matt. 23:27-28):

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (HCSB)

Ouch!!  That must have hurt.

What’s worse? Those who are sick, and have the viral infection of hypocrisy don’t realize they’ve been infected. They’re stuck with this condition. It will lead to death — a slow spiritual death.

x2cq

This has haunted and demoralized many Christians young and old.  It has deadened many Christians.  Deadened many churches. Tied down pastors and deacons. Tied down church boards, councils, presbyteries and vestries.  It has tied us down.

We have lost the essence of real spiritual freedom.  We think we are free when in reality we are walking around in chains like zombies.  Zombies are like the walking-dead.  They don’t realize what’s really happened to themselves.  They unconsciously seek to inflict their infectious disease upon others who are virus-free.

There is sort of a parallel in Rev. 3:1-3,

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (NIV)

zombie kill splatterIn zombie movies, zombies will eventually die (either by fire, gunfire, or via plasma splatter-matter style).   The only hope for zombies is to receive the cure.  As human beings without a spiritual cure, we also will die a spiritual death.

 

The innocent people on the receiving end of our hypocrisy saw it.  They ran.  Exited the doors of the houses of worship and never looked back.

If that’s you: good on you. You can’t be blamed for running away. You ran before the virus could infect you. I hope you got away safely.

homer running

Then, there are some who did not run. They stayed to remain faithful to Christ’s Church.   Sadly, they got the infection. They contracted the virus.  They morphed into another form.

They saw themselves as good… and as hypocrites by others.

They have continued to spread this disease to others. Some unknowingly became victims of the disease. They became sick.  Some died.

We are all victims of the evil one.

Our joy has been sapped out of our spiritual lives. Now we walk with a spiritual limp (like that green pale zombie).

To live a more abundant Christian life, we need a remedy. Those of us within the Church need healing.

And those outside the Church also need recovery.

We need an injection of this serum.  Yes there is a serum…a remedy…a solution. Good news is it’s free.

The courier is God the Holy Spirit.  The prescription has been written in the Holy Scriptures.

It’s the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ Jesus — not in our human abilities.

——-
A Danish philosopher/theologian, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), entitled his book, Sickness Unto Death. I like the title so I borrowed a bit from it.  Hence the title of this post.  Kierkegaard wrote on “despair” in the midst of a society that grew cold and slid down a path from true faith into mere Christendom. His nation had lost its spiritual moorings. The Church in North America might be in a similar state of spiritual decay today.

Our prayer: “Please God, send us this serum to rid us of this spiritual sickness. Bring us freedom in Jesus Christ. Teach us to walk by faith and not by sight.”

Big catch, big grace

jesus fish peterIn Jesus calling of his first disciples, I am continually surprised by Simon Peter’s initial statement to Jesus (Luke 5:8-9):

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken.”

Depart from me“: Peter tells Jesus to go away because he is a sinful person. Why would he tell Jesus to depart from him?  If you’ve treated someone with nothing but bad behaviour, but they in turn treat you with kindness—how would you feel? You might feel a sense of guilt or shame. Why?  You know you don’t deserve the kindness they’ve shown you.

I remember someone I had not seen for years had come to me to apologize for something they had done many years ago. I had already forgotten about it long ago.  He blessed me more than the blessings I had to offer him.  I did not deserve it.  That’s grace.

Peter knew he had just encountered the holy One of God. The power and grace of God was evident in the huge amount of fish God had just provided.  They fished all evening but had caught nothing, but now, their net was so full of fish it began to tear.  It must have blown his mind. That’s grace.

Peter was overwhelmingly convinced in that encounter with Jesus that God’s grace was sufficient.  Jesus wanted Peter to understand that there is nothing in heaven and earth that could stop the power and love of God from flowing down.  Grace had just poured out to Peter–despite his sinfulness.  This miraculous catch of fish was evidence that Jesus was the Son of God.   He had enough proof.  He left his nets, boat, and followed Jesus.

For I am a sinful man“: Peter was giving Jesus a preliminary warning. “I don’t deserve to be in the presence of your holiness. You are holy; I am not. I would be bad for you and your image.  I’ve stolen, perhaps broken numerous laws, and should not count myself worthy of being in your presence.”

What might a person say to Jesus today? “Jesus, I’ve cheated on my tax return. Claimed more expenses than what’s legal. Or maybe, I’ve broken environmental laws by spilling toxic waste into the water system causing sickness to many. Or maybe, I’ve robbed a bank or defrauded other people our their hard-earned savings or pension. Jesus, I’m not like you. You are good. I’m rotten.  You might not know how bad I am but I do bad things to people. I feel guilty and ashamed. I don’t deserve to be given such a huge gift.”

Or we might also tell Jesus, “No you must have given the blessing to the wrong person. Bless that other guy over there. He does good things for the community. She gives to homeless and volunteers her time to good causes like the marginalized and the sick. But me? If you really knew who I am, and the horrible and illegal things I’ve done, you wouldn’t want to be around me. So Jesus, save your time and just head on over there to the other fishermen who is more deserving of this big gift of fish.  They deserve it.”

But Jesus affirms.  Jesus turns to Peter and says: “No Peter, I’ve got the right person. You are the person I am giving this gift to. And maybe Jesus didn’t even give an explanation about grace. Kept it simple. It’s for you Peter. I really meant to give this to you.

His reaction.  A big surprise. Perhaps he was overwhelmed with emotional and wept in private. He decided that Jesus’ acceptance of him was proof of God’s love for a sinner like him.

jesus calls disciples

Today, God’s mercy is still the same. He accepts you the way you are. His love for you never changed. He is still the same yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow.

This story of the great catch is about Jesus calling you. Telling you through his miracle of the fish that his acceptance and love for you is great. It is just a small sampling of God’s abundant grace. He says to you. You are mine. You are my son.  You are my daughter.   My love and acceptance for you is bigger than you thought. I have not made a mistake. You are the one I meant to give this to.

If you pray to the Lord: “Jesus, I accept your grace. Your grace is enough for me.”   An appropriate reaction might be to drop your proverbial nets, leave your boats, and follow Jesus today. He is holding his arms to you today and saying, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and catchers of people.”

Become a Better Human

Holiday seasons can be a lonely time for some people, but the loneliness I’m talking about is long-term and reside in each of us.   Even at birth, we were separated from God due to original sin, giving birth to our inner loneliness.  We are afraid of it and run from our feelings of insufficiency.  We tend to avoid situations that make us feel incapable because we fear being left by ourselves, separated from others who are around us.  Deep inside, we want to overcome this but are not sure how to.

I’ve been doing a little reading by Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche Communities.  He saw loneliness everyday in psychiatric hospitals where it was in many of their eyes.  He said in his book Becoming Human: “I believe that loneliness is something essential to human nature; it can only be covered over, it can never actually go away.  Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart.

Loneliness isn’t so bad if we can harness it for positive change in others and in ourselves.  It can act as a reason that compels us to seek to overcome this inner void of loneliness.  Example: mystics, prophets, poets, artists, do not always fit the normal mold of society.  They’ve found a way to use their gifts to express meaning through creative work in seeking to deepen their spirituality and hearing from God, or expressing creativity through their inner inspiration. We can do the same but using our unique gifts to better the well-being of others around us.  We then have purpose in being together within community.

First, we need to change but change can be hard.  We don’t like change because we prefer to control everything.  The comfort in being able to predict everything comes with a cost.  If we refuse to change, we will stagnate as human beings

Vanier said, “In human beings, there is a constant tension between order and disorder, connectedness and loneliness, evolution and revolution, security and insecurity…. When we refuse to accept that they are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves; our lives become lessened, we are less than fully human.”  I don’t know about you, but as for me, I wish to become a better human being.

Prayer: God, help me be a better human being.  Show me the sacredness in each human being.  Help me to grow in a sense of belongingness with my fellow neighbours, and empower me to make the right choices by seeking truth and meaning together with others.  Amen.

Ref. Jean Vanier, Becoming Human. House of Anansi Press, 2008. (pp. 7-8, 12-13).