Perhaps I’m being a little cynical, but I can’t help thinking we’ve all become rather chilly towards each other. I’ve thought this through many times now: I have more fingers than I can count people who’ve ever treated me in a warm and loving way…
And before you accuse me of being rather self-centered, I’ll freely admit I probably haven’t treated many people with warmth and love either.
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a “loving” family home. My parents would have done almost anything for me: they were wonderful people. But that love was rarely expressed directly. They loved me in their hearts and in their hard work, and in the way they provided for me: all wonderful things to do for anyone. But they rarely, if ever, expressed that love in words, in soft, kind voices, or in hugs and kisses.
And I think the great majority of us make the same mistake in the way we treat people around us, perhaps in our own homes. We feel love for them, we do things for them, we spend time with them and money on them, but for some strange reason we just can’t bring ourselves to look into their eyes, hold their hands, and gently and passionately tell them how much they mean to us. Only when they’re “gone”, when they’ve been taken from us or leave us, do we feel a strong desire to make it abundantly clear to them that we love them, and that they were precious to us.
If you’re an attractive person you probably have the pleasure of being treated with more respect and interest than the rest of us are. You probably find that your lover is passionate about you, until, that is, he or she decides it’s time to move on to someone else, or that they just don’t like you as much as they liked your body and your looks. So bye-bye…that’s not a loving, warm person: that’s just someone wanting to use you.
And in this age of short-term relationships, it’s becoming more and more difficult to meet someone who isn’t, despite all the expressions of “love” and attention, warm, kind and sincere, and who isn’t driven by self-seeking lust.
In our world of casual relationships it’s unfashionable and uncomfortable to express warmth and love to others. But worse than that, we live in a world now where people are not only without love, but who just plain don’t like people who don’t fit their mold-their idea of a person worth knowing. Our culture of perceived individuality has actually served to bring division, distrust and distain. How do we manage to live in big cities while at the same time despising people who are different to us?
What can we do about this problem? We-you and I-have to somehow make a conscious choice that we are going to do the right thing. We have to think of others with humility rather than pride and superiority. We have to make a determined effort to be polite and considerate towards other people even if we don’t like what they look like or what they wear or how much money or intelligence they appear to have. And we have to be determined to physically, outwardly and sincerely demonstrate love, warmth and kindness, even if we’re the only ones doing it. And we have to swallow our pride, forget our hurts and our grudges, and show warm, kind love to those who are closest to us.
Among the many benefits of this attitude will be that we will please our God, whose son said that the second greatest commandment, after loving him, is “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
He even went so far as to say that we must love our enemies (Luke 6:27), because:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you”? (Luke 6:32).
If we are to love our enemies, and to love our Creator, then presumably we are to love everyone in between as well. And love really isn’t love unless we show it, say it and do it.
Here I go again, offending the PC crowd!
Karl Marx would gnash his teeth with rage if he knew what my second greatest experience is, since a central aim of his was the destruction of the bourgeoisie family, and by that he meant the traditional Judeo-Christian family: one male father, one female mother, married for life, along with their children and extended family. Our society has fulfilled his wishes to a great extent. Well take this, Mr. Marx…
I was raised when Marx’s hated clan was still pretty much intact in the West, and I’m thankful for it. Yes, it wasn’t always peace, love and harmony, but those things were there, along with stability and commitment, and so what can truly be called “love”. Love is not being nice to someone so long as they meet your expectations, your desires, and your requirements regarding looks, shape, size and financial success: that’s just using someone.
This commitment and love is both an intentional reflection of God’s commitment and love for us, and obedience to his word and commandments.
For those of you still reading and who haven’t clicked off in an offended rage, I would like to first of all say that I realize many people have been mistreated, rejected and abused by family, and had no power to stop the destruction of their own family. Some who perhaps did now regret the mistakes they made and are unable to fix them. This is not because of a fault in God’s design for the family unit, but as I’ve said before, it’s evidence that human nature is indeed “fallen” in the Biblical sense. We started off facilitating divorce in extreme circumstances: now we’re positively encouraging gross immorality and family break ups.
So now I’ll briefly discuss my own family experience. I say “briefly” because I’m sure that only one or two of you have read this far.
My wife and I have had our problems-major problems. There have been times when I’ve regretted marrying her, and when I wished I could be a thousand miles away. I’ve no doubt she’s had exactly the same kind of thoughts: this is normal in marriage. But as with anything worth having, you have to persevere, and we have done this, for twenty-eight years.
The old analogy of a rough diamond being fashioned into something beautiful is relevant here. When you persevere, you end up with something you could never have had if you had extracted yourself early on. You find yourself in a relationship in which another human knows you more than you know yourself but loves you anyway. You find yourself with a companion that has been with you all along, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health”. You see that your children have enjoyed stability, security and commitment, and have been given a birds eye view of how to be committed, and how to forgive and forget. You see that you have contributed to the stability of your community and your society, and that you have, as difficult as it may have been at times, been obedient to your creator in at least one area of your life.
One thing you do not see is a trail of destruction behind you in the form of ex-lovers, estranged children and memories which you can never enjoy but instead keep locked up in your subconscious.
I have two sons. How I wish I’d had the wisdom to bring more into the world for my pleasure, for God’s glory, and for the benefit of the rest of the world (and to annoy Marx and his present day sustainable-growth crowd as much as possible).
My sons have been very nearly the greatest blessing in my life-far more than almost anything else I could name-hence family taking the number two slot in my greatest experiences. One of the many abiding memories I cherish is of both of them as toddlers running to greet me home from work, and me hugging them as tightly as I could: nothing in the physical world can beat that. Actually I can still do that-they just aren’t easy to throw up in the air any more.
Yes, children can bring a lot of trouble into their parents’ lives. While I’m not saying that’s always avoidable, I’m convinced from my own experience that love, kindness and commitment and the right attitude will, in most cases, release good, level-headed and loving offspring into our society.
I have two sons that I’m immensely proud of: two young men who aren’t likely to be menaces in their society, who aren’t likely to cause trouble for our law enforcement people, and who aren’t going to be a drain on our welfare budgets.
Thank you Almighty God, for my sons, my wife, and the amazing experience of having a family.
At this point in the series about my top ten favorite experiences of life, I need to make a confession. For all of you wondering how my love life will factor into it all, well…let’s just say this is a family blog. So apologies to millions of you fans out there, just longing and waiting patiently for the “hot stuff”, which, you may have imagined, ought to come pretty close to number one on the chart…
Number 5 may well be as “hot” as it’s going to get for most of you, and I say that because all of the physical pleasures and passions of life are being represented in this one post, in imagery which will speak for them all. And yes, perhaps this part of my top ten should be nearer the top. The positioning of each experience is not set in stone: it depends on what kind of mood I’m in and what I’m doing when I think of it!
It was a hot evening, but dry and deliciously comfortable-the kind of evening you just want to wear as little as possible and feel that gentle warm breeze caressing every inch of your skin.
I’d never felt fitter or stronger in my life, and as I bounced effortlessly along on soft, glowing pavement illuminated by an orange-red sun, my wife floated with equal ease next to me.
Was it a run, a jog, a sprint? I didn’t know or care: I felt like I could run around the earth and enjoy every step of it. And when I say “enjoy”, I mean I must have been pumping enough endorphins to raise the Titanic.
I wasn’t prepared for the heightening of my euphoria to another level altogether. As my wife gained ground and drifted in front of me, I was struck full force by the beauty of God’s creative power, in the form of golden flowing hair, lean muscles rippling in the sun, lightly tanned skin gleaming with sweat, and the musical and poetic motion of a divinely designed, living being, pounding out those long, powerful strides, highlighting all the curves I’d fallen in love with time and time again. More than that, this creature was running not just on the pavement to who knows where, but she was running with me, through all the ups and downs of life, on the same roads, and into the same sunset, just as the Creator planned it to be:
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’…’Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man’…’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh…’” (Genesis 2:18 and 24).
66 JELL WAST-MUSH! Is it an insect repellant, a conducting lubricant, or a hippy’s face paint? Is it a video game based on Darth Sidious’ ascent to power?
Actually, it’s the third acronym I contrived to help keep and defend my own faith. This one, like the second, specifically concerns the God of the Bible. It may be rather lengthy in places, so please scroll down if you wish.
The opening part of my acronym is borrowed from the introduction to Chuck Missler’s radio show (“66/40”), since it succinctly and eloquently captures a profound truth missed by those who ignore the possibility of divine authorship of the Bible: The Bible contains sixty-six books written by forty different authors over thousands of years, and yet it’s an “integrated message system” from beyond our own time domain.
The Bible was not contrived by one man sitting down to wonder how he could start a new religion and fool everyone. It’s a collection of books written by many different authors over a long time period, which tells a unified story of human history and the universe from beginning to end and beyond. It claims in many places to be inspired by God himself-by a being who knows the end from the beginning, and who authenticates that claim in ways such as those I’ve outlined under all my acronyms.
J IS FOR JUSTICE. Biblical justice works beautifully, when it’s applied.
Yes, astute reader, the word “justice” was in my first acronym, but there it referred to the fact that we can only have an innate sense of justice if we are more than animals, and if we’ve been designed and created to love truth and fairness. Here the word “justice” refers more specifically to the Biblical model. God is given a bad rap these days by those who want us all to forget about Him. They say he’s vengeful, hateful, misogynous, and a whole host of other derogatory terms which really do not stand up to honest scrutiny. They are also in error, ignoring the fact that since God is the creator and sustainer of all things, he has every right to do as he pleases: we are entirely at his mercy.
Here are a few examples to right the accusations. First, God reluctantly commanded the eradication of the Canaanites only after hundreds of years of mercy and patience towards them (Genesis 15:16) because they had descended to such degrading practices as burning their own children as sacrifices to their idols. It’s God’s world-not ours, but his judgements are fair and necessary, not arbitrary or hateful.
Biblical justice is said to be hard in the Old Testament-the time of the Law, and soft in the New: this is seen as a contradiction. The truth is that the “Old Testament God” while setting hard and fast guide lines, showed his mercy in many ways. For example, the establishing of “cities of refuge” (Numbers 35:6-34), where people who had either accidentally killed someone in a fight or an accident, or who were accused of murder falsely, could go to be immune from vengeance; the sins of the people were forgiven by a simple sacrifice of a lamb or a goat; God sent a prophet to a decadent and violent Nineveh because he did not want to judge the city (Jonah 4:10-11), and when Cain killed Abel and feared retribution from his brothers, God put his seal of protection on Cain as an act of love and mercy (Genesis 4:15).
The “New Testament God” actually warns of the same ultimate judgment upon his enemies as the OT God did, but extends his mercy to its ultimate extent by making a way for anyone willing to respond to escape that ultimate judgment, through the sacrificial death of his own Son. Jesus forgave the adulteress, the thief on the cross, and Paul who had persecuted Christians to the death.
Some things are right and some things are wrong in God’s eyes, and he has the right to determine those things, whether we agree or not. When we declare that something is right when God has said it is not, we are not avoiding his justice or accepting his mercy. The OT God and the NT God are one and the same, and although God’s sense of justice and his determination to carry it out is unchangeable throughout time and history, his love and mercy are clearly seen to be available to all of us-until the final Judgment.
The same love is supposed to be seen in his followers, by way of forgiveness, mercy, kindness, compassion and so on, without negating the fact that wrong is still wrong and must be corrected, disciplined or even judged if not repented of. Love and mercy come first-consequences only follow if there is no change in our hearts. This is real love and fairness. I would say it’s fairer that any human system of judgment. If the police catch you breaking into a bank once, you’re going to prison, and the judge isn’t going to forget your crime even if you say you’re sorry and that you won’t do it again.
However, our judicial system is based on the Biblical notion that some things are wrong and that other people are to be protected from criminals: you pay for your crime. How many other “animals” have such a system?
The Bible adequately Explains the meaning of Life, and the origin and reason for evil, suffering and death. Without claiming to have all the answers (I do not), I wrote about these extensively in an eight part series I wrote called “Why Do We Suffer?” (search for it at the top of this page) and in the following:
L is for Literature. The Bible has been seen by millions over many centuries as the apex of all literature, and more copies of it have been printed and sold than any other book despite the endless attempts to eradicate it. Again, it claims to be the inspired Word of God: his message to humanity. So many examples could be picked, but here’s a well-known one:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23: 1-4).
The Bible tells the stories of “warts-and-all” characters. If the Bible were written by men to draw converts to a club or religion its central characters would all be faultless, unfailing supermen. There is no attempt to whitewash the sins of its heroes and heroines: we hear about their weaknesses as well as their triumphs and their righteous acts.
As examples, read about God’s mercy towards Cain who killed his brother Abel. Read how Abram lied about his wife being his sister in order to save his own skin. Jacob deceived his father and essentially robbed his brother of his inheritance. Moses fell into a bad temper a few times. Elijah, the powerful and bold prophet, was afraid of a woman. David had an innocent man killed and committed adultery. His family was “dysfunctional” because of his many relationships and, his bad example, and his inability to control his step-children.
In the New Testament Peter, the most enthusiastic disciple of Jesus, denied him in his hour of need, and Paul and Barnabas fell out during their missionary journey together.
ST IS FOR STORY. The Bible has a few central themes running all the way through it, including both testaments. The most significant is the story of God’s redemption of fallen man-his commitment to providing salvation for humans who would otherwise be beyond his perfection and holiness. The first mention of the gospel, known as the “proto-evangelion” appears immediately after the Fall (Genesis 3:15), and the gospel message continues all the way to the end of Revelation.
M IS FOR MORALITY. The Bible’s brand of morality is hated by the secularist, the atheist, the polytheist, the pluralist, the evolutionist, the Universalist, the existentialist, and just about every other “ist”: yet it’s loved by those who’ve accepted God’s mercy. God’s standards of right and wrong were loosely followed by Western culture until the last few decades: they were the “glue” that vaguely held everyone together, and they worked as far as they were followed: love and commitment within families, faithfulness within marriage, the recognition that each life-including the unborn- is to be protected and valued, honor and dedication towards community, religion and country, and the rejection of all that threatened the moral fiber of society and all that God said he hated. How dramatically things are changing in the opposite direction now.
U IS FOR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of unconditional love from God to us-available for anyone who will accept it. This is not a human idea or quality: it’s entirely divine.
S IS FOR SIN. The Bible exposes man’s true nature. Yes, this one was in the first acronym also. But more specifically, the Bible describes the origin of sin, its effects and consequences, and its remedy. The answers the Bible gives are, for me, adequate, believable, true to life and beautiful in the light they shine on the human condition.
H IS FOR HOPE. The Bible not only describes man’s condition but provides the answer for it. It offers hope for everyone, not just for this life, but for eternity.