Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

There are three generic conditions under which a man may hold his soul.

The first is where those instincts and passions which belong to our animal nature, and whose normal sphere is upon the material globe, predominate, and give tone to character. Under such circumstances, men are always sensual, -- fleshly, in scripture language. They live by the force of their material organization.

But as men come under better influences, there grows up an intermediate state, a mixed character, in which force alternates with higher and better feelings. Under great excitement, the physical qualities predominate; but in times of quiet, and away from temptation, there grow up milder influences, nobler sentiments. The result is that there is an occasional outburst of feeling, and also an occasional experience of sweetness and peace. It is, in such circumstances, an alternating condition of the mind, which results in great strife and conflict between the one part and the other – between the higher and the lower nature. And the greater part of men in civilized countries live in this intermediate condition, in which the animal is not predominate, and in which the spiritual is not predominate, but in which sometimes one and sometimes the other rules, neither having free course.

Then there is a final state – the highest we know of – that in which the moral sentiments completely rule. When these higher qualities give expression to the whole life—to the face, to the tone of the voice, to the language; where they surround the very soul, as with an atmosphere; where the whole nature is saturated with faith, hope, love—with truth, equity, benevolence – there is an air given to men, of strength in gentleness, of courage in sweetness, of activity in tranquility, of will without obstinacy, of self-confidence without conceit.

All these qualities may exist in the individual, and over them all there shall be a luminous refinement, a spiritual glow, which saves the soul from the charge of insipidity and flatness, and gives it authority and vitality. When the soul is completely under the dominion of these spiritual emotions, it shines. It impresses all that come near it. It rules whatever is within its sphere. In short, the spiritual is to become supreme in authority. And that which makes us men- not that which makes us animals – gives the color and tone to the whole life and character.

It is the atmosphere of the spiritual nature of man, or that appearance and those qualities which we see when the man is under complete control of his higher moral sentiments, which is what Jesus meant by “meekness”.

Matt, when I read this I immediately thought of the woman who was director at the AIDS orphanage where you took Carissa and I. I think so many of these qualities were evident in her.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I love to read Robert Louis Stevenson for pure entertainment. His insight into people just tickles me and he is always busy looking into the quirks and differences in people. Here he is talking about a good friend while they are on an ocean liner trip.

"If he had one taste more strongly than another, it was to study character. Many an hour have we two walked upon the deck dissecting our neighbors in a spirit that was too purely scientific to be called unkind; whenever a quaint or human trait slipped out in conversation; you might have seen Jones and me exchanging glances; and we could hardly go to bed in comfort till we had exchanged notes and discussed the day's experience. We were then like a couple of anglers comparing a day's kill. But the fish we angled for were of a metaphysical species, and we angled as often as not in one another's baskets. Once, in the midst of a serious talk, each found there was a scrutinizing eye upon himself; I own I paused in embarrassment at this double detection; but Jones, with a better civility, broke into a peal of unaffected laughter, and declared, what was the truth, that there was a pair of us indeed."

I ran across this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson where he was, as always, busy contemplating the nature of men. Here he makes some intriguing comments about the reformed drunkard whose life and identity is wrapt up in abstinence.

"Hence the comparative success of the teetotal pledge; because to a man who had nothing it sets at least a negative aim in life. Somewhat as prisoners beguile their days by taming a spider, the reformed drunkard makes an interest out of abstaining from intoxicating drinks, and may live for that negation. There is something, at least, not to be done each day; and a cold triumph awaits him every evening.”

I had to think that through a few times, visualizing a prisoner taming a poisonous spider, so at least at the end of the day he could say he was not bitten, which is some “cold triumph” that he can feel good about. Now the drunkard or drug addict is not the only one who becomes preoccupied in negatives; I ran across this quote about Christianity that is equally as stinging –

“Mr. Mills says, in his book on Liberty, that “Christian morality is in great part merely a protest against paganism: its ideal is negative rather than positive, passive rather than active.”

So my point; the recovering addict, who has made tea totaling his goal and his only goal, to abstain from the bite of abusing again, it becomes the focus and can be the entire goal of life to abstain, or as Stevenson puts it, “He may live for that negation.” So at least at the end of the day, although he has done nothing for others, he has, at least, this cold triumph. Now initially this is a most commendable goal, but at some point one must move on to living a positive life with offensive goals, concerns for others and not just saving one’s own soul or sobriety.

So in like manner, Mills quote that Christianity has reduced itself, in large part, to merely a protest against paganism, is the same principle, isn’t it? We do little to change the world, but we protest much, be it political issues, school policies, permitted words and lyrics, and of course those nasty agendas of the “gays”.

So in our idle time we boast of not being bitten by the spider, and with great conviction protest the ungodliness of the day, but booing the rival team that is carrying the ball will never win the game. One must play offense as well as defense.

Freaky picture of the black widow taken from the Internet, man spiders freak me out.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Name above every name

"Now when we are calculating God’s goodness, we must take measure by the family, according to Christ’s own declaration. On one occasion he taught the disciples on this very matter. He said to them, after giving them some other instruction, “if ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!” What is the exact logical position here? When you argue from a man to God, you are accustomed to say, “Ah! That is not a fair argument – God is a different being.” “No,” says Christ, “take whatever is good in man and argue that God is not only that, but infinitely better than that. In fashioning your conception of God, make it as resplendent in justice, as august in truth, as noble and pure in love, as radiant and wondrous in pity, and as enduring as you please. Never be afraid that you will over draw the divine character. God is never better in your thought or imagination than he is in himself. You may pile on, and pile on, as much as you please, and your descriptions of God will not transcend, but will come short of, the reality. When you heart is warmest, when it is noblest when it is truest, when it is best, when it flashes out its ideal conceptions of God, that ideal is far more likely to be near the truth than one that is coldly, critically, philosophically deduced from definite premises. For God’s nature really outruns the human capacity for reasoning."

This piece affirms thoughts I began developing a number of years ago. I believed the emotions of compassion within men's hearts was a God given thing and that His level of compassion must far exceed ours. I saw within me a repulsion to see anything suffer, be it man or beast. How then can one reconcile this with the doctrine of eternal torment?

Henry Ward Beecher - Painting by Norman Rockwell.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

“Now, in the midst of this vast and ever-unwearied breaking of the surge on the shore of experience, how cheerful, how joyous are the words of God!

There is one reason why the Bible will never be upset just as long as the world lasts. You may prove to me that there is no such thing as inspiration; you may prove that this Book was dug out of a rock; you may destroy the prophet’s authority; you may take from the apostles their authority; you may take away the theory that the Bible came in any sense from God. Yet there is that in this Book which will keep it intact and make it potential as long as there is a heart to feel sorrow or to beat with hope. It is its humanity. It is its courage. It is the might and power of its love. It is the vast sympathy which wraps mankind as the atmosphere wraps the globe.

It is its thought and care for men in all their wants. For the poor, the needy, the weak, the helpless, the crying, the sighing, the discouraged, the down-trodden, the unvictorious, the captives, little children, mighty monarchs, peasants, nobles – for all men – there is here a throb and a yearning. There are thousands of blessings held out to them – strength, bread, fruit, water, wine, swords, spears – everything for humanity—whatever they need in their masterly struggles in this world. This Book is an ark into which men will run, as long as the world stands, for succor and consolation. And who should have made such a Book as this, as a way cast up on which “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads,” if it be not God?”

I love this quote by Henry Ward Beecher; it describes my feelings so well. "It is its humanity", displayed in every loving way Christ talked and walked among men. Let them say what they will, He walked into my life hearing "a throb and a yearning", and I can never deny it.

Photo by Krzysztof Buchowicz