Faith/Righteous Living: Moral Compass; Residual Benefit of Church; Psalm 133:1
We must talk about faith during public policy discussions because people who don’t believe in something will fall for anything. In America, the state can’t compel a person to develop a faith walk but the government ends up “assisting” when faithless people find themselves in messy and costly circumstances.
Black Americans often ask why would a loving God allow us to suffer so much. (The rest of the post is simply this writer’s opinion and everyone has their own opinion…please share yours) To me, life on earth is a test for eternity in heaven and long-suffering creates humbleness and humbleness focuses us on the other side rather than this side.
Actually, this Christian heard Minister Louis Farrakhan, a man with a detailed knowledge of the three major faiths related to Abraham, answer the suffering question at the Million Man March. As a congressional staffer, I was behind the speakers on the west portico of the U.S. Capitol Building with my boss Rep. Sanford Bishop but I was trying to hang with Ice Cube and Will Smith. Farrakhan said wouldn’t you like to have a little hell on earth that forces you to humble yourself, embrace God and make it to heaven rather than having riches and a little heaven on earth, become arrogant, turn from God and find yourself spending eternity in hell.
We must have a moral compass, a device in our heads that leads us to “act right.” As a Methodist, the foundation of my compass is Jesus’s response to a lawyer.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Game over, good night, turn out the lights. There it is right there. The old moral compass is pointing directly toward a heavenly home when your actions are those of someone who truly loves God and someone who loves his neighbor as much as he loves himself.
If it was only that simple, life in Georgia would be a peach but there are people who clearly don’t love themselves more less their neighbors. The great philosopher Oprah of Winfrey says that love is an action verb more than a feeling-based noun—show love in your actions. The cool professor Randy Pausch wrote the book “The Last Lecture” to give directions on life to his children because cancer would take him before they grew up. He said that his one message to his daughter is “When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do.”
Pausch’s comment reminds me of the Prayer of Humiliation during communion at my A.M.E. Church that says “we are sorry for these our misgivings which we have committed against your divine majesty in thoughts, words and deeds.” Deeds, deeds, deeds. You can talk a good talk but what are your deeds….what did you do to back up the words from your mouth… let the works I have done speak for me.
People run around all day talking about their love for God, America, their race and themselves but do their actions support their professed love. Yea, they love their neighbor as themselves because they don’t love themselves (eating the wrong foods, falling for the wrong person, playing in school, committing crimes, spending too much money.)
President John Kennedy said “ask not what this country can do for you…ask what you can do for this country.” I shouldn’t get started on government/public policy related parts of the Bible. We would be here all day debating “servant, obey your master.” The passage most related to government is Romans 13, 1-5.
1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
Without order, we have chaos. People must have a sense of right and wrong. General Colin Powell wrote that we need to restore “shame” in America. You have a new car but paid zero child support. You should be shame (not ashame…good old fashion shame.)
Residual Benefit of Church: People have too much “understanding” these days but remember Proverbs 3, 5-6. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. As a kid, church was often a boring discussion of some ancient dudes fighting each other; you could have the non-Jesus parts. But, the lightbulb came on for other kids (mostly girls). They could hear the life lessons in Proverbs and Psalms….oh, don’t let Paul start writing letters to distant churches…what he could have done with a laptop and wifi.
When you go to church, you experience many residual benefits. The homeboy told me that attending Sunday School every Sunday made him feel better in general but I knew that getting up early on Sunday reduced his hard partying on Saturday night… the Lord moves in mysterious ways. If a kid can sit still to listen to the history part of the Bible, that ability to focus is vital in school and the workplace. Of course, confidence in public speaking grows from years of church involvement. Hearing a pastor craft a message helps with communication skills but pray for the kids who attend church where people butcher proper English. Where you go to church at? Have mercy.
For people with questionable family members, church is a place to expose your family to positive, productive folks…most of the time. My church has so many retired successful people; the fellowship in the parking lot is a bright point of my week. It is like having dozens of cool aunts and uncles; thoughts of their encouragement might make me teary-eyed over this keyboard and you know I don’t have the extended warranty if the computer shorts out.
We can’t sleep on the networking aspects of regular church attendance. I am not promoting cronyism in the workplace but you hire people with whom you are familiar. If Bob has done an excellent job as a church official for years, I have seen the quality of his work product and organizational skills.
Money/World View: This discussion can be controversial but it needs to occur because many of the conflicts involving our nation started about gold/money/treasures. 1 Timothy 6:10 says
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
My high school econ teacher wisely said that every major event in world history was directly or indirectly about money. When groups and nations start hunting wealth around the world, they often seek a biblical justification for their actions….manifest destiny and divine intervention.
People sometimes wonder why Black Americans would embrace Christianity, the faith of those who enslaved us. The biblical justification for slavery was said to be based on Africans being the descendants of Cain, whose descendants were to be cursed, or Noah’s son Ham, who whose descendants were curse because he laughed at his father in a drunken state. My brother-in-law Pastor Norman E. Kerry says that the simple answer for this question was cover on day one in seminary. Jesus cleaned the slate for anything in the past so slave traders and Klan were wrong.
We should talk about people your faith considers to be wrong. Jesus mentioned my sheep not of this flock. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. That passage could be debated by people smarter than me because some people think that means Jesus talked to people away from the current Middle East. We know he talked to crooks and prostitutes. On the cross, he even said “forgive them father for they know not what they do.”
Religious, Spiritual and Righteous: To me, there is a faith difference involving being religious, being spiritual and being righteous—I try to be all three. A religious person might be deeply involved in the organizational aspects of church but is that person practicing what was preached on Sunday during the rest of the week. A spiritual person is at peace in their spirit; they know who they are and why we are here. A righteous person might not be in church every Sunday but he tries to never do wrong; he endeavors to be a fair dealer in every aspect of life.
Plenty Room In Hell– While heaven wants believers to spread the good news and bring souls into the light, this writer thinks that we must acknowledge that the business of religion creates drama for financial reasons at times. Some churches seem to have a preoccupation with the “fighting the enemy” part of faith and they can go right ahead because I just don’t have energy for that battle. If you want to save those who are wrong from their doom, you are such a good person but I say there is plenty room in hell for those hell-bent on going there.
Religion has made world affairs a big mess. The conflict in the Middle East could be the spark that starts the next world war. Abraham was the father of three major faiths and why won’t people remember that his first son with Hagar is Ismael, who some consider to be the father of Islam. I enjoyed my visit to Jerusalem and was awestruck to touch a place where Jesus actually sat. However, I am one American who is fatigued by the constant conflict in that region and the exportation of that drama into every corner of the globe.
The solution begins with respect. While I don’t want to point fingers, Europeans didn’t respect the history and culture of others when they started their golden age of global greed. While religion is at the center of the conflict in the Middle East, American interest in the region comes from our dependency on their oil.
When imperialists from Europe saw they could get wealth and resources from the Middle East, they didn’t start by acknowledging the cultural history of Mesopotamia and Babylon. Hammurabi who? Which Europeans came down to Egypt to construct those pyramids and that Sphinx because clearly these brown people didn’t do it alone? Oh, the Chinese and the Japanese were more advanced in many ways but the British gave that little consideration when they forced them to trade. The same arrogant mindset invaded Africa, South America, North America and Australia…all with Biblical justification. The so-called American Indians are elegant and proud but they were treated as salvages. Is that the approach Jesus would have employed? I think not.
Peace: While there is no official religion in America (many folks don’t know that), I prefer leaders who have a moral compass, people who practice daily what is taught on Sunday morning. If we want to have world peace, we must be respectful and considerate in our posture toward others. At the end of the day, Ismael and Isaac came together to bury Abraham.
Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
We should end this faith discussion with the idea that everyone on the earth should be considered brothers and sisters and we should learn to live together.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!