Let me begin with a question. Do we do nice things to each other just because? The answer is: Of Course!
What about people we don’t like? Or we know do not like us? What about people who mouth off about our life style, or attitudes, or values? What about forgiveness? How do we do that?
First of all, consider this. I know for a fact (because I have heard it said many times) that the reason many people do nice and good things is because it makes them feel good. I have also heard it said, –more than once—that a lot of people do nice things because it pleases God. The underlying assumption here is that we need to earn heaven by what we do — if that were even possible.
Here’s a thought. We don’t have to make or keep God happy. Don’t worry about earning heaven.
You may think me crazy (you would not be the first) but my faith tells me that when the God we cannot know joined us in our realm of experience as a real human being amongst real human beings, it was to bring heaven to earth right now. It is so easy to see God as judgmental and demanding, whose favor we have to win rather than the God who chose to leave wherever it is that God lives and come into our existence for the sole reason of connecting with us where we are. In the person of Jesus (according to the faith I adhere to) God was no longer limited to wherever God hides — that we have to wait until we die to enter. No, in the person of Jesus heaven and earth are united once and for all. In the person of Jesus God makes it clear that God wants in to where we are right now. You don’t have to wait until a later date.
Now here is the point. We do not deserve heaven. We cannot earn it either. Yet we have access to it right now. What a nice thing God chose to do for us. There is no way we deserve that presence even though it is what we seek. In Jesus God opened God’s arms and said “Enter relationship with me,” “I am with you,” “NOW”
So. Maybe we do “nice” things for others because God did them to us.
As if to say on the personal level, “God has given me heaven now by God’s presence with me in my experience.” “So I will be present to you, now, in your experience, whether I like you or not. I do to you what God has done to me.”
Stay tuned. We will take a look at forgiveness in two weeks.
In the creation story, as the story goes, the Creator said seven times “It is good,” referring to that which the Creator created.
Some people think Creation is God, that Creation reveals the nature and reality of God. While a beautiful sunset or a jumping dolphin can reveal the beauty of Creation, it must be noted that Creation is not God but the creation of a God who then steps back from it and calls it “good.” It is as if to look at a painting I painted and to say “wow, it is good.” That painting may reveal I exist, but that painting is not me.
It is the same thing with creation. God created it and then stepped back to say “it is good.” So, if creation is good, who am I or you to call it bad? Things may not go my way. I may have some things not work out right even when I try to live morally. Tragedy does happen. But that does not deny the goodness of Creation. Whenever I say in my heart that someone is not good — do I not close my eyes to what God said?
Whatever makes people do evil does not deny the fact that they are, like you and me, created good. Often what makes people do evil are the actions of someone else. I am not sure we can just say, “so and so is just born an evil person” for whatever reason we choose.
Ponder this then: Whenever you feel rising within you the urge to denigrate another human being for whatever reason may seem important to you, step back a moment and remember what God said about Creation.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to learn where your limits are. Put another way, there comes those times when you learn who you really are and are not.
Each one of us likes to believe we can do whatever we want when we put our minds to it — that there are no limits when we apply ourselves.
I cannot go there anymore. My faith does not let me. Why? Because no one is equipped to be whatever they want to be or do whatever they want to do. This is because each person has certain gifts, talents, proclivities to do this but not that. The truth is to live with yourself in an open, honest and accepting way so that you can learn what those gifts are.
But here is the rub. It’s a common problem. Very often we get this notion that we need to be this or that. We get this notion mainly from the culture we live in: “X trait is better than y because I will shine more, it will set me apart from other people. If I am viewed is a certain way of my choosing, all will be well and good.” Yes you will be satisfied if what you think you should be to succeed is really who you are. If not, you may be happy, successful, and maybe even famous. But you will also be very empty.
Sometimes the “who” God made us to be — and yes I mean it that way — is not the “who” we think should be. When I was called by God to enter the Priesthood in the Episcopal Church it was totally contrary to what I thought I wanted to be. Above and beyond that, I was petrified of public speaking. What was I to do.
Only one thing I could do. If I was going to be that which God created me to be, I would have to trust God’s grace to do it and not give into the fears I was letting define my life. And that is what I did.