The main thing
Friday, March 9, 2007
When Joseph's brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him."
Jesus said to the Pharisees, "I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."
Jesus said, "Forgive as God has forgiven you." That is the central truth of his Sermon on the Mount. Don't judge, don't criticize, don't demand changes in others. Just forgive them.
The alternative is reciprocal violence. If you put out my eye, I'll just have to put out yours. Then I'll feel better. Or at least then I'll have done the Right Thing.
Jesus' insistence on turning this old idea of justice around lets me set forgiveness and acceptance as my top priority in relationships, the one thing most important that makes everything else secondary. The more I apply this truth, the more I can "be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances." When I forgive I "do not put out the Spirit's fire" (1 Thess 5).
In his book None of These Diseases, physician S.I. McMillen writes:
The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I cannot enjoy my work anymore because he controls my thoughts. My resentments produce too many stress hormones in my body and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work. The work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery. Even holidays cease to give me pleasure. I cannot escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind.
When the waiter serves me Porterhouse steak, it might as well be stale bread and water. My teeth chew the food, and I swallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy the taste.
It's good to find one thing to live for, one principle to live by. Clear thinking and focused action come more easily. Emotions stay under control. God is near and life is ... dare I say it? ... good.
Can I do this without you, Lord? When I consciously center myself on you, I can. When I don't, none of this comes easily at all. Thank you for your patience while I discover too much of this the hard way.