Before we continue with the next session Hearing God’s Voice, let’s re-look at the people who will be and should be doing the listening 🙂
“Our special status as bearer’s of God’s image brings special responsibilities. In particular, we are called to use our gifts and talents in the service of God, in helping others, and in caring for the natural world. We are here to play a positive role in the created order, but we have not always performed very well.” (p. 39)
Gareth and I walked out of the lift one day. We saw some trash on the floor. So, the temptation was to walk pass it (assuming the cleaners would clean it up anyway.) But then we stopped, and then I turned back and said, “Gareth, let’s pick that up and throw it into the dustbin shall we?”
I was tempted to give my 5 year old son Al Gore-Inconvenient-truth speech but then again. Let’s do what needs to be done first and talk later. It’s more meaningful that way. So, this became raw material for our conversation about taking care of the world starting with not simply throwing trash all over the place and picking it up rubbish on the floor.
“… the image of God (or imago Dei) comes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which links the image of God freedom and rationality: Like God, human beings can think and decide and act. We are not mechanically determined machines, not are we driven by instinct alone. We are people, and as such, we possess the freedom and the responsibility to determine who we will be.” (p.40)
Even though our thinking might be skewed, our deciding wrong, and we act stupidly …we still bear the consequences of our thinking, deciding and acting. And the accumulation of the results of these will form who we will be. So, every baby step matters.
“The choices we make decide who we become. Even if our choices are never absolutely free, they are still our choices and no one else can make them for us.
… God never takes over the strings of our lives and makes us dance like puppets to a tune we do not want to hear.” (p. 41)
Puppets? Nice to watch but pulled by others … God never intended to be our puppet master but many happily would want to fill that vacancy. Can you see them? Or are we too busy fighting the idea of a puppet master God?
“Coercion regarding matters of religious faith can be just as disturbing as political coercion. Faith can never be imposed on someone else: It is the voluntary response of an individual to God.” (p. 42)
In the light of recent events in Malaysia, the above phrase is cutting. We do respect the communal aspect of faith, but the focus on community does not wipe out the reality of individual response. As individuals, we also must see ourselves in community and not in isolation from others. “Here I stand, I can do no other!”. “Here we stand … We need each other!
“… freedom to doubt must necessarily be respected as a part of the freedom to believe.” (p. 43)
“If we are free and reasonable persons, and everyone else is similarly free and reasonable, we are inseparably linked to one another our choices. What we do affects others, and therefore we have to take others into account in our decision making.” (p. 46)
Decision making is never easy for people who genuinely consider all the factors and people the decision will impact. On one hand, we could just decide and forget about how it will affect others – it’s our life anyway! On the other hand, we maybe bound by the expectations which we can never fulfill. Totally resolving this tension is not the goal in decision making. The goal is to come to a place where we can be responsible and be willing to bear the consequences of our choices. That would include one day even being able to celebrate the fruit from these choices. In this whole mix, loads of lessons are hidden there.
“Human relationships are nurtured through expressions of both charity and justice. While love as charity stresses individual efforts on behalf of others, the ideal of justice focuses on the social and the communal. Justice is not limited to helping others in their need but also involves changing social structures so that those needs themselves might be lessened or even eliminated.” (p. 45)
Here’s one practice I do to keep me on the ground: every time I hear myself or the voices around me stressing individual efforts, I make it a point to see it from a social and communal point of view. And vice versa.
“Sin is anything that willfully diminishes the life that we and the rest of creation are meant to enjoy. Sin is living against the grain of God’s universe. Sin can take many forms, expressing itself both in action and in the choice not to act when action is called for.
… whatever particular form it takes, sin always involves a choice to prefer ourselves over others, over nature, and over God. It is rooted in the desire to follow our own way regardless of the consequences.
… It draws us away from the true source of our being and ultimately gives us nothing in return.” (p. 47)
Hardly hear about people talk about sin in this way. Hardly hear about people talk about sin.
“There is no sin that does not touch others, whether secretly by refusing them what is due, or openly by giving birth to the vices.” – Catherine of Sienna (p. 48)
And we thought it’s just about “me” …
“… forgiveness is ultimately necessary in order to move beyond bitterness and to preserve our own humanity. The only alternative is to live with a shrunken spirit and a diminished sense of what it means to be human.” (p.49)
For those of us who struggle with forgiveness … while acknowledging the pain and not ignoring the hurt, the closing words above is worth spending time meditating on.