Love your enemies

Love-your-enemies-Matthew-5-44
Love of enemies

For St. Silouan, this true compassionate, Christlike love for all mankind leads the believer to grieve for the salvation of every human person, just as he were grieving for his own salvation. St. Silouan’s fervent desire for the salvation of every human person can be summed up further in his words: “Love cannot suffer a single soul to perish.” Basically, what he’s saying here is that true love cannot bear to see any human being suffering in hell. Therefore, when he says, “Our brother is our life,” St. Silouan is actually implying that all mankind—indeed, every human person—is truly our neighbor, our brother, and our life. He stresses that it’s the Holy Spirit who teaches true Christlike love and compassion.

Such love and compassion lead ultimately to Christlike sorrow for those who are not being saved. St. Maximus offers an additional point. He states repeatedly that not only is the true disciple called to love everyone—that’s hard enough in itself, isn’t it?—he adds: you have to love each and every person equally. That’s how you become like God, in imitation of the perfect love of Christ for all mankind. Can you do it?

There’s one other aspect of St. Silouan’s teaching on love and how it leads to theosis [that] we have to talk about. Here’s where we come into play. This is relevant and practical and most applicable for all of us here, and this is the special emphasis that they place on love for enemies. We didn’t talk about love for enemies yet. This theme is fundamental to his entire teaching. Elder Sophrony refers to love for enemies as the cornerstone of our whole teaching. It’s the ultimate synthesis of all our theology: love for enemies. I wonder what he’s going to get at here.

To begin with, the commandment of Christ to “love thy enemy” is not found in any other religion of the world. It’s uniquely Christian. As compared to the commandments of the Old Testament, the commandments of Christ appear revolutionary. It’s opposite to the prescription of the Mosaic law. The Lord himself proclaims:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I tell you not to resist an evil person, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I say to you: “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Love for enemies thus characterizes the true disciples of Christ. Before discussing this aspect of St. Silouan’s teaching, we first have to ask ourselves, I think: Who is this enemy, anyway? Who is the enemy whom Christ commands us to love? Is that ISIS? Al-Qaeda? Is one supposed to understand the word “enemy” in a common, everyday sense of the term, as an outright antagonist or a rival? Or is it perhaps a deeper, more spiritual understanding of this word, “enemy”? The Lord himself refers to an enemy as anyone who strikes us, anyone who sues us, anyone who forces us against our will or persecutes us. In many cases, however, an enemy is not necessarily the customary adversary or antagonist; rather, an enemy is he who is the source of a particular spiritual trial or a temptation.

Let’s repeat that: an enemy is he who is the source of a particular spiritual trial or a temptation. An enemy thus can strike us and persecute us not only physically but also, and perhaps more often than not, he wounds with words. This could be both intentional as well as unintentional. An enemy, in this specific context, is therefore not your typical adversary, antagonist, or outright rival. In this particular sense, an enemy is he, whether he’s aware of it or not, who may be the source of a spiritual trial, a temptation, or a tribulation which afflicts us and which causes us grief or sorrow.

Many times, it is he with whom one has a close and personal relationship who is often perceived as this kind of a spiritual “enemy,” and this is indeed the person whom the Lord is calling us to love. This person, whether intentionally or not, who makes us suffer and who makes us feel scorned or despised, who might hurt our feelings to the point where we become angry and hateful, he who makes us feel sorrowful or grieved—this is the enemy who is to be loved. This would include members of our own families, our relatives, our friends, fellow members of our parish community, as well as those with whom one is sacramentally linked or has spiritual bonds, even clergy and their families, colleagues, co-workers, fellow students. It seems as if the most difficult, the most fierce and humbling of the inner conflicts of spiritual warfare stem from one’s personal relationships with the people with whom one is closest. It’s easier loving and praying for the guy off in Afghanistan, but how about in my own family?

St. Silouan refers to this broader, more spiritual definition of “enemy.” He includes as an enemy anyone who offends you, anyone with whom one is angry, anyone you condemn or detest, as well as anyone with whom you’re not reconciled, and also with whom you find fault or look upon with an unkind eye, he says. For St. Silouan, in this particular spiritual sense, our enemy is anyone with whom we are angry, anyone we despise or detest, anyone we find fault with, anyone with whom we are not reconciled.

With this importance attached to this theme of love for enemies, we have to naturally ask the next question, then. Now the enemy has been identified; now what do we do? What does he mean by the word “love”? What is this love for enemies, anyway? How are you supposed to love an enemy? The word “love” is so freely and frequently used, it may take on a variety of diverse meanings. For St. Silouan and for the Fathers in general, love is not simply a sentimental emotion; that’s not what love is. Nor can love be reduced to mere tolerance of another person. You think that’s what love is? You’re going to just tolerate this guy? Neither is love for enemies a show of non-violence; that’s not the love we’re called to. It’s not a returning evil for evil, nor is love just an attitude of neutrality; that’s not good enough. Love is not the mere absence of hatred.

True love is an effort to do goodto someone who hates you. Often, in the effort to do good to an enemy, we may assume that we have to go to great lengths in order to show our love and to prove our love. However, it’s not the outward showing or proving of love that matters most. Love is proven to be true when it instills inner peace within the heart of an enemy. This is the genuine mark of love: when out of sheer compassion, one tries to instill peace and calm into the heart of another human person, especially one of our so-called enemies. This is not accomplished through gifts and through pomp and through ceremony and making a show out of it. According to St. Maximus, it’s accomplished through simple words, through a humble attitude, through a gentle demeanor toward one of our enemies. That’s how you show love. St. Silouan refers to love for enemies as “the compassion of a loving heart.”

However, love must not be confined to the emotion of compassion. Love is not an emotion. Love is action. The Lord himself urges the believer into action. He teaches:

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you.

The Lord here presents love as action, as doing good, as blessing, as praying, as offering, as giving. Clearly, Christ commands the believer to respond to and to react to an enemy with good and positive acts. Love for enemies is not simply a show of neutrality. It entails a positive reaction. It entails an active response.

Paradoxically, it might also be said that it’s not so much what one does that reveals your love. Sometimes it’s what one does not do or what one does not say that truly shows genuine concern for the inner peace of one of our so-called enemies. The truth and the integrity behind the believer’s actions is manifested by his not returning evil for evil, such as not returning angry words or a haughty attitude or a disturbing look or aggressive remarks. When the believer, out of concern for the inner peace of an enemy, does not react with scorn and hatred, and when he does not attempt revenge, then he’s on his way to truly loving as the Lord commands us to do.

The Church Fathers also offer other practical methods and techniques that can be used in trying to actively love an enemy. For example, St. Maximus recommends that the believer try to never speak ill of an enemy to anyone. Elsewhere, he advises to “dwell on the good things of the past,” and that way it’s more easy to cast out the hatred of the present day. St. Symeon the New Theologian teaches we should always think positively. He says, “Remain calm. Try to stay in control of one’s anger in your attempt to love an enemy.”

Another important element in loving one’s enemy is the ability to forgive him. This is especially significant for St. Silouan. He writes:

If you forgive your brother the affronts he puts upon you, and love your enemies, then you will receive forgiveness for your sins, and the Lord will give you to know the love of the Holy Spirit.

To forgive an enemy. True love occurs when you not only forgive, but also when you forget and no longer remember or dwell on those past offenses. It’s not enough, therefore, to just forgive someone for his sins against you; you have to also forget them, just as our Lord not only forgives us but forgets our sins. St. John Chrysostom says, “There is nothing more grievous than the remembrance of injuries.” To be willing to forget completely, and even to actually cover up what one may have suffered in the past, this is a mark of true Christlike love. Do you see how difficult it is? Do you see why there’s only a few saints among so many of us?

However, for St. Silouan, love for enemies is identified above all else as prayer. Prayer is the ultimate expression of true love. To love your enemy is to pray for him, and more exactly it’s to pray for his salvation in Christ. In this light, St. Silouan offers his own definition of true love, and he writes:

The soul sorrows for her enemies and prays for them, for they have strayed from the truth. That is love for our enemies.

And elsewhere:

The Lord is love. He gave the Holy Spirit on earth, who teaches the soul to love her enemies and pray for them, that they too may find salvation. That is true love.

St. Silouan states clearly: Love for enemies is prayer for their personal salvation in Christ. St. Isaac the Syrian, he’s more specific about praying for one’s enemies. He refers to it as “praying for their protection.” Can you do that? Pray for the protection of your enemy, and that he may receive mercy from God?

The love for enemies commanded by Christ cannot be reduced to simple passiveness or non-violence. It’s an active response of true and compassionate prayer for their ultimate salvation. However, it has to be pointed out that for St. Silouan, such love does not depend on human endeavor alone. He stresses that if one does indeed love his enemies, it’s due directly to the grace of the Holy Spirit. It’s beyond us. We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to love our enemies in this way. He writes:

The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God, we cannotlove our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love.

From this perspective, we see that the commandment of Christ to “love thy enemy” reveals the way towards man’s perfection and sanctification. When we come to truly love our enemies, we then participate truly in the life in Christ. St. Silouan regarded the presence of love for enemies as a sign of real action of grace. He who loves his enemies is likened unto the Lord.

It’s interesting to note that Elder Sophrony directly identified love for enemies with uncreated, divine light. He clearly considered love for enemies as the manifestation of grace, and he wrote:

The bearer of such love is the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, the brother and friend of Christ. He is a son of God and a god through grace.

There’s our path to theosis. We could say that to the degree that we participate in this grace of divine love for enemies to the same degree, we thereby participate in the love and in the divine life of God. In this light, the Lord’s own words spoken to his apostles can be taken quite literally.

But I say to you: love your enemies, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

The more we imitate Christ by loving our enemies, the more we truly know Christ and participate in his divine life. We not only believe in Christ and in the sanctification of our human nature, but we come to live the life in Christ, through Christlike love. Among the spiritual fruits obtained through love for enemies, St. Silouan includes the gift of true inner peace. “If we love our enemies, peace will dwell in us day and night,” he says. He teaches that even though we may pray and fast, if we fail to love our enemies, we will never have peace within our soul. According to St. Silouan, “he who carries the peace of the Holy Spirit within him will automatically spread peace to those around him.” Furthermore, he teaches that he who gives peace to others will also be given peace, and indeed much more than he originally gave.

In a world clamoring and protesting for peace, amid all the violence and the hatred that seem to saturate our society, this particular message of peace is especially relevant today. There will be no peace in the world, neither in society nor within the family if man does not first acquire the peace of our Lord within his own soul. This peace has to begin first inwardly, within our own soul, and only then can it flow outwardly, toward our fellow man, and thereby affecting the communities in which we live, and by extension our society as a whole. Herein is the relevance of St. Silouan’s teaching on love for enemies.

Our so-called enemies, therefore, must be seen in a spiritual and in a more positive light. Our enemy is in reality a unique opportunity for us to attain, by the grace of God, to our salvation, to our sanctification, to our theosis. In reality, our enemy is our way toward participation in divine love. Love for our enemies opens the way to our communion with God, and indeed with all mankind. An enemy is an opportunity to be cherished, not an opponent to be scorned. The more we participate in the philanthropic love of Christ for all mankind, the more we will come to appreciate the unique worth that Christ places on each and every human person. This includes our enemies. This is the ultimate manifestation of the life in Christ. This is what it means to be alive in Christ. It’s to acquire the same consciousness of Christ, the same compassion as Christ, and the same desire that Christ has for the salvation of each and every human person, including our enemies.

To conclude, through his participation in divine love, St. Silouan experienced directly its deifying effects. He experienced the most personal way the inherent unity of all mankind. Seeing his brother as his own life, St. Silouan prayed for the salvation of others even more than he prayed for himself. This is where his love and this is where his life in Christ ultimately led him. He became Christlike. He participated personally in Christlike love, in Christlike compassion, in Christlike prayer for the salvation of all mankind.

If we, too, can learn to love our enemies, we, too, can become like St. Silouan. Through love, we, too, can become like Christ, but such a high and exalted degree of love is rarely found today. Many people talk about love. Many people are looking for love, yet few see the significance of the spiritual perspective of this divine mystery of love. Although many different philosophies and religions, as well as all the countless poets and playwrights throughout history, all offer their own perspectives on this mysterious nature of love, none share the truth of our Orthodox Church. I’ll end with the words of St. Maximus the Confessor. He writes:

Many people have said much about love, but only in seeking it among Christ’s disciples will you find it, for only they have the true love, the Teacher of love. Therefore, the one who possesses love possesses God himself, since God is love.

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Resurrection Factor – Josh McDowell

An unbeliever turned into one of the greatest apologetic.

Videos

 

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When Men Forsake God, Tyranny always Follows

tyrannyby Chris Banescu

Sic semper tyrannis.

“But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The prophetic words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn resonate like thunder across the history of man.

“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Thus summarized the Nobel laureate, Orthodox Christian author, and Russian dissident the main reason why the communist revolution was able to enslave, terrorize, and murder tens of millions of innocent people. An atheistic mentality and a long process of secularization gradually alienated the people from God and His moral laws. This lead them away from truth and authentic liberty and facilitated the rise of tyranny.

Godlessness is always the first step to the concentration camp. Tragically that same process is now at work in America and many other parts of the world. Too many unfortunately refuse to see it or believe it.

America has long been a beacon of freedom for millions of souls who came here seeking liberty and opportunity. It achieved this unique place in history by recognizing the authority of God and his moral laws and declaring that men have the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Founded by faithful and God-fearing men who despised government tyranny and sought religious freedom and individual liberty, America incorporated these universally true principles in its Declaration of Independence and Constitution. These ideals eventually became the bedrock upon which all our laws, government, and institutions were originally built.

America’s Founding Fathers understood and proclaimed that all rights came from God alone, not governments. They insisted that government must always serve man and that man was created by God to be free. Their deep faith and reverence of the Almighty inspired and guided their actions and motivated their decisions. It is this belief and trust in God’s authority and wisdom that ultimately transformed America from a tiny British colony with a handful of refugees, to the mighty economic and military superpower and an oasis of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity for tens of millions of immigrants.

The Founding Fathers, like Solzhenitsyn, understood the dependence of freedom on morality. A virtuous and faithful people who placed God at the center of their lives and the foundations of their institutions helped America become that shining city on a hill “whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere”, said President Ronald Reagan.

“We’ve staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us…to govern ourselves according to commandments of God. The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which the Constitution is founded,” wrote James Madison.

This same theme is found throughout the writings of the Founders. John Adams clearly understood that our

“Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

 

“He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country,”

observed Samuel Adams. Patrick Henry wrote that

“virtue, morality, and religion … is the armor that renders us invincible[.] … [I]f we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed[.] … [S]o long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.”

Solzhenitsyn warned that by forgetting God, America and the West faced a “calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness” that would weaken their foundations and make them vulnerable to moral decay and internal collapse. Only by turning back to God from the self-centered and atheistic humanism where “man is the touchstone [measure] in judging and evaluating everything on earth” would the West have any hope of escaping the destruction toward which it inevitably moves.

Unfortunately America did not heed Solzhenitsyn’s warnings. In the last several decades America has been rapidly transformed from a God-fearing and worshiping nation, into a secularist and atheistic society, where communist and atheistic ideals are glorified and promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are attacked, ridiculed, and increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation. Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called “liberal” and “progressive” elites, God and His moral laws have been progressively erased from our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

“Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants,”

warned William Penn.

Throughout history, the most serious threats to man’s freedom always arise when men refuse to acknowledge that God is ultimately the source and protector of real and lasting liberty and freedom. When that timeless truth is erased from men’s consciousness, when God’s wisdom and laws are forgotten, when morality is no longer a virtue to be treasured and emulated, when human life is no longer sacred, and man becomes the only standard of all that is true, then genuine freedom will begin to vanish from any group, institution, community, or society. Carnality, greed, selfishness, and worldly pleasure and power become the main goals of human existence. The moral and ethical clarity, conviction, and courage required to defend freedom and protect genuine liberty ultimately disappear, to be replaced by the most cruel, unethical, tyrannical, and godless ideologies.

It is no coincidence that advocates and followers of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism – all secular, immoral, atheistic, and godless ideologies – enslaved and murdered the greatest number of people in the history of mankind. All produced some of the most cruel, violent, and evil tyrants this world has ever known, despots who persecuted their own citizens, slaughtered the innocent, destroyed their own people, and brought calamities to other nations. All subjugated the liberty and property of men to the absolute power and control of the state. All were enemies of God and blasphemers of His Holy Scriptures. All viciously persecuted the most devout and religious members of their societies, primarily the religious Christians and Jews who righteously and faithfully followed the Lord.

This is the lesson the 20th century expended so much blood to teach us. It appears that without a marked change in course, the Western world is going to have to learn it again.

Source: OrthodoxNet

 

 

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Thoughts can cause cancer

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Mental Health

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The effects of prayer is miraculous

praying monk 3

To many people the monk seems remote and unsociable.  It seems that he is concerned with his own soul and that he offers nothing to the Church or to the world.  That is not the case.  If the Church has been preserved for so many years, this is due to monasticism.  The person who enters a monastery and offers everything to Christ enters into the Church.  Perhaps someone will ask, ‘Do those who live alone in a cave help the Church?’  The answer is ‘yes’.  The cave-dwellers help the Church in a mystical way.  A monk who lives in a cave may not cultivate trees and vegetable gardens, he may not write books and do other things that help towards spiritual life and progress, but there he creates and develops and is assimilated to God.  Hermits stay in caves so that no one distracts them from the spiritual life.  With their fervent and pure life and above all with their prayer they help the Church.  I’ll say something that will seem grossly excessive to you.  But I want you to believe it. It is about the contribution of a monk’s prayer. Listen to me carefully.

Let us assume that there are seven educated preachers, who live holy lives. Their rhetorical skill is unparalleled.  Each has a parish with ten thousand parishioners. Thousands who hear them are moved to repentance and return to Christ.  Whole families are saved.  Nevertheless, one monk who no one sees and who sits in a cave somewhere has a much greater effect with his humble prayer.  One produces a greater effect than seven.  That is what I see.  I am sure of it.  That is how important a monk’s prayer is.  He is on his own in his cell, but the reverberations of his prayer reach everyone, even if they are far off.  With his prayer, the monk participates in all the problems which people face and works miracles.  His contribution, accordingly, is greater than that of the most gifted and worthy preacher.

 

Excerpt from a book, Wounded by Love, The Life and the wisdom of Saint Porphyrios, page 171.

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Conscious, subconscious, unconscious

superconscious-mind

The soul is multilayered:  Conscious, subconscious, unconscious

Either we want it or not, because of the original sin, because of our falls and of the guile that entered man, he folds his soul in two –hides his soul. Ultimately, to speak with psychological terms and definitions, man has the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious: namely, the soul is multilayered. This means that if man’s soul was divided into ten layers, the six lowest layers would be the unconscious, the next three would be the subconscious, and the topmost layer would be the conscious. Thus, from these ten layers which are the object of man’s soul, only 1/10 is conscious –and barely. This means that someone knows, is aware of, and is able to control, only a very small part of himself.

As a result, the moment someone says “I love God and I give myself to Him”, no matter how well disposed he is, he’s only actually giving that 1/10. Over the other 9/10 he has absolutely no control, and is unable to give them over. Someone, however, doing this work, namely giving his whole self to God –in reality giving this 1/10- somehow experiences the following. The next day, or even within that exact moment, a certain part of that 9/10 which is hidden inside the subconscious and the unconscious, becomes conscious.

Consequently, the next day someone, if he is honest with himself, will admit that although yesterday he gave his whole self to God, today he feels as though he must give himself again to God, as a new state has arisen within him.  In the spiritual life it is in this way that one makes a start and again makes a new start, giving himself again and again to God. And, if one does this both honestly, and honorably, he progresses and someday arrives at a state where he has finally given his whole self to God. And because of this the saints don’t have what we have: a conscious, a subconscious and an unconscious. No; their entire being is transparent before God. In this way, the saint controls himself completely. Never does a saint feel that within him exists states that are crude and dark, let’s say, a basement of the soul, states that he doesn’t know, and doesn’t control. The saint doesn’t have such things.

You understand, therefore, what work we have to do on ourselves. And this work is interesting. This is not, however, simply like a practical work. This is the great mystery; the more someone knows himself and gives himself to God, the more he is immersed in the grace of God, in the love of God, and the more he is captured by this grace, and this love of God. In this way, man becomes radiant, is illumined, is gladdened, rejoices, has joy, and is made gleeful.

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self righteous indignation

self rightous

Why are you concerned about your opinions? I do not like this…, “Why is it like this?  Why did he tell it like this?  I would have told it better.  Why did he do that? Etc..  These are the biggest evil and badness.

Taken from Elder Joseph the Heyscast

This is exactly what got Judas to deny Christ.

John 12:4-5

But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

So the question, should be directed at me only. Christ said, why have you forsaken me while on the cross? But when it comes to those who crucified him, He says ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’, eventhough what they were doing was completely wrong. So logical and rational thinking can make us deny Christ today, God forbid, if we don’t focus on our own brokeness.

 

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Lasting Love shows Trust

trust

Love believes all things 1 Cornithians 13:7

That is the kind of love we want for our marriage or for our friendship to last for a life time.  No love can grow without trust. We are called to love by our God.  Trust is the base of love.  We are talking about confidence, trusting and believing in people.  That is what love is actually.  I trust my fellows and that I have confidence in them.  Love and trust are intertwined. They go hand in hand.

There are three kinds of people in the world.  The first is the gullible people. People who are naive and believe everything and anything.  And that is the fear of most of us to be gullible.  The second is the cynical people who do not believe anything.  They are suspicious and skeptical of everything.  The third is the healthy people that can love and give people the benefit of the doubt.

What if we are not healthy?  Which option is much safer and much wiser for us?  To be more believing and trusting people or be more skeptical.  I think the natural response is to be skeptical.  A lot of pyschological studies have been done and the finding was that one of the saddest people in the world are skeptical people.

And the characteristic of the happiest people in the world are people who are more trusting.  The worst thing that could happen when we are trusting too much is that we will be burned. People will abuse our trust.  But which is better? That our trust is abused once or twice or ten times and we live happy for the rest of our lives or live skeptical having no relationship with anyone and afraid of anyone all our lives because we are afraid to be burned once or twice or even ten times.  And to live sad and lonely all our lives because we are skeptical of people.

They actually did some IQ test because they thought that the gullible people had less IQ.  But the test showed otherwise.  Trusting people have better IQ.  Trusting people know what they are doing.  It is a choice.  When we stop trusting people, then we stop relating to people and stop loving people.  If we don’t relate well then we breaking the commandment of love neighbor.  We can never say we love people without trusting them.

Trust means giving people a second chance when they mess up.  For example, we don’t leave a small group and say I will never come to this small group again. Or say I am never going to speak to this person again saying he/she embarrassed me and abused my trust.  Love that trusts gives a second chance.  How many chances have we gotten from our good Savior?  We can’t take this decision without giving a second chance.  For example, we mess up in a game and a good coach will let us play again.  But a bad coach will put us on the side and the self-esteem is down and we end up hating to play and hate the game all together.  Or when a youngster gets into an accident or someone who just started to drive gets into an accident, the worst thing is to tell this person to never drive again.  But the best thing is right after the accident, to let them use the car and start driving.  Give them a second chance saying, I trust you.  Very important to give this grace to people.  How many times we did something stupid by mistake and people punished us for the rest of our lives because that is a stupid mistake?  And how many times when we were given a second chance that we were so appreciative of that and we did our best because we are given a second chance.

Sometimes it is very hard to trust certain people.  How do we trust?  How can love believes all things?  When we are trusting people because of God and His commandments and because of the love and relationship, we are not really trusting them but we are trusting God.  We are taking a huge risk but it is a step of faith.  We are trusting God.  We are not trusting the people at hand.  Sometimes, we lose this trust even with God.  When God does something we don’t understand, we don’t give Him a second chance either.  We say O you messed up this, I am not talking to you again.  We say to Him you don’t love me and this and that.  When we fall into this trap, we need to recite the following verse.

But God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8-9

We don’t understand the wisdom of God but we should trust Him.  One of the greatest gift that we can give anyone is the gift of trust.  Same way that God trusted us, the same way that God has given us more than we deserve, we should trust other people as well.  May God grant us His abundant grace to do just that.  Amen.

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The Problem of Emotional Immaturity

Many people know the truths of the Bible relatively well.  They can recite many of the Ten Commandments and articulate key principles for Christian living.  They believe wholeheartdly they should be living them.  The problem is they don’t know how!

The following is one simple, common scenario:

Almaz is a gifted manager in her company.  She has been a Christian her whole life and loves spending time with God.  When the vice presdient of her company was making schedules for mangers to meet clients out of town, he asked Almaz to pick up the weeks she would prefer to travel over the next three months.  Within the week Almaz emailed him the dates and eagerly awaited his confrimation.  None arrived.  Almaz called his office the following week.

His administrative assistant answered.  “Well, according to the schedule I have infront of me, the next three months are all full,” she said.  “I guess this means he does not need you right now.  But thanks for calling.”

Almaz sat stunned in her chair.  “Thank you, “she replied robotically and hung up.

For the next two weeks Almaz wrested with God and herself.  She asked God for forgiveness for the anger she was feeling.  She tried to figure out why the vice president had changed his mind.  She humbled herself to God.  She cried out in prayer for love toward her coworkers.  She lost sleep.

Finally, she concluded God was dealing with her stubborn self-will.

Over time Almaz distances herself from the vice president and other managers, avoiding them whenever possible.  During the next two years she worked hard, but she felt like she had hit a ceiling in how far she could go with this company.  Eventually, she took a position with another company.

Even though, Almaz is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, her commitment does not include relating well to people in an emotionally mature way.  Instead, she misapplies biblical truth and follows, most probably, the relational skills learned unconsciously in her family growing up.

What assumptions is she making about her vice president?  His administrative assistant?  About God’s will for her life?  What might she have done to prevent her pain?  To preserve her relationships at work?  Unless Almaz receives equipping in this area, she will likely repeat the same pattern over and over again.

Part of growing into an emotionally mature Christian is learning how to apply practically and effectively the truths we believe.

Here is a brief summary of a mature emotional adults

. Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer—clearly, directly, honestly

. Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings.

. Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial.

. Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect.

. Appreciate people for who they are—the good, bad, and ugly—not for what they give back.

. Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others.

. Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world and able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves.

. Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others.

Almaz did not have the skills and emotional maturity to resolve her conflict maturely.  She also did not have the ability to state her feelings and beliefs without thinking adversarially.  The end result was an isolation and coldness in her relationship at work that resembled hell more than heaven.

A tragically misinterpreted verse in the New Testament is Jesus’ proclamation: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  Most people think that Jesus calls us in this verse to be pacifiers and appeasers who ensure that nobody gets upset.  We are to keep the peace, ignoring difficult issues and problems, making sure things remain stable and serene.  When, out of fear, we avoid conflict and appease people, we are false peacemakers. For example, Achame is engaged.  She would like more time to rethink her decison but is afraid that her fiance’ and his family will get angry.  She goes through with the wedding.  She is a false peacemaker.

The way of true peace will never come through pretending what is wrong is right! True peacemakers love God, others, and themselves enough to disrupt false peace. Jesus models this for us.

Many of us believe loving well is learned automatically.  But we need to have some tools and excercises to learn how to love.  We need to ask God prayerfully to help us to love and relate well with others.

Besides prayer, we need to look two things very carefully namely assumptions and expectations.

Checking Out Assumptions

Checking out assumptions is a very simple, but powerful tool that elimnates untold number of conflicts in relationships.  It enables us to check out whether what we are thinking or feeling about others is true.  It enables us to clarify potential misunderstandings.

Every time we make assumptions about someone who has hurt or disappointed us without confirming it, we believe a lie about that person in our head.  This assumption is a misrepresentation of reality.  Because we have not checked it out with the other person, it is very possible we believe something untrue.  It is also likely we will pass that false assumption around to others.

When we leave reality for a mental creation of our own doing (hidden assumptions), we create a counterfeit world.  When we do this it can properly be said that we EXCLUDE God from our lives because God does not exist outside of reality and truth.  In doing so we wreck relationships by creating endless confusion and conflict.

Almaz, in our opening illustration made all sorts of assumptions about why the boss failed to schedule her to meet with clients.  Her life was driven by these assumptions in her head, which mostly likely were false.

Expectations

Unmet and unclear expectations create havoc in our places of employment, classrooms, friendships, dating relationships, marriages, sports teams, families and churches.  We expect other people to know what we want before we say it.  Expectations are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon.  We all know the unpleasant experience of other people having expectations we never agreed to.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our world is to be a community of emotionally healthy adults who love well.  This will take the power of God and a commitment to learn, grow, and break with unhealthy, destructive patterns that go back generations in our families and cultures—and in some cases, our Christian cultures also.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.  Lord, we have unhealthy ways of relating that are deeply imbedded in us.  Please change us.  Make us a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom we come in contact sense Your tenderness and kindness.  Deliver us from false peacemaking that is driven by fear.  Lord Jesus, help us love well like you.  Grow us, we pray, into an emotionally mature adult through the Holy Spirit’s power. In Your Holy name, Jesus. Amen.

 

Excerpt taken from a book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

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