Tag Archive | religion

A Level Playing Field

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Since the beginning of time, people have been conscious to some degree of a constant striving within themselves to do good. We first experience this struggle as children, when we realize how much easier it is to do wrong than to do right. It’s the reason that, as young as one year old, even before we’re able to speak full sentences, one of our first words is “No.” It’s the reason we all, barely out of diapers, need to be taught culturally and socially appropriate behaviour.

Being imperfect human beings, it’s an impossible feat for anyone to do the right thing all the time; and when we mess up in any way, our conscience wastes little time letting us know it. We may try to make amends somehow for poor behaviour, and usually we’re successful in restoring peace within ourselves and in our relationships.  In our WIIFM, rights-obsessed, do-whatever’s-most-convenient-and-least-painful-for-you world, while it seems less importance is placed on the practice these days, it remains a noble thing to acknowledge and admit one’s wrong and to make some attempt to set it right if we can.

Throughout history, believers in a higher moral authority have offered sacrifices to the gods they worship to make amends for their wrongs, and those sacrifices have taken various forms depending on one’s system of beliefs. Even today, one doesn’t have to search too hard to find evidence of human or animal sacrifices being carried out somewhere in our world. But all human effort, however well-intentioned, falls short of the standards of a holy God whose thoughts and ways are far superior to even the most morally upright among us. No sacrifice on our part will suffice to land us in God’s good graces. If we were able to attend our place of worship every day of the week, it would not do. Nor would all the fasting and praying we could manage to fit into our hectic schedules. Nor would giving all our possessions away to the poor, nor any amount of good works, whatever that might mean to us personally. Sounds unreasonable? Yes, it would, to our human ears. But the fact is, no matter how much we can do, there’s always someone capable of doing better. In God’s eyes, at least, no-one can ever win if we compare ourselves to others because none of us are perfect.

When we finally tire of the uncertainty of knowing whether or not we’re making any headway in our own personal efforts to measure up, we can find rest in the knowledge that God, being an impartial and fair judge, leveled the playing field about 2000 years ago by providing the ultimate means whereby all of us, through faith, might find peace with Him, with others, and within ourselves, as well as forgiveness for our wrongs. His name is Jesus Christ, of whom the following was said:

He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong [and ever will do wrong],
on him, on him.

—–

Isaiah 53:3-6 (The Message)  //  Image credit: frenta / 123RF Stock Photo

Keep Looking!

mendhak / Beach Photos / CC BY-SA

When it was released in 1987, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” really struck a chord with me. At that time, I hadn’t yet consciously embarked on my search for peace and purpose, but I sensed, as I always had since childhood, that there was something far deeper, richer, and far more meaningful to this life. It took another 7 years until I found what I was looking for, and it wasn’t in the religious trappings that had been my experience growing up. Those rituals, though they hinted at something more profound and potentially attainable, were more like an exasperating tease than an invitation to keep searching.

Like an old friend that unexpectedly but pleasantly pops back into one’s life after a period of absence, I heard the song playing recently, and since for some reason I wasn’t able to shake it off, I soon found myself reading the book, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, in which the singer freely shares with a music journalist friend his views on family, faith, and justice, among other things.

At the time the song debuted, the members of U2 already held fairly strong positions of faith; and Bono, concerned with the question of poverty even then, had already begun to develop a sense of his greater calling in life, which he can be seen actively pursuing today.

Considering that they grew up in a region of the world that has witnessed countless acts of  violence carried out in the name of religion, I find it interesting that neither Bono nor his fellow band members ever used this as an excuse to avoid seeking God for themselves. Interesting, because we all can probably think of at least a few people who have rationalized neglecting their own spiritual pursuits on the basis of a great deal less than the violence that has been carried out there and in other places under the guise of religion. (The occasional run-in with the “hypocrites” at the local church is generally off-putting enough).  But perhaps being the offspring of a Catholic father and Protestant mother who enjoyed a good marriage in spite of opposition to their union had something to do with Bono’s open-minded, mature outlook on issues of faith even during his youth; and although by his account his parents didn’t take religion too seriously and felt it was an obstacle to reaching God, their evident commitment to their children’s spiritual development clearly demonstrated that they saw a certain value in planting seeds of faith in their lives.

As Bono tells it, his late father admired his son’s faith—he had a wistful envy of Bono’s relationship with God, a keen interest in his spiritual journey, and seemed more impressed by the band’s faith than by their success. According to Bono, given that his father typically saw him as the family idiot and expected less of him than he did of his older brother, on some level he was proud of Bono’s success, but not outspokenly so, and only as long as it didn’t intrude on his privacy. (Bono shares the amusing story of his father standing up and waving his fist at him when the spotlight was turned on him after Bono unexpectedly announced his presence at a concert.) I find it admirable that his father had such a healthy respect for his son’s faith. Quiet introspection must have led him to the conclusion that his one-way conversation with God could not compare with his son’s two-way faith experience, yet he didn’t appear threatened or intimidated by it; he was simply curious.   It’s not clear whether the father ever found what he was looking for before he departed this life, but it’s evident that the son has.

And you?  If you haven’t yet found what you’re looking for, I encourage you to keep searching. We are promised that we will find God if we search for Him with all our heart, so may none of us allow the actions of a few misguided, overzealous, wayward, or mentally unstable individuals to stand in the way of our efforts and to dictate our own spiritual destiny.  We need only reflect on our experiences over the past 24 hours to find the shocking evidence that, even when motivated by the most well-meaning intentions, the best of us are just like the rest of us—prone to error. It’s in our DNA!

Until next post, I leave you with this brief trip to the past. Click below to enjoy!