Great Film on the Meaning of Life

Leave a comment

http://www.hulu.com/embed/cTTnLuLawJplF1KxGC-NOQ/21/5638/i816

I found this movie to be very enjoyable and provocative. Enjoy a journey through the minds and spirit of others and learn to strengthen your Faith. A strong 9 out of 10. But for the palpable bias toward relativism and Eastern religion, a nearly perfect excursion.

The Prophet’s Curse: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

1 Comment

The Curse of the Prophets: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Richard D. Ackerman (2010-2011, 2d.Ed.)
Riverside County Bar Magazine Article

When first asked to write this article, I didn’t quite know what to think or how to approach the issues.  Naturally, one would inquire as to why they had been chosen to write an article on the idea that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’  Perhaps it’s just because I truly believe in a uniform justice system that cannot be destroyed or weakened by the whims of political correctness, unjustified entitlements to power, or discrimination.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have lost on so many unpalatable positions, that I am perceived as being the consistent bearer of the losing position.

Perhaps the characteristics of being hopeful, tenacious and committed are necessarily defined by commitment to suffering humiliation.  For all I know, it may just be my fearless stupidity.

A model justice system is ruled by reason, equity, and a sense that one is entitled to rely on equal application of uniform law.  With this in mind, it also must be remembered that today’s dissent may very well be basis for tomorrow’s justice.  We know this, yet so often fear being the voice of dissent or a counterbalance to excess power.

Fortunately, the otherwise controlling fear of change can be defeated. The recent decision by Judge Virginia Phillips on the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy aptly demonstrates the power of commitment to principle.  While I did not agree with the decision for reasons of the separation of constitutional powers, I bear the deepest respect for her courage to take on the entire military system in the pursuit of equality.  Indeed, the very essence of dissent is what makes for human progress and development of the unique democratic experience bestowed upon us.

One might want to say that this has nothing to do with being punished per se’ for good deeds.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For its power to be felt, prophecy nearly requires persecution. For the known history of humankind, we have seen one prophet after another being condemned for simply taking a stand and pronouncing the truth.

The essential form of what it means to be a prophet is historically seen in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, even the unimposing Dharma Bum, or just about any other perceived revolutionary.

By the way, don’t let your sensibilities about religion get in the way of a good thought about what it means to be human.  Don’t let my biases as to Biblical prophets interfere with the definition of yours (i.e., perhaps the Buddha or others).  Prophecy has never been a form of proselytization nor evangelism.  The latter require the ability to sell or enforce an idea or belief.  Prophecy is most defined by its initial lack of luster and desirability (i.e., because of its demand of human introspection).

I must also mention that I believe that prophets are neither nuts nor fortune-tellers.  To be a prophet means to be a representative of something higher than yourself.  It doesn’t mean you are a great person.  It certainly does not mean that you have any more power than anyone else.  You bear the calling of a messenger.  You get to bear complete responsibility for whatever you say and may even bear the risk of death itself.

Theoretically, each of us in the law ought to be a prophet on behalf of the Constitution and of the Judicial Branch in all of its noble purposes.

Of course, however, there must be a price for one’s desire to profess the law as it is, and the reason which provides the lifeblood of the law.  The price for your message may very well be disdain, frustration, mockery, lack of understanding, and intolerance.  As was recently pointed out by Jack Clarke, one of my most respected colleagues, if it was not for Dr. Martin Luther King, and so many others, we would not know the concept equality as we now know it to be.  What was the price Dr. King paid?  His very life.  Yet, his prophecy and vision lead to the conclusion that we all ought to be equally able to seek the highest that humanity has to offer.  This principle seemingly should never have been the barter for death.  His humiliation became a call for human dignity.

What is the sacrifice you would be willing to make in order to be a seeker of truth?  I don’t know if we would all deny representation of a well-paying client with a bad cause.  It doesn’t seem respectable that one should disagree with the mainstream.  Would you challenge a judge openly on a matter or law, or hide behind the veil of secrecy provided by ‘papering the judge’?  Will you and your house follow the law? Will you abide in the law and all of its travails?  Would you be willing to die to feed the life of another perceived to be of no value?

Often, respect for the law means that one will get to unpalatable conclusions.  Being truthful carries the risk of scorn.  This also means that one might as well plan on losing some arguments since reason, consistency, and justice require a stern heart and a desire to be magnanimous regardless of opposition.  Is strength and character found in accepting the status quo?  Or would it be better to define the status quo ante bellum, even if someone else may have to carry the torch after your embattled demise?

In the case of a being a lawyer, your representation of the law, as a higher cause, may simply mean that you have to be willing to respect the authority of the Court, but yet advocate for a position you know to be inconsistent with the realities of the times.  Humility in purpose has oft been the hallmark of a strong prophet.  Simply staying in the ring, without a complete knock-out, becomes the monument to one’s identity.

As of late, it seems that just about everybody needs to somehow be politically, religiously, or spiritually neutral.  This sickly complacency starves the human condition of its vitality.  Only an honorable judge needs to bear the responsibility of being completely neutral until the time of ultimate judgment under the law of our time.

Indeed, at the time of judgment under the law, not even a judge must remain wholly neutral.  Judgment ultimately entails the adoption of a steadfast position.  Our judges bear the message of a reliable system of law.  While rendering judgment does not necessitate the moral judgment of another, it certainly does require a willingness to rely on a foundation of truth.  Where the truth becomes elusive, fear of change causes manifest injustice.  If one cannot move from neutrality to judgment, one should not bear the position of being the arbiter of any dispute.  If one wants to find power in being wholly neutral from beginning to end, take up mediation or marital counseling.

Neither the parties nor their attorneys should be expected to maintain complete neutrality in their positions.  Not only is this psychologically impossible, it is unreasonable and a disservice to the calling of the profession.  Neutrality can be downright dishonorable.  The omission to act can amount to complicity in evil.  While it is true that one must be objective, it does not follow that one must simply concede to the most politically acceptable position.  The acceptability of particular political positions changes over time.  The failure to act in the face of intellectual tyranny has proven itself, time and again, to be consistently destructive.

Some would say that this is an over-dramatization of what it means to be a lawyer.  I think not. Indeed, I think it is a categorical imperative that we not be governed by reference to what our fellow attorneys might think.  Worse yet is the situation where we run from the law for fear of those who have not been blessed with the same gifts of knowledge we bear.  We don’t define our conduct by the conduct of others.  Neither hope nor faith would have a home in a static moral environment.

It is not sufficient that we simply do what is necessary to get by and achieve a result that just makes everybody happy.  Were it left to the happiness or perceived satisfaction of a given society in time, slavery would be but just one more accepted condition of being part of a human power structure.  Or, perhaps, the perceived right to be free of the crime of seditious libel against the government would be just a fleeting glimpse of true human freedom.  Perhaps the call of secularism would be the death of a hope in ultimate justice, regardless of what happens by mistake, evil, or just happenchance in this life.

The job requirements of being an advocate may very well mean that one is required to represent the higher principle of maintaining a system that can be relied upon by all regardless of the one’s perceived sins committed against society and its powers.

For, as has been said in other contexts, we wrestle not against the flesh but principalities.  Indeed, we become free by our very adherence to the strictures of the Constitution.  Paradoxically, we can find complete solace in a result we neither wanted nor one that could not have been foretold.

The fear of humiliation shouldn’t be confused with the humility which may be exactly what is required in a given situation. The unintended indignity of being told to sit at the back of a bus becomes the clarion call for the desire to stand up for the sacred privilege of defining the essence of human dignity for future generations.  Perhaps being called to the stench and squalor of a foreign place might lead to the conclusion that we justly be called blessed.  Don’t be afraid to accept punishment for your good deeds.

Be not afraid.  For the Good Judge shall bring down his judgment on all of us in the end.

My Thoughts Over a Year of Growth and Reproval

Leave a comment

These are some of the philosophical observations I’ve made over the last year and a half.  The last year has been one of deep thought, reassessment, challenges, hopes, and finding God in what I thought were dark places.  Hope you enjoy some of them. Philosophy is truly the art of learning to live.

—————————————————————————————————————

First, it’s temporary.  Then, it’s eternal.  Live well.

Trading compassion for power has never proven worthy of an ability to progress.

Today and always, you contain everything in you for what you will be tomorrow. Live well. Fulfill who you are. Prepare for eternal life.

God doesn’t expect us to “earn” his love: He just expects to do what we promised to do when we agreed to believe in Him.

Though a single voice may not be so much as an unheard whisper in the Universe, your voice has the capacity to bring about eternal change in one to whom you speak in compassion and love.

It is good to believe what you say, and even better to do what you believe.

While it may very well be that all that we are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.

Tomorrow, today will be a yesterday. { Thomas Ackerman }.

Are we supposed to leave Church wondering what God can do for me? Or, should we be wondering about what can I do for others? Do I simply receive the fruit of the vine, or do I produce it for others so that my Maker might be honored?

Do you think in a language? What if we had to change the language of our thoughts to those of a true Christian? What a great dialectic that would be.

No Christian should be caught dead in failing to serve others.

May it be that I leave peace in my wake.

Lest our Faith become nothing more than a Platonic shadow, we must throw ourselves into the Light of Christ. We must become the Form of our Faith.

People always say that, “You have to believe in yourself.” This is not true. You have to believe in something higher than yourself so that you have something to strive for. When you only think of yourself, that’s about all you get.

Comment on the historical church: Building on a rock is good for foundations and buildings: Casting seed upon the rock is not good.

Relativism is a subtle form of anarchy.

Truth has no place in the confusion of violence.

Better to suffer in this life than the next. Justice requires no less.

Eternal faith in the absence of Earthly justice.

The difference between Man and animal is that Man’s evolution is self-directed, but not self-created.

We can’t change our circumstances. We can only change our attitude toward them. Oddly enough, when our attitudes change, so do our circumstances.

Better to suffer in this life than the next.

The Purpose of Suffering

Leave a comment

1990-91The purpose of my Faith is not to avoid suffering, but to learn from it and to become better through it. {Psalm 38}.

It’s one thing to accept personal suffering as a time to be tried in the fire, but it is entirely a different thing to rejoice in the suffering and loss of another. Joy in the suffering of others is pure evil; the acceptance of what God gives us is the beginning of Renewal. If another is want of food, and you have it, feed him or her and do not mock them. If you are unable to feed your neighbor, offer encouragement, and pray for someone to come into that person’s life who can feed them. {TheImpossibleProposition}.

Faith Alone: The Impossible Proposition

Leave a comment

The Impossible Proposition

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27.

Nobody wants to hear that you can’t get into Heaven unless you do the right thing, but that’s how each of our life-stories will end. It doesn’t seem to me, anyway, that Heaven is a place where you get to watch from afar the long line of condemned non-believers whilst you stand fully confident in your own faith/salvation. By assuming that your faith alone justifies you, you can only believe that you somehow hold the keys to Heaven and Hell. Not even Christ can take your faith away from you, right?

Your works or lack thereof will become manifest when your time comes. Matthew 13:49-50; 1 Corinthians 8-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 4:17-18; Jude 1:14-17; Revelation 20-21. Your deeds will follow you. Romans 2:1-16; Revelation 14:13.

Even if one assumed the absolute integrity of his or her faith, what is the harm in living out a life of works which is 100% consistent with your valued faith? This is sort of a modern-day Pascal’s Wager on morality.

The proposition that “faith alone” is wholly sufficient for entrance into Heaven is not only untenable, it is literally impossible. You don’t hold the keys to Heaven and Hell, no matter how hard you “believe.” Revelation 1:18, 20:13. Those who teach the concept of ‘justification by faith alone,’ without more explanation, are potentially misleading those who follow them. Matthew 24:4-24; 25:31-46. Without a doubt, works of selflessness, forgiveness, and charity are the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 6:37.

What can be said, however, is that we are not the only ones who believe in these basic characteristics of a holy or good person. The purposes of dying to self, charity, and love are not a Christian monopoly. As such, it is true that simply doing the acts does not justify us as Christians. That is ‘works for the sake of works’ is inadequate to justify nor sanctify the “Christian” as such.

Your works follow you into eternity and they will become the sole basis for your judgment — unless you think the Bible and its promises are a bunch of lies or just simply a self-help book of suggested living. John 10:32-38; Revelations 14:13, 20:11-15; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Ephesians 2:9-10; James 2:14-26; Titus 2:7, 3:8-14.

While Christ serves as our God-appointed defense attorney, there will be a final judgment of acquittal or one of condemnation. Confession of our crimes is a prerequisite to Divine Mercy. If one believes in “Biblical” Christianity, one would have to believe this as a matter of simple consistency. Revelation 20:11-15.

You must actually fear God, even if you think you are saved. Indeed, our fear is a necessary element of His loving Salvation Plan for us. Where should the fear come from? – In the potential loss of our salvation. Hebrews 10:26-31, 38. Nor is anything of this to say that we instantly become perfect through our acceptance of Christ into our lives. Some of us apparently need a longer purgation period than others (at least for me anyway).

Given the society and times we live in, it is perfectly foreseeable that alcohol, drugs, selfishness, vanity, lust, avarice, greed, sloth, pride, negative criticism of others, ignorance, and other sins would abound through no conscious fault of the sinner per se’. Some of our sins we bring to others, and sometimes we follow others into sin. 1 Timothy 5:24. The same goes for our good works. 5:25.

We are not in control of all of the influences which affect the strengths and weaknesses of who we were created to be. We often know, deep down, that we are screwed up. 1 John 3:20. Some sins are more serious than others. 1 John 5:16-17. Anybody who thinks that they are not screwed up has been lost on the whole point of the Divine Endeavor of Christ. 1 John 1:8.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, failing in works of mercy/forgiveness of others is definitely one of the more serious problems. Matthew 5:22-30; Mark 9:43-47; James 5:9. Our anger and our words are no lesser issues when it comes to condemning ourselves to Hell. Matthew 5:22, 12:36; James 3:6; Jude 1:15. Even, our ‘religion’ can be made vain by our failure to bridle our words. James 1:26.

Indeed, there are darker parts of each of our souls that we don’t even understand, but we do get to watch God shine beams of light into through His purgations of our being. Romans 8:1; Luke 16:15; John 3:19-21; Acts 26:18. We are each faced with unique challenges suited to our calling and, concomitantly, the gifts/talents which allow us to actively engaged in a necessary purgation of the flesh and soul toward the end of spending an eternity in Godly peace. 1 Thessalonians 5:23. We need to be aware of the painful fact that our soul and body can be destroyed. Matthew 10:28.

Nevertheless, the idea that we have to work, or should have worked, to get into Heaven seems even offensive to many. Be offended, but don’t do it in ignorance. I don’t know why anybody would be offended by the idea that being a Christian means that certain conduct is not only expected of us, but mandated at the potential cost of losing our relationship with God. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins … The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26-39. Read it for yourself.

You are not “set aside” because God thinks you are somehow special unto yourself or that his pleasure in you is somehow permanent because you think you were “saved.” The Christian life is a selfless life of humble sacrifice and devotion. If you find yourself in the middle of having a monologue/dialogue about how certain you are that you are saved, you ought to be concerned. Where’s the humility in that? This said, we are all his children and are subject equally to His discipline for violating His covenants. Hebrews 26-29, 36-39. Thankfully, we are also all equal in the story of salvation from our confession of sin as well. Romans 10:9-15.

You are set aside because you willingly submit yourself as a vessel of God’s forgiveness, love, and charity toward all mankind. Indeed, fervent charity “shall cover the multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8. However, you can also stop being used by God and choose a path of sin. Hebrews 10:26. Were it otherwise, we would deny the very freewill that allows for a conscious decision to accept or reject Christ in the first place. Romans 2:1-16; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 2:9.

When you reject your opus Dei, you reject the Holy Spirit endowed in you by your acceptance of Christ in your life. Matthew 12:31-32. Thus, the redemptive works are not yours. But in failing to do those assigned to you, you intentionally reject God’s purpose for you.

To be Christ-like means that you would selflessly do the works he commands of you just as He did for the Father. Likewise, if you do works of mercy only for your salvation, where is the charity in that? Others can only see Christ in us by the way we act (i.e., work). John 5:36, 10:37-38, 14:10-12; 15:24. To the extent that we suffer in life, we share in the Redemptive and Ultimate Suffering of Christ. In a very real sense, we can accept pain as a means of relating to Christ and living a small part of the incredible sacrifice He made for you and me.

In any event, we can’t be lukewarm about how we approach our duties on Earth lest we be spit out from the mouth of God. Revelation 3:15-16.

As of late, it seems that we only want to hear that we’ve been saved and if all goes well, we will do the right thing because we are Christians. The latter statement is true, but that’s just the point – you are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had ordained that we should walk in them.”’‘ Ephesians 2:10. If one does not maintain a constant focus on works, we lose within us the very creative force which distinguishes us from other elements of the world.

Simply stated, a Christian needs to work on being a Christian. Titus 1:16. The failure to do so is a failure to seek sanctification and justification of our souls before the Heavenly Throne. Bad things will happen if you are remiss in your works. Revelation 20:11-15. Grace is the helpful stopgap between God, us, and our human failings at and before the time of death.

Do you need to ask for forgiveness more than once as a Christian? Does it matter? Do you need to confess of your sins (which have already been forgiven, according to contemporary Evangelical thought)? Confession is not a one-time deal at your altar-call or, if you are Catholic, at your confirmation. Romans 10:10.

There is simply no way to Biblically believe that believing that you’ve been saved is sufficient for entry into Heaven (i.e., “faith” alone). The Word clearly requires more of us and the number of Scriptures on this point is beyond overwhelming – and that’s just covering the New Testament.

While it may be easier to rest on the laurels of believing that my faith ‘tells me that I am saved and I don’t need to know any more,’ this is the functional equivalent of saying, ‘I know how to drive cars, because I believe in them.’ In reality, when we do bad stuff, we fall out of our Christianity altogether. 1 John 3:6-11 (we are not of God/Christ when we sin). Claiming the honor of Christianity means that we must stay honorable in all that we do and say. 1 John 3:4-10. Admitting/confessing that we are intentionally rejecting our inheritance is about the only way we can regain it. 1 John 1:9-2:1. Also see, Leviticus 5:5-6; Numbers 5:5-10 (sacramental confession).

It seems self evident that the need for “the law” as Paul describes in many letters, only came about as a result of the People of Israel’s failure to do the works that were commanded by God – they simply didn’t do what they were told to do and had to have the law imposed on them. See generally, Deuteronomy; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24. With Paul, he saw the Redemptive Story of Christ as a liberation from the law as it is being defined Biblically. Romans 3:28 (“that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the LAW.). Compare, James 2:24 (“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [emphasis added]).

The New and Everlasting Covenant did not release anyone from the need to work toward the end of what it means to be Christian. It meant that an eternal font of Grace would be available, regardless of the violations of “law” committed by us. When negligence, omission, or simple(y) intentional human failing (i.e., venial sin) gets in the way of holiness, Christ will meet us between Earth and Heaven. We fall out of brotherhood with Christ when we fail to do the word which we hear. Luke 8:19-21.

A pastor of ours, Ike Riddle, used to say “covenant keepers always win and covenant breakers always lose.” Such is the story of the Bible. But, what does it mean to keep a covenant? It means you have to do something – we need to abide in our promises. Luke 22:20-30; Jeremiah 31:31-33:26. How we express our Christianity, the covenant, is by what is “seen and heard.” Acts 2:33; Matthew 5:17-19 (commandments still valid and enforceable by teaching and doing). Be humbly seen and heard in your covenant-keeping now and forever.

So then, where does the Bible say that our works matter to salvation or, even, that they are absolutely necessary to our sanctification before God? The following is about as simple as it gets.

This is not a matter of parsing out only select words/verses, but actually constitutes a continuing theme and stream of thought by the Author of the Bible. This list is taken from the King James Bible in an effort to appease those who might claim that the Bible is somehow coopted by a Catholic interpretation of its contents.

The continuing theme of necessary works for our salvation is found in the following:

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

Matthew 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matthew 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Matthew 14:2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Mark 6:14 And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

John 5:36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

John 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

John 7:3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

John 10:25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

John 10:37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

John 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

John 15:24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Romans 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

2 Corinth. 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

1 Timothy 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

1 Timothy 5:25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.

1 Timothy 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 2:7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Titus 3:14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

Hebrews 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

1 Peter 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 18:6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

The end.

Wash Up and Get on Your Knees

3 Comments

Wash Up and Get on Your Knees:
Thoughts About Daily Purification and Humility

A few weeks ago, I deeply enjoyed a sermon put on by Victor Marx, a local Calvary Church minister. Victor also happens to be a person for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration. He did a great job of exploring what it meant to wake up each day with a view toward living a holy life and a life which is acutely focused on God. He even talked about how waking up each day leads to the basic meals that we enjoy and the feast of the day known as supper.

However, I doubt that he was thinking that he was making a great argument for the importance of the daily Catholic Mass, but I’m going to run with the thought anyway and admonish that any differences in the practice of theology are just that – differences only. Without a doubt, I consider Victor to be a Brother in Christ and a Messenger of Truth.

Victor very simply described the process of waking up each morning – with a view toward having God as the focus our day, having God help us stumble out of bed, immersing ourselves in the Word, and the individual importance of simply having our coffee and a good shower. He quickly drew the metaphor to the truth of the Scripture found at Ephesians 6:13-20, which states:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —

While at first this all seemed to be rather simplistic, in a good way, in the coming weeks I have had the realization that what Victor was describing is exceedingly profound with deep theological underpinnings. He laid out the steps that I personally try to take each day I am able to get my lazy self out of bed and make my way to the local Catholic Church for daily Mass.

In thinking about the spiritual metaphors for daily cleansing and purification, the idea of taking a daily shower becomes a perfect metaphor for the spiritual cleansing which should take place on a daily basis. However, it also goes without saying that each of us even bathe differently on a daily basis, even though the outcome is much the same.

For example, one of us might use Irish Spring soap, another glycerin soap, or just about any other kind of soap. Nor do we all use the same brands of shampoo and conditioner. We don’t all use the same type of towel. Some like cold showers versus hot showers. Some shower in the morning — others at night. Some need bathrobes. Others need to just get dressed right away. Some get dressed in a closet and some folks just troop around in their birthday suits for a while. While this all seems mundane, the metaphor is powerful.

With respect to spiritual cleansing on a daily basis, some need to cleanse through a particular core theology which differs from yours. Perhaps, a physical reminder of our cleansing is needed through sacramentals such as holy water. Some of us feel a deeper need to dress up for Church than others. I, for one, enjoy getting up early and catching a time of reflection as the sun is just coming up. Some of us need to acknowledge our sins daily in a forum of admitted/fellow sinners. Indeed, some of us find deep benefit from art and imagery reflecting the bridge between our humanity and the spiritual world. For some, the power behind prayer, said in daily unison among believers, is remarkably powerful and unforgettable.

Indeed, some of us need to spend more time focusing on one area of our lives for cleansing and purification, just as one might use a specific type or brand of soap for one’s specific skin/hair condition. In the end, the basic purification process is accomplished. Although it may very well be true that a person forgets to wash his/her hair or forgets to wash some particular body part. Or it may be that the soap we’ve chose is simply insufficient for cleansing us of some disease or bacteria. This said, it’s probably also worth noting that most of us would not judge/condemn another for the type of cleaning product used. But, we might guide them to a way of doing things that helps their immunity from disease and ability to enjoy life. And, of course, we would acknowledge that taking a shower is a deeply personal issue which should be kept that way. Most of us are happy just knowing that others take the time to clean themselves. Why must it be so different in the case of religion and spirituality?

Before launching into the more controversial theme of this article, I must state that I absolutely agree with the premise that we ought to avoid dissension, theological fights, and any diversion away from our Christian purpose which has been described over several thousand years (i.e., Loving God with all of one’s heart and tending to the needs of the helpless). Isaiah 58:1-9; Romans 16:17-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10.

Nevertheless one should not be afraid to express personal views of what it means to be faithful and the practices by which one is able to fully realize the daily glorification of God such that we might better the plight of those we come in contact with and such that our souls may be amply purified for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 22:34-40; 25:31-46. This is the daily testimony that we should share with each other so that we might each come into a relationship with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. John 21:15-19 [a directive given by Christ after what sounds like a good breakfast with his disciples].

Unfortunately, judgment of one religious view, or practice, over another has caused way too much division, but yet allows for the possibility that all Truth will be reduced by the failure to focus on reunifying and absolute truths. 1 Corinthians 1-15. Many would say that there are no absolute truths, but relativism is just one form of intellectual and spiritual anarchy. The Story of Christ is consistent, filled with unity of purpose and philosophy, and does indeed lay down a set of principles by which all Christians are to live by. See; https://richackerman.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/we-should-know-what-we-believe-in-not-just-believe-in/

For me, the best way of getting ready for the day is the regular attendance of daily Mass. It assists in providing a spiritual cleansing, it provides a sense of an integral part of the larger universe, it gives cause for introspection, provides cause for acknowledgment of my imperfect state, gives me a chance to clean up my imperfections, offers a daily “altar-call,” and ensures daily reaffirmation of the Redemptive Story as it plays out in/around me.

One is also provided with the daily opportunity to know that the Word of God is being spoken in a literally universal sense. There truly is a communion of the faithful on Earth and in Heaven. At any given time, there are countless faithful who are hearing and bathing in the same Word each day for 24 hours a day. With the right purpose and heart, it is done only for the glorification of He who is in Heaven and acknowledges our worship of Him. See; U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lectionary for Mass (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. 2002). I am humbled to join in the ranks of those who choose to collectively and literally kneel before the Throne of God on a regular basis.

With the thought that I can only describe what works for me in terms of daily preparation for life, this article is not intended to be an argument, but rather a heartfelt apologetic for what works for my spirit. I assume, because of your common humanity with me, that we might both better understand each other in what I have to say and your reaction to it.

For those not familiar with the Daily Mass and its Order, it goes something like this (with some variance according to day or purpose):

1st Most congregants will enter the Sanctuary and acknowledge their need to begin fresh by symbolically washing their head, heart, and body with holy water. Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:21. An introductory song is sung along with the entry of the priest responsible for leading the mass. Most Catholic hymns are taken directly from Scripture and put to music. Each day is a little bit different in terms of what theme the Mass might take with the music and Scripture to be read. Spiritually, this is the time when the congregants wake up and get out of bed – so to speak. We assess the availability of our spiritual armor and go through the process of putting it on for the travails of the day. It is a time to prepare for the spiritual cleansing and journey for the day. It is a time to fit our armor. Conceptually, it’s even good for those who like to wake up with a music alarm.

2nd Much in the same way a family member might greet us as we are waking up and beginning to mosey about, the Priest opens with a greeting and calls into focus the source of our power for the day. 2 Corinthians 13:14. Specifically, we are reminded that what we do is through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We physically reflect on our inner thoughts and sincere intentions by doing the ‘sign of the cross’ at this time. From this point, we ask for the blessings of God and prepare ourselves for the penitential reminder we need each day. Matthew 15:22. We acknowledge the marks upon our soul and ask for the cleansing that can only come through God’s Almighty Grace. We gird ourselves with the Truth of His Redemptive Purpose for us.

3rd We confess our sins to Almighty God and to our brothers and sisters. We acknowledge that we sin in not only what we do, but what we fail to do. We ask for prayer and forgiveness. Simply put, we recognize that we have made ourselves unclean by our acts and failures and that we wish for ourselves to be cleaned and to be provided the water and soap necessary to do that. I personally think that we even ought to recognize that there are fellow humans in the world who have neither water or soap. The same goes spiritually. It is difficult to think about putting on a protective breastplate or to shod one’s feet for the day when one does not so much as have a drop of water nor the ability to fight off disease and famine. We, who do have these things, must share of our wealth so that we might all be cleansed and ready for the pouring out of God’s Holy Rain upon our spiritual lives. Isaiah 58:1-9.

4th After taking confidence in our awesome blessings, through Faith & Grace, we can enjoy everlasting life, we thank God for his ability to cleanse us and the unique source and demonstration of His Power. Isaiah 6:3; Revelations 4:8; Psalms 188:26; Mark 11:10. This is done in the form of the Gloria, where we acknowledge the need for peace, we give thanks, we acknowledge that His cleansing takes away the sins of the world (not just us), and that He alone (in triune communion with Christ and the Holy Ghost), holds the power to cleanse us of our iniquities. We take on the helmet of Salvation and prepare to take up the sword of His Word only after thanking God for the strength and Grace to do so.

5th Next, the congregants take time to hear Scripture from the Old Testament, a Psalm (song), celebrate our participation in truth with a solid Alleluia (what is supposed to be “a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph”), and immerse ourselves in the Gospels. Psalms 146-150; Revelations 19:1-6. After each reading, we thank God for giving us His daily directions in the form of the Word. In this we have truly begun to bathe ourselves in Truth and prepare ourselves for acknowledging Christ in our lives in a most literal way each day. We think of the work that is required in our lives to fulfill the holy destiny that God has for each of us and how we will apply/work our lives in that direction through the thoughtful control of our freewill and the protective Grace of God.

6th We enjoy the interactive process of having a human representative of the Church (as a body of believers) share the practical meaning, history of, and interpretation of Scripture. As a representative father, he instructs on what we are to do with our day and the importance of staying clean for purposes of avoiding illness and in being able to commune with others. We acknowledge that the messenger is not perfect, but that the Message is perfect.

7th We collectively acknowledge the foundations of our faith by making a formal profession of our faith (particularly on Sunday). This is much in the same way that a family might sit down for breakfast and share in the value of their communal experience and daily purpose as a family. It can be as simple as enjoying a common last name. The processes of the father providing for his family and the mother providing the daily nurture for His Little Ones are put into motion. It is amazing to me how much the method of worship serves as a tight spiritual bridge to the natural order of our lives. Indeed, it should be no shock that the Mass bears spiritual truth in its representation of what it means to be human – even in some of its most simplistic aspects.

8th The purpose of our day is put before us in the form of gifts before the altar of Christ. This is much in the same way that a parent lays out breakfast on the table so that the members of the family might have energy for the day ahead. As so too does the priest accept the necessary gifts and make them ready for consumption. We take thanks that these nourishments are suitable to our spiritual bodies (i.e., our souls) and make ready our hunger for what is good and nourishing to our human be-ings. Before taking part in our spiritual meal, we acknowledge the purposes of our doing so and thank God that we have been provided with an Earth capable of producing what we need – for we have not so created that which we need for life.

9th We pray as Christ asked us to and acknowledge the simplicity of His purposes and provision. Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4. We make peace with those around us and acknowledge their humanity by shaking a hand and sharing a smile. John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-20; 20:26.

10th Once we are at peace, we acknowledge that we, in our human states, are not worthy to receive Christ, but that he alone has the ability to heal us so that we might be able to make use of the Spiritual Nourishment we are about to receive. John 1:29-36; Revelations 5:6-13, 22:1-3; Luke 7:1-10.

11th We enter into the ultimate purpose of our day – to meet Christ literally and figuratively in our past, present, and future. We do so by acknowledging our sinful history, becoming clean again in Communion with Christ and his Church, and looking forward to the power of the meal we have taken up for the spiritual energy we need to sustain life into the future day.

12th After coming into full Communion and enjoying the Holy Meal put before us, we take a few moments to relax and contemplate the blessings we receive by and through He who provides for us. We prepare for dessert, which is the success, travails, sharing in the Redemptive Story, and hopes of a new day. Because we are not greedy or selfish, we look forward to sharing in our new found hope with others such that we might be a humble beacon of life to those around us. What a joyful way to start the day. We are clean and ready to go out into the world.

13th After having girded up for the day, His representative leads us in a request that we have a good day through God’s blessings and that we go out into the world in peace. So too is it in the case of parents sending their children off to school and taking upon themselves the duties of providing for those in need (i.e., their children who could not otherwise take care of themselves but must grow up to be responsible in their provision and sustenance from God). Genesis 28:3; Deuteronomy 14:29; Numbers 6:23-27; Psalms 29:11.

While I know that Victor wasn’t headed in this direction when he spoke of the value in starting one’s day right, I must say that his sermon had a very powerful effect on my faith and the faith that I try to live by. I honestly don’t expect everyone to use the same spiritual soap that I do, and I have no problem acknowledging that we each prepare ourselves for the coming day in different ways.

What I can say for certain is that Truth often speaks through the most simple aspects of our lives (like eating, bathing, creating and maintaining a family, etc.). These things don’t take great brain power, come naturally, and are the bare essence of what it means to be human. For me, anyway, I choose a spiritual discipline which most reflects this same essence. Oddly enough, the Sacraments also each mirror the basic necessities of human survival (birth, necessary food, health, procreation, adulthood, commitment/service/purpose, death).

Much of the totality of human life, when looked at from afar, appears complicated and unresolved. Yet, on the most basic level, when all humans come to have the basic ability to bathe, learn, and eat, we will truly be at peace. Only by acknowledging that we must do this with a common purpose (Love of something much higher than ourselves – the highest source of our Being) and with a love of our fellow humans (Love of one another), do we ever have the possibility of achieving ultimate peace and prosperity.

We should each wash up and get on our knees.

Richard D. Ackerman (2/20/2010)

Am I Married to Christ, Or Am I Having an “Affair”?

Leave a comment

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” ~G.K. Chesterson

The above comment raises interesting questions. It easily brings up the meaning of what Christ intended when the Church was described as His Bride in a number of Biblical references. Psalms 19:5; Matthew 9:15 & 25:1; Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34-35; John 3:29; Revelations 21:9.

This loving and sanctified relationship is best described at Ephesians 5:25-33. The description of the ‘marital relationship’ between Christ and His Church is not a mere theory, but is an objective description of what is expected of the person who loves the source of their Faith, and the relationship between these two ‘betrothed.’

The term ‘love affair’ almost doesn’t fit. It is almost tawdry, except to the extent that the author desired to think of religion as sanctified and one of solid covenant as opposed to an affair of sorts.

Moreover, the Chesterson quote introduces a vagueness and unnecessary subjectivity into the relationship between Man and God. It invites the error of unmet expectations into a relationship that is otherwise made clear by historical fact and by Biblical covenant.

In simpler terms, God does not always come through and give me the attention I want, or perceive myself to need, on any given day — nor should I expect Him to, for He teaches and disciplines me according to my actual needs and the covenant we made with each other. Sometimes, the relationship requires that I simply give my life up to Him and “repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42.

Considering myself to be in a “love affair” with Him will certainly not guide me in any truly objective way. The daily expectations of my wife or I can change as our moods change, life circumstances change, and in light of other external factors. Human love affairs are hardly consistent or predictable. What I can expect from God is that he will abide in the covenants made with me through the specific Words he chose to speak to all of us through the Bible. John 1:1-14.

If I do not believe in the covenant, I should not be in the relationship, much in the same way that those who are not willing to stick to their marital vows should not be married and bring judgment upon themselves for such failures. Matthew 5:31-32. But, that I should believe, I am required to bring my ship back to the safe harbor of His Love, Word and Compassion for me, as I would with my marriage and the love that it holds for me.

How can one please God if we do not know what to expect from him? Are His set of expectations merely “theory”? No, he expects us to keep his sayings/commandments and live by them much in the same way couples live out their vows. John 14:15-24.

When viewed from a humanistic stance, the expectation that one’s religion might be viewed as a “love affair” carries with it all of the potential for self interest as a governing force, the expectation of certain results, errors, false perception, and unmet expectations as with most “love affairs.” My love of, and servitude to, Christ must be submissive and humble. As I learn from my submission to His Church, I also learn patience, commitment and humility in my own human affairs. Ephesians 6:5-9. Acts 20:19; Colossians 2:18-23.

In fact, it is no secret that marriages, love affairs, and the entry into any covenant must be based on trust, honor, dignity and like factors. Conversely, such relations require much work, are not always perfect because of the people involved (regardless of the strength of the words of any covenant made between them), and relationships require an element of daily tolerance and forgiveness in order to work.

One of the other thoughts that comes to mind is one which relates to the definition of marriage and love. For me anyway, the purpose of marriage is so that the couple might become one flesh and so that they might put forth future generations. Often, we look to our parents, or at least want to look at prior generations, to learn about what makes for a good relationship. Perhaps this is why we were given the Commandment to honor our parents. Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:1-6. Indeed, we look for the “things that made it work” for our relatives and friends who have been married for decades. Psalm 45:16-17. Much the same can be said for religion.

Would I look for a community of believers that had stayed together consistently for 2000 years, or would I want one that is unproven or shown to have splintered since its inception? I think that the building blocks for a marriage ought to be based on the objective history of what has kept other marriages together — regardless of whatever cultural, environmental, or financial challenges there were in those relationships.

Religion faces many of these same challenges and how the Faith responds to the challenges will either be honorable or dishonorable. The quality or reliability of the response, on the other hand, can only be looked at on a larger historical level. We often ask ourselves, “Did the couple last?” or we say, “Wow, that couple really made it. What a great marriage. They’ve been through a lot and still love each other.” What of us who have not forgotten the true love that we have for the Faith we had as children? What of that love that is rediscovered, but tempered with years of experience and life before coming back to the beloved?

As with all marriages, there are ups and downs and some of these peaks, separations of time, troughs, and plateaus last for varying periods of time. The issue then becomes more of a matter of assessing whether the “family” survived the challenges and made the most of them over the length of the relationship. As with marriage, the ability to maintain the relationship depends on my willingness to go back to the vows/commitment/covenant that I made in the first place, because I know that the words are objective and lasting — regardless of my own faults in keeping to the words at times.

Or, if I want to look for good or bad examples of relationships, what shall I say of the persons who continually switch love affairs or who are always trying to change their spouses? Is this not what Luther did? He didn’t love the spouse he married (i.e., the Catholic Church). Simply stated, Luther left his beloved for another. See generally, 2 Corinthians 11:1-2.

In a very strong sense, Luther seized upon the weaknesses of a long marriage and, instead of counseling and reforming, chose to be a home-wrecker of sorts. Such efforts were egged on by the likes of Zwingli and Calvin as well. Instead of looking to save the marriage, they tried to find new wives for Christ. Instead of reminding the cheaters (the religious leaders of the Catholic Church), of their vows, the “Reformers” focused on the destruction of the 1500-year-old marriage which had survived many an attack before Luther.

Luther, in a spiritual form of domestic violence, forcefully redefined his covenant and put in motion a view of the “love relationship” between Man and God that splintered, caused division, led to war, and resulted in a complete lack of unity between literally hundreds if not thousands of denominations. Prior to his “love affair” there was a solid bond among believers, and the unity had survived for more than 1500 years, not including the 3500-4000 years of lasting covenants between God and the People of Israel. These relationships and the example they set were not merely theoretical, they were confirmed by the annals of history and the happiness, sorrows, and challenges of the persons who lived in the relationships that form the basis even for our Faith today.

These things being said, it cannot be forgotten that couples need time alone, they often need time to heal spiritual wounds, they need time to reform their relationship so as to bring it into conformity with their original vows. Is a “date-night” not the time for ‘rekindling the fire’ and creating and enjoying memories as to why we love each other in the first place? Can these things not be said about the Church as well? God wants ‘date nights’ with us as well — it’s called prayer. Reform, however, cannot be confused with changing one’s vows. The vows remain the same, but are renewed through peace, reformation, and time.

The Chesterson quote also raises the question: What about the folks who find out that they fell in love, and found out the person/religion wasn’t what they thought they found? What if the beloved is dishonest? What if one spouse matures and the other remain stagnant? What about the spouse who suffers from a disease that inhibit the relationship? No true vow of marriage allows for its breaking through any of these ‘reasons.’ The strength of the relationship can only be defined by the willingness of those in it to remain true to themselves and to the relationship formed through their unique identities, overall purpose, and their complimentary reflections upon each other.

Isn’t Romanticism an ideal (i.e., theoretical)? To be loved, one must have all of the qualities necessary to be capable of being loved. For some, this is a history of honor, a definitive covenant, consistency, loyalty, appearance, accountability, depth, satisfaction, trust, and other such factors. These factors aren’t theoretical — either they exist as a matter of fact or not. Christ’s words and the history of His people are not theoretical. These Words tell us of what He expects of us for so long as we shall love each other, just as my vows tell me what I have promised my wife and she to me.

Older Entries