ANNA BELFRAGE

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Archive for the tag “being good”

The whole world in His hands

bartolome_esteban_perez_murillo_008

The Holy family, Murillo

Lately, I’ve been pondering the word “Christian”. Not Christian as in “yes, I belong to the Christian faith”, more Christian in “I am a Christian” (with a lot of emphasis on the italicised word) , which, as far as I can tell, means the person in question goes to church regularly and studied his/her bible frequently. This in difference to those who are of the Christian denomination by rote, eg they were baptized as Christians but don’t have their lives revolving around their faith. Now, before I go any further, there are a lot of active Christians out there (some of which I count as dear friends) who are very good people – which is fortunate, seeing as anyone defining themselves as “Christian first” have a lot to live up to.

You see, if a person presents themselves as “Christian”, my expectations on that person are that they will live up to the most basic of Christian tenets, namely charity. These last few days, I see a lot of stuff being presented as being part of “Christian” values, but I see little indication of this being done out of an encompassing, altruistic endeavor. Stopping refugees at the borders has little to do with altruism, far more to do with promoting a “we” and “them” take on the world, as does pushing your own “moral” agenda down the throat of people with fundamentally different beliefs. As does pointing fingers at those among us who refuse to be defined by their gender in everything from who they have sex with to how they dress.

I don’t go to church regularly, nor do I read my bible all that often. I do, however, struggle daily with being a good person, even if at times that means sharing when I don’t want to, helping when I don’t have time. I try. Often, I fail. But I try—hard—to live as per the most important message in the New Testament, namely “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

ehfa-westminster-retablePlease note that others in the above sentence isn’t qualified. It doesn’t say “Do unto other Christians as you would have others do unto you.” Nor does it say “Do unto others who are like you as you would have others do unto you.” It just says “others”, which reasonably must be interpreted as meaning the entire human race. All of us, no matter race, gender or creed. It would seem Jesus really did believe in having the whole world in His hands.

So, now that we’ve established that “others” means others as in stepping-out-of-our-comfort-zone others, maybe we should analyse the rest of the sentence.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. If you slip on a patch of ice and fall, you’d like someone to help you up, right? So it follows that if you see someone slipping, you should hasten forward to pull them back up on their feet. Life is not always a walk in the park. There is plenty of ice out there, metaphorically speaking. One very nasty patch of ice is called war, and at present the world has I don’t know how many millions of people fleeing their homelands and the life they’ve known—not because they want to, but because they have to. They’ve slipped pretty badly, one could say, and as good human beings, and definitely as a Christian, we have an obligation to give them a helping hand. After all, it could be us out there, stuck in a patched tent with UN rations the only thing keeping starvation at bay.

slide1When people are in need, it shouldn’t matter if they’re Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or walk about dyed blue, or wear nothing but a loin cloth. It shouldn’t matter if they’re young or old, if they’re male or female. They need help. It is part of basic decency to offer it.

When some among us choose to live in same-sex relationships, this is not ground for condemnation, no matter what Leviticus might have to say on the matter. By the time Jesus came round, Leviticus was OLD stuff, probably severely outdated even back then. Besides, how on earth can anyone purporting to believe in Jesus condemn someone for loving? A good Christian should, IMO, show toleration and respect. A good Christian should, once again IMO, defend every person’s right to find happiness where they can find it – as long as they do not cause anyone else harm. A good Christian should remember “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and reflect on the fact that there could come a time when they’re in minority. Surely, they’d want to be respected and tolerated by the surrounding majority who chose to live/believe differently from them, right?

Had He not been resurrected, I think Jesus would have been spinning like a top in the grave, groaning out loud at all the people who take His name in vain. Because that’s what you do if you loudly proclaim yourself a Christian but lack in charity and compassion. Once in heaven, Jesus won’t be all that impressed by hearing about bible-reading and church-going. It’s the actions that count, and He’ll want to know about what you did, how you contributed to alleviate the suffering of those who have little – or nothing at all.

So if you’re going to present yourself as “Christian”, please do some loving. And caring. Be tolerant and supportive. Extend that hand of yours and help, no matter who it is that has slipped on the ice.

hand-20170205_142546Actually, all of this is valid no matter what you might believe in. So let me rephrase: be a GOOD person, okay? Or try to be. The world needs good people—now more than ever. It needs us to care, to defend those who are weaker, to stand up for everyone’s right to be treated with respect. It needs us to show some basic decency and remember that the human condition is a global condition. It needs those of us who’ve attended Sunday school in those distant days of our childhood to hum “black and yellow, red and white, they’re all precious in His sight” and remember that the similarities that bind us are far, far greater than the differences.
You are my brother/sister. Here’s my hand if you need it!

Camels, rich men and heaven

6e382b11-9768-4df7-99ea-8043291a7ff9_g_273I try to be good. Okay, so some days I’m better at it than others, but I do try. In my experience. most people want to be good – or at least good enough for other people to like them. In general, you see, we don’t like bad people. Unless they’re filthy rich and drop-dead handsome, when something seems to go totally wrong in our wiring, but even then, if they’re bad – and I mean really bad, not attractively bad-ass – we steer clear of them.

One can try to be good by making a conscious effort to always do the good thing. That’s bloody exhausting. One can try to be good by wanting to be good, more like dreaming than by doing so to say. That’s cheating. If you want to be good, be prepared to sacrifice something on behalf of your fellow man – like your precious time.

The definition of “good” is rather subjective. I don’t think my definition of being a good wife would tally with a conservative rabbi’s vision of being a good wife. Probably because he would assume good = obedient, while I’m not a big fan of obedience. Obedience is the coward’s way out of making choices for themselves.

I do think that most people could agree that as a minimum, being good means that you don’t on purpose set out to hurt another person. (Boy, does that disqualify a large number of the people presently thronging this planet of ours…)

Gaudenzio Ferrari (Northern Italian Renaissance artist, c 1471–1546) The Annunciation Angel Gabriel before 1511Anyway, I do believe that being good is somewhat easier than having faith. Believing in something as tenuous as the concept of God and afterlife is difficult in our world, where we are bombarded by facts, by scientific truths. Rarely do these facts point to the existence of heaven or hell. Instead, these facts break down the miracle of our existence into atoms and energy. I guess that’s the point; having faith requires you to believe in something you can’t see, or hear or touch – but maybe you can sense it?

Personally, I don’t consider science and faith to be a contradiction in terms – and I’m quite sure God agrees with me. (My God is a pretty cool dude, who has long ago ditched certain more antiquated aspects of faith to concentrate on the truly important part – like having actions speak louder than words)

Camel by John O'Neill 2007

Wikimedia Commons, photo John O’Neill

Some people seem to have confused the issues of being good and faith. They seem to think that because they go to church every Sunday, they are per definition good. Hmm. Somehow I don’t think sitting through a sermon while you’re planning a new merger qualifies as being good. I have an acquaintance that quite often brings up just what a good churchgoer he is. Does that make him good? In this particular case, the man is greedy.
As he strives for more wealth, he leaves quite the destruction behind him, not caring over much that other people suffer because of his single-minded focus on accumulating more money. (“Survival of the fittest,” he will say with a shrug, totally oblivious to the irony in this statement from a man who does not believe in evolution)  But hey; he goes to church, regular as clockwork, so I guess he’s expecting to glide straight up to heaven. Given his recurring visits to church, maybe it would be apt to remind him of that little statement in the Bible that says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to make it to heaven.

Some rich men, however, stand a fighting chance to make it all the way to the rolling meadows of heaven – assuming such a place exists. I’m thinking of men like Bill Gates. Bill Gates? What does Bill Gates have to do with anything of the above? And seriously, can one be as successful as Bill Gates has been in the dog-eat-dog world of business and be good? Hmm; probably not. But whatever his earlier track record, Mr Gates is doing his best to make up for things, giving money – and hope – to the needy of the world.

äppelblomNow, I have no idea if Bill Gates believes in God. Probably not, as he strikes me as one of those “facts and figures” people who don’t believe in anything without proof. But he clearly believes in altruism, and in my book, actions count a lot more than words. Which is why I imagine that Mr Gates is in for the surprise of his life(he he) once he’s drawn his last breath. There he is, fully expecting to sink into nothingness, when suddenly a loud choir of angels startles him awake, leading him in the direction of daisy-dotted pastures.
“But…” says Bill, very confused. (Dying is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and while I have no personal experience, I imagine it is rather life-changing) “… I don’t believe in all this crap,” he finishes lamely, blinking at the angels, at the flowering apple trees.
“Surprise!” God says, grinning broadly. (Of course God grins. And he likes apple pie – hence the apple trees)
“Yeah, you can say that again.” Bill is still sort of stunned. His eyes light up. “Is that Abraham Lincoln?”
“It is,” God nods. He takes a step closer to Bill, who retreats, blinded by His brilliant magnificence. “So do you believe in me now?”
Bill nods mutely. After all, he’s a “fact and figures” man and can’t exactly deny what he is seeing with his own eyes. (And let’s not get into a discussion as to with what eyes he is seeing all this, okay?)
“Good!” God claps his hands. “Peter, dear, register Mr Gates, will you?”

Now, those among you who know your Scriptures will frown somewhat at all this and waggle a finger or two in my direction. As per the Scriptures, faith is a prerequisite to making it to heaven. Yup, that’s absolutely true – but maybe the Scriptures have it all wrong.  You see, my God isn’t all that petty. He judges per our actions, not our words,and He is always willing to give us a second chance. My God believes in being good – and it works both ways.

 

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