Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let's Pause and Take a Self-Inventory

What Kind of Person Am I?

I was having a casual conversation with someone just recently, and there came a point where I was asked, “What to you do?”. I replied that I was a minister and a writer, as well as a political activist. “What denomination are you from?”, she inquired. I explained that I was nondenominational, and that I was not aligned nor affiliated with any other churches, be they virtual churches like this website or brick-and-mortar. I talked to her about my views regarding being set aside, or standing alone, pledging allegiance only to Jesus Christ. By that time, it was time for me to get off the train, and we bid each other warm goodbye's (I saw a wedding band on her ring finger, so I dared not take the conversation any further than that). But it got me to thinking: What or who am I? And so I took an internal, in-between-the-ears inventory of myself. The following is about as good a description as I can give.

I am a Peacemaker, I stand against war and violence wherever they are found. “Blessed are the peacemakers”, Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall be called 'sons of the living God'”. So I concluded that being a peacemaker was a good starting point. The apostle John wrote about this topic in his first Epistle nearly 2,000 years ago, and I quote: “If anyone says, 'I love God', yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1st John chapter 4, verses 20-21, NIV). People who are devoid of love can never be peacemakers because they are inherently selfish individuals. But if we are true Christians and followers of Christ, we sow seeds of peace and unconditional love wherever we go. If you want to be a man or woman of peace, the first step in learning how to do that is to worship the Prince of Peace. Let Jesus be your example to follow, your coach and your mentor.

I am also a crusader for civil and/or human rights, and against social injustice and economic inequality. I have written and self-published two books on these topics and I have blogged extensively as well. I was formerly middle class before winding up on disability. I know what it's like to lose everything and to have to start one's life all over again from scratch. And I know what it's like to wind up homeless. One of the most important lessons I learned from this experience is that we live unfulfilled lives as long as we chase after money, material goods and the trappings of luxury. These are the things that simply don't matter in the long run. But seeing who is in need of whatever, or what contribution can be made, or what innovation can be implemented, that benefits everyone equally, it is all these things that we should strive to achieve. Cooperation, then, replaces competition when it comes to the worship of the Son of God, and this bleeds over into the life of the believer like a Spiritual blood transfusion. Competition is so 20th century. Mutual cooperation for mutual benefit, like a beehive, is the wave of the future, and it resembles God's kingdom on earth much more closely.

That is only part of His directions for those that followed Him concerning how they were supposed to live life in service to others. Christians call it the Sermon on the Mount, but it was lived as a lifestyle until about 300 AD by Jesus' followers. By then some Old Testament teachings on warfare had replaced Christianity as a lifestyle and devalued it to a mere ideology. Jesus also said he came to replace the law because it had not been followed by the Jews, much to their own detriment. Just think of all the false teachers and error-laden churches that ignore these teachings. For those who do not follow his teachings I ask this: Are we all the same peoples despite color or nationality, and all the same citizens despite the unjust nature of government or religion we follow?

Is civilization all about wars and conflict? What about the non-warriors whose gifts to us include all the advances in farming that none should go hungry? Those who devised portable or temporary shelters so that man could venture beyond the close environs of the cave or those who devised ways to bring water to the villages that none might be thirsty or crops perish from the lack of water? Who was the hero or heroine who devised the wheel? Who among our ancestors devised stationary shelters that we now call houses? Who first tamed and rode a horse? All of these people are true heroes, giving us lasting gifts that advanced civilization, even if the gifts were soon turned to warlike purposes. Is someone a danger because of their sex, skin color, belief or personal attributes? Why is it that the gifts given by women to the community are less valued then a man's? Why is a nurse less valued than a doctor? Why is a teacher less valued then a banker? How many can name one person who is not recognized by the community for what they have given?

How will you be remembered by the next seven generations? We are all given a choice and a say in what happens tomorrow, today. A million today’s were shaped by what a million nameless, faceless someones did before. However, tomorrow is always shaped by the decisions made today. Do you go along to get along or do you stand up and demand your say in our future? Do you wait for Jim or Sally or Mohammed or Jane to take the lead, or do you begin hoping that they will say or do something you can agree with? The only person responsible for your decisions and what happens tomorrow because of them, is the one looking back at you in the mirror.

Which brings us back to the community and the growing of support and friendship. Who are your friends? Are they just people you grew up with or work with or go to the club or church with? Are they all men or women or all the same racial background as you are? Are all of your friends the same general age or do you number the elderly and the children among your friends. What is a friend and why? In our society friendship is usually shallow, temporary and based on filling someone's immediate needs. One different outcome and way of looking at friendship is offered in the Native American community. They look at friendship as a choice, a responsibility and that it be long lasting. Jesus said it best when he uttered these words, “Greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for his friends”.

A friend is someone you choose to give your friendship to. It doesn't matter what they do in life, it doesn't matter what happens to you or them. The friendship remains not because of who they are, what they have to offer or anything else. It is your choice of being their friend. The friendship does not depend on them but on you. Now go out and make one new friend this week and go back to your current friends and say you will support them, stand by them and offer advice if they ask for it. Make sure they know that you will help them in time of trouble. Enjoy them at all times and ask only that they accept being your choice as a friend. I know that is against every principle you have seen while growing up, but I repeat it is your choice, it is your life, and it is your friendship that matters. Are you starting to see Peacemaking as something worthwhile now? Is peacemaking something of value in your family, neighborhood, community, state or nation? Are you willing to become a peacemaker or support those who do choose to become one?

I, for one, do so without hesitation, and I will go to any length to propagate peace. I will continue to insist that all life is precious, with each form of life having a singular uniqueness of its own. I will continue to advocate for the homeless because every human being on the planet has the fundamental human right to shelter. The cave men of 10,000 or 20,000 years ago had roofs over their heads, and none of them ever punched a time clock. I will also continue to stand up against economic inequality, social and racial injustice, and waging warfare. I would endure torture, jail or death rather then compromise any of my beliefs. Perhaps my enduring any or all of the above will bring others to believe as I do. I will speak out against any injustice or any war, and even use my own body to shield victims of injustice, if necessary. I am asking you to do the same, having given you all ample reason to support my stand. No more working for the rich man to make him/her richer. We work for the benefit of all mankind, not just the top 1 or 2 percent.

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