We invited my husband’s mother for dinner the other night, and she shared the story of a little conversation she had with her boss. He had asked her if she would mind sharing a little of the organic coffee she brought in to work, and she said to him “Of course – mi casa es su casa!” She told us that sometimes she likes to explain how her religion works to people who come from a different world view, so she was telling him that she simply saw it as a part of Christianity to give whenever anyone asks her for something. And the man asked, “Well, what happens when you run out, and you don’t have anything left for later?” To which she responded “That doesn’t matter so much – what matters is that I give.” Her story got me thinking about how much the idea of giving, and sacrificing – even when it seems like it would not be “wise” from a materialistic perspective – is a primary principle of Christianity. Because our faith does not simply rely on a materialistic world view, and our idea of “good” is not only counted in dollars and things we can see. That said, Christianity does not simply or blindly reject the physical world and its good either, nor does it see material things as “bad” or evil in themselves. Our world view in this area seems to have a larger and different operating space, with boundaries that differ from what non-Christian based concepts usually accept and count on. In a rather unexpected passage by a most unusual man, we find this recommended mode of conduct;
Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not away. You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
– Matthew 5:38-45
CS Lewis pointed out that we have a supernatural religion 1, so for me includes several ideas. One, we believe that the physical world, and the material good in the natural world was made by God; and he said at its creation that it “Was very good.” Secondly, we believe that humans are not only an animal or a physical body, but that we are a spirit, and we have a body. So we also believe in a spiritual realm and in an ultimate good to be reached for the human soul. Thirdly, we have been given a vision – although darkly – of the next life; we believe that the last and final piece of this multi-dimensional good for the complete human being exists in a world to come. We believe there is a good ending to our story to be found in the next life. We believe that the next life is not only the place where we reach the fulfillment of our own creation, but it is also the place where all wrongs will be made right. A place where there is a great and beautiful good, and an everlasting joy that is coming as an answer and reward for the people of God, that no man can take away.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man,
and He will dwell with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the former things have passed away.”
– Revelation 21:3, 4
So when we think about what is the good for a Christian, we are trying to look at the situation in a larger way which includes not only our physical good, but also our spiritual good, and our eternal good as well. This is why our world seems larger to us sometimes, because our world does not “end” at the edges of the physical or material realm, nor at the borders of this earth. We are banking on something “extra,” something larger and outside of this physical world and life. Our sphere, circumstances and means are larger than they appear, as seen from the outside. Our ability to give does not stop with our last coin, nor do our efforts stop at the end of our physical resources. Our very life, as we see it, does not even end with death. If we will follow God, and obey him, then he can always – somehow – give us help; even if we find ourselves in the middle of a storm. And his help spans across these multiple facets as well; he can help us with the physical situation and our material needs, and he can also help our spirits; he has promised peace for our minds as well, if we trust in him. But right here and now, he can make a way for us in the wilderness, cause water to spring up in the desert, and continue to take care of us after we have offered our last bite of food, and given our last cent. The encouragement and instruction given to us again and again through scripture, is “Fear not.” To not be afraid in the face of hardship, or slavery, or sickness, or even death. We are told that they may kill our bodies, but not our spirit; it begins to feel a little bit like being Neo…
Of course this brings us to the main reason for this “greater good,” which is found in the the father of the universe, the father of our souls. Without him, none of that “extra” exists at all. But with him, and in him – we gain heaven and earth, and then some. Not only are there more things in heaven and Earth, than are dreamed of in our philosophy (Horatio), but there is also something out there that is specially for us – a being who loves us personally. Not only a person, but a father. And not only “a father,” but our Father. He is the biggest reason why we are able to be at peace and rest in our hearts – even when we have to go through difficult situations – because our Father is with us. And the comfort we get from having him with us is not only the human comfort of having another person on your side, in your camp, and fighting alongside with you. – Which is already huge in itself. GK Chesterton says, “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.” And the comfort of our Father’s arms is like that, but then multiplied by heaven… It is the comfort not only of a friend, but also of The Father of our Souls, who loves and cares deeply for each of us. Who thought us into being, and knows us so well that even the hairs on our heads are known to him. And we – and our little ones are safe in his arms.
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior”
– Isaiah 41:9, 10
Think about that. And if we really do have a Father in heaven, who is also our God and savior, a being of infinite resources, strength, power, and knowledge, then our situation only gets better. But even though he is a God, he is still our father; he’s just a “super-father.” The child’s part is to trust, and obey what the father asks. The father’s job is to care for his own children. If the children will have the confidence and trust to obey and follow their Father, then he has promised that he will step up and fulfill his word. And a good father always foots the bill for the things he orders. Of course, this does not work the other way – there is no magic or supernatural help to be had merely at “the children’s will,” or word. We are not there yet; we are not fully good, and we don’t always see all the things. And it is easy for us to forget sometimes that when we don’t see good in one area, it doesn’t mean that the situation is “no good” at all; there may be a very good gain in a different field, we just forget to look for it. Sometimes we would rather not get sick, or have to go through pain and hard times. Most of the time we would rather have more money. But sometimes it is good and even necessary for us to go through difficult things, so that our spirits can grow stronger, or so that we can learn to see things in a deeper way, or so that we can be reminded to think about our brothers and sisters around us.
In the end we don’t have to worry about it too much – God is always working for our good, and he will bring us what we need. If we will simply follow the whispers and listen to our Father, he will always help us and bring exactly what we need into our lives, in the best way possible. And he can give us the strength to get through it, as well; he will always help if we ask him to. Sometimes our Father gives us physical good, sometimes we will receive spiritual good, and sometimes we will be given the gift of passing into the next life to find our eternal reward and the ultimate good for our whole being. We have not been promised to get out of all of our difficulties on this earth, but we are promised that we will get through them, and that they will pass. We are promised that if we will trust and follow him, our Father will be with us every step of the way, and that our story will come to a perfectly good, and beautiful, and joyful end.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Isn’t he lovely?
– Father, our trust is in you. Help us to keep it there. Help our minds and confidence and trust not to wander away, to other “gods” that seem more palpable and “real” than we sometimes feel you to be. And where are the strange gods now, anyway? Their comfort leaves us cold when real times of need come calling. Only you are faithful, and true. Help our small hands to keep their hold on to you; for you are our rock. Give us strength to go on ‘holding on’ after our small strength has come to an end. Help us to abide in you, so that you can continue to feed us and give us more strength, and more life. We ask that you will send your best help to all of your children, wherever they may be, and whatever that may be. Give us courage, and strong hearts to make it through these uncertain days. We know that you will bring peace and joy to our hearts as we follow you. We know that you will bring us all to your good end, whatever form that may take. – Amen.
“Are there really more things in heaven and earth than we dream of, Bear?” Bear was silent, but his eyes suddenly became brighter, and looked up longingly at the sky. It was as if he wanted to say something beautiful, but couldn’t. 🐾
- CS Lewis, in The Grand Miracle, says this: “The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.” In Christian Apologetics, Lewis says: “Do not attempt to water Christianity down. There must be no pretence that you can have it with the Supernatural left out. So far as I can see Christianity is precisely the one religion from which the miraculous cannot be separated. You must frankly argue for supernaturalism from the very outset. . . .”
Just a little flower, turning her face to find the sun. I don’t always feel his rays on me, but when I do, the warmth and the feeling is simply wonderful, and I never want to be in the shadows again. Isn’t he lovely?