The world is spinning – seemingly out of control. Divergence not diversity is the theme. Lies trump truth. Pain and hurt, shame and guilt abound. Vile comments, pictures, and behaviors sear our souls. Violence and human misery cause our hearts to despair. How can we live in these times? What can we do to share the mind of Christ in 2018? The word that floated into my mind as I pondered how to live faithfully in today’s world is HARMONY. Watch this space for ideas on how to live in harmony in 2018. And share your ideas about living in harmony in a comment. (To find earlier posts on this topic go to the home page, find the list of Categories on the right hand side of the page, and click on the category “Living in Harmony”)
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The beginning of the book of Genesis describes the creation of a universe that is in total harmony. The man and the woman have been gifted by God with a beautiful garden and with the responsibility of keeping it flourishing. They have intimate communion with God and share a harmonious relationship. But then comes an interloper who convinces them that God is hiding something from them and they should eat the fruit of a tree that God had forbidden them to touch so that they can learn what that something is.
Scripture describes their transformation: “Then their eyes were opened (Gen 3: 7).” They begin to see and understand suspicion, subterfuge, doubt and alienation. They begin to think of themselves as separate from God and from each other. Rather than living completely in the image of their God, they grab for their own identity. They become duplicitous and suspicious – lying to God and blaming each other. Mankind’s pursuit of control rather than the pursuit of God begins.
So this is what we all have inherited: we are divided beings. We still maintain the glorious image of God, but we fight that image in an attempt to be in control of our own story. Love, compassion, justice, mercy, grace – these gifts of God to us – struggle to survive. Our woundedness, our need to be right, our cultural identity, our pride, our ambition are at war with the best instincts in us. As Christ-followers, trying to become like Jesus, we know that our thoughts and behaviors do not measure up to the life Jesus lived.
In a series of devotionals on vices, Jon Bailey, current Chair of the Board of Renovare, describes our unGodlike behavior this way:
“The vices are habits of a broken soul . . . . Vice is what sin looks like settled into our character. It starts out in the form of microscopic choices, entrenches itself in our habits, and over a life time, swells into a goliath-like character. It is the vices inside of us that must be crucified and finally killed. (jonathanrbailey.com, December 17, 2917).”
How do we deal with our “habits of a broken soul?” First, we have to unearth their existence. As Richard Rohr says in Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the 12 Steps. “You can’t heal what you do not first acknowledge and what you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control of you from within, festering and destroying you and those around you.” Secondly we have to work at crucifying and killing them. And, thirdly, we must replace them with different habits. Our goal is to be transformed from selfish beings who want control of everything in their lives to disciples devoted to living like Jesus. (We will explore this process in future posts.)
Our task now is to actively work at shedding the behaviors that arise from our sin and returning to the image of God within us all; we need to be in harmony within our own hearts and souls. “Me, myself, and I” must become congruent. As Rohr reminds us, “We are not so much human beings trying to become spiritual. We’re already inherently spiritual beings and our job is learning how to be good humans! I believe that’s why Jesus came as a human being: not to teach us how to go to heaven, but to teach us how to be a fully alive human being here on this earth” (Daily Devotions, January 9, 2018).
Great article – so very, very true!!!! I am often disheartened, but I remind myself of the Kingdom of God and what it is about. The pain, sin, and discouragement that creep around on a daily basis muddies the waters of a good clean swim in the beauty of what can be and at times we have a glimmer of.
You have so very well described what is happening in our world, our country, our families and ourselves. It can be very heart wrenching and discouraging.
But, you offer us a sense of hope which is so lacking. I will continue to read your emails on this topic and will go back to the ones you shared on the Serenity Prayer. Both provide what is so needed! Thank you!