Posted by Roberta Grimes • January 09, 2021 • 33 Comments
Jesus, The Source, The Teachings of Jesus
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring Your light.
– Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), from “Peace Prayer” (translated 1912)
Once we have resolved to make living and sharing the Lord’s Way our priority, how should we be managing our lives so we can act in accordance with the teachings of Jesus? In a world beset by poverty and rage, plagued by malevolent state actors, and at risk of environmental disasters, terrorism, and many little wars, how does Jesus tell us we can effectively work toward giving this world a brighter future? To what extent should we act politically? How can we best help the poor? What is the Godhead calling us to do?
Better understanding and internalizing the perfect love that Jesus taught turns out to be only a good start. Once we have learned to live God’s Oneness, we still must puzzle out what to do with it!
And fortunately, Fr. Richsrd Rohr, the Franciscan monk who is our source for the most deeply discerning and actively positive take there could be on Christianity, has answered this question definitively. He says, “In 1998, I spent three days immersed in the life, spirit, and ministries of Mother (now Saint) Teresa’s (1910‒1997) community at the motherhouse in Calcutta….. The sisters didn’t waste time fixing, controlling, or even needing to understand what is wrong with others. Instead, they put all of their time and energy into letting God change them. From that transformed place, they serve and carry the pain of the world….
“I even dared to ask one of the leaders about one of the most common criticisms of Mother Teresa: ‘Why did Mother not speak out against social injustice? Why did she not point out the evil systems and evil people that are chewing up the poor? Why did she not risk some of her moral “capital” to call the world, and even the church, to much-needed reform?’ The answer was calm, immediate, and firsthand. Mother Teresa felt that if she took sides, or played the firebrand, that she could not be what Jesus had told her to be—love to and for all. She said that if she started correcting and pointing out ‘sinners’ she could no longer be an instrument of love and reconciliation for them. Humiliated and defensive people do not change. Like her patron Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), her vocation in the church was to be love. She knew that her primary message had to be her life itself, not words or arguments or accusations. She had found that ‘third something’ that is always beyond the calculating and dualistic mind.”
Please read that last paragraph a few times today. And please keep it handy so you can read it again whenever your need not to take a political side starts to frustrate you. The world can get along just fine with fewer well-intentioned firebrands! You and I and Mother Teresa have no moral capital at all that doesn’t come from the Godhead via the teachings of Jesus. The Lord tells us even more emphatically than Mother ever could how essential it is that we who have accepted His call to follow His Way must be immersed only in the Oneness of God. The degree to which He insists that we not claim primacy, that we not fight, that we submit in all things to God’s will, astonishes us as we encounter it over and over in the Gospels. Please sit with me now at the feet of Jesus as we ask Him directly how we who seek to follow His Way should manage our lives and our work for Him. Please read each of these passages thoughtfully and with reference to your own life. The Lord says:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (MT 6:1-6).
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (LK 6:35-36).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:43-48).
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (LK 6:37-38).
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (MT 5:39-41).
“Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these! But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (MT 6:25-33).
“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (MK 10:14-15).
What strikes us most when we read the Lord’s words is how consistently radical His message is! His Way is neither weak nor passive, but rather Jesus personifies a powerful and perfect love for all of humankind, and especially including the most evil people. He calls us to do for our oppressors even more than they require us to do! He insists that our love for God should include a trust that God will provide for our needs. He demonstrates a love for His tormentors so intense that as nails are being pounded into His wrists and feet, His foremost concern is to assure those doing the pounding that He forgives them and that God forgives them (See Luke 23:34).
We have seen this same kind of radically active and trusting, self-effacing love in some of the Lord’s greatest modern followers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought the Nazis’ murder-machine with just his pen and the perfect love of God, and he was martyred in a death-camp at the age of thirty-nine. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also was martyred at thirty-nine. Dr. King had such a sure connection to the radical power of God’s love that when racists bombed his home while his wife and infant daughter were inside, he was able to tell an angry mob bent on revenge that fighting violence with violence gets us nowhere so they must now peacefully disperse. Saint Teresa of Calcutta spent her life tending the poorest victims of economic injustice, and her love empowered her to triumph over what must have been an overwhelming need to intervene in the political system that had done these victims such tremendous harm. You and I follow in the footsteps of giants in service to God’s perfect truth.
Jesus lived in turbulent times. He was born in a subject state of the Roman Empire as a member of a despised religion, in a part of the world that had often been conquered and soon was going to be conquered again. Our own turbulent times are surely no worse than that! And now our path is clear. If we seek to follow the Lord’s Way, we must apply the Oneness of God to every challenge we might ever face. But how would such a plan work in practice? We’ll start to put our minds to that next week….
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy!
O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
– Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), from “Peace Prayer” (translated 1912)
33 thoughts on “Living a Love-Based Life (Part I)”
Quote from above: “The answer was calm, immediate, and firsthand. Mother Teresa felt that if she took sides, or played the firebrand, that she could not be what Jesus had told her to be—love to and for all. She said that if she started correcting and pointing out ‘sinners’ she could no longer be an instrument of love and reconciliation for them. Humiliated and defensive people do not change.”
Hi Roberta, hi everybody! This is important. No questions asked, no getting distracted by righteous indignation. Help the helpless—and that focus applies to more than just physically poor and sick people. ♐️🌏🌖🌅
Dear Mike, I learned a lot from that statement, and I continue to learn. Mother Teresa had the same distracting wish that all of us would have, to somehow fix the system! But there is no fixing it until we have spiritually fixed ourselves and similarly fixed a substantial portion of the population. So many great revelations!
This was truly food for my soul… so much of my questioning was answered. I thank you so much Roberta …
On my dear Asuncion, I am so glad that you found this helpful! Thank you so much for letting us know!!
While all you wrote today Roberta is of course the path Jesus showed us, it is somewhat confusing to figure out what exactly to do on this earth. The society we live in, with all its structures, what do we do with it. We can’t all become a “Mother Theresa”. There are things to do to maintain and grow the society we’re in, or is it ? I have to go to work tomorrow morning, or do I ? Do I go to work or just quit and go find somebody to help. When you listen to Jesus’ teachings, it seems that our daily lives are useless, that we are not doing what we should be doing. What are we supposed to do here ? If it wasn’t for the scientists who created my iPad, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with you right now. But I don’t need an iPad to do God’s will. How much of our daily life (eat, wash, work, study, train, rest, play) are we supposed to engage in, if at all. It just seems like we are wasting a lot of time doing unnecessary things, egocentric things, but yet most of them are essential to our overall well being, our physical and mental health. We are here for the good of others, but us too, right ? To love others we have to love ourselves first, right ? Many of us are caught in the “rat race”, some choose the easy life on welfare, we are not equal in terms of abilities and intelligence. Life is complicated
I think we need to love ourselves first before we can love anyone.
Also is your work not helping people ?
Dear Donal, you are absolutely right! This need to love ourselves and how to resolve it are part of the post we will be discussing next week.
Dear Francois, you are so much overthinking this! There will be people who feel called to cure diseases, invent iPads, and so on. If they also feel called to follow Jesus, then their task is to learn to practice ever more perfect Oneness, which naturally will carry over into the way that they do their work. Jesus doesn’t condemn people who do their own daily work, but He does try to persuade people who are very advanced spiritually to consider taking the next step and giving away their possessions and following Him. It always is up to them! In reality, once we are sufficiently advanced spiritually, we begin to shed our earthly occupations and possessions naturally anyway. It seems to be just part of the process.
A quote from above, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
I believe this is called virtue signaling, and it is something that I know I have practiced as have many others. The time to stop it is before it starts.
Oh my dear Cookie, please don’t fret about this. It’s true that many people virtue-signal, but the urge subsides naturally as we grow more spiritually; and it’s not a spiritual crime anyway, but it’s more like a spiritual misdemeanor. You are growing now, my dear. All will be well!
So love your words, your emphasis each Sunday morning. Can’t wait for ‘how to’ next week. Thanks to you, and yours, of course.
My dear Sha’alah, all of this is my pleasure! I am delighted that you find it helpful. I keep thinking we won’t be able to keep coming up with new ideas, and one day that is likely to happen, but meanwhile Thomas seems to be on a roll!
Hi Roberta. I love that story about Mother Theresa – so humble, yet strong, and no virtue signalling with her! Living a love-based life truly makes us stronger, not weaker. On one hand, it makes us a vessel, a sort of holy grail if you will, that can hold ever more of God’s light – more empathy for all, like Mother Theresa. On the other hand, it gives us a kind of power or strength, like a warrior’s shield, that protects us from the slings and arrows that the forces of negativity might throw. Whether it’s our own inner demons, like the archetypal story of the last temptation, or whether it is being mocked, scourged, and nailed to a cross, material powers, even those that can take one’s physical life, lose their power over us just the same, and so we have truly mastered the world, completed our earthly journeys, if we so choose.
I also was hoping to get your thoughts on the concept of turning the other cheek. My Lamsa Bible, based on the Aramaic, states that it comes from an Aramaic idiom meaning, “Do not start a quarrel or fight,” so it doesn’t necessarily say that we have no recourse to self defense or must be blanket pacifists. It would seem to leave open the option to consider the greatest good, at least to the extent that our limited minds can perceive it – all the more reason to try to work with our higher guidance I guess. Just the same, “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,” so the warrior attitude is definitely not the answer.
Oh dear Scott, no matter what the Aramaic root might be, the team around Jesus oversaw the modern translations. It was “turn the other cheek” that Jesus said and meant to say. This is yet another place where the English translation from Greek and not directly from Aramaic is closer to the truth than is a directly-from-Aramaic translation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the greatest American of the twentieth century. In his essay called “Loving Your Enemies,” he gave us what “turning the other cheek” really means in modern terns. He said, “To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’
Thanks Roberta. I definitely agree with MLK’s “noncooperation with evil” as the best approach for social change movements or spiritual workers who have reached a certain degree of dedication. On the other hand, for the average Joe in the rough and tumble world, expecting him to passively let a deranged maniac stab or bludgeon him to death is a tough sell and not one I’m yet ready to make. Maybe we’re slightly talking past each other here, because it certainly seems like you have taken the latter stand in some of your recent blogs. You have expressed that you’re glad other folks there in TX carry guns, since you yourself could not use one. Are we talking about two different things? This is leaving me a bit confused.
Dear Scott, I think that Dr. King exemplifies the natural evolution of real spiritual growth. What he says above so amazingly wasn’t something that he struggled to achieve, but rather it was who he had become. So much wisdom in one who was still so young!
The transformation that happens in each of us as we grow spiritually is internal. And it is profound! Of course, if someone attacks with a bludgeon, bent on murder, anyone would likely fight back at least somewhat, if only out of a basic instinct to preserve the body. What is different in Dr. King and in others of his level of spiritual advancement is a basic awareness that when you move to fight at all, to counter violence with violence, then you have already set back your cause, or even lost it altogether.
Hi Roberta. The violent attack scenario I mentioned was not on someone marching for civil rights or for the independence of India, or whatever the cause, but just walking to the corner store, so I think we are still slightly on diffetent pages, but I certainly take your point about how any violence affects us. I have immense admiration for what MLK achieved, as well as what one of his great inspirations, Mahatma Gandhi, accomplished. I recently watched a documentary on him, and the amount of death and carnage he was able to stop during the darkest days of the Indian partition by his peaceful ways was stunning. Even when assassinated by a gunman, he had his hands folded in the namaste position and started chanting Ram, his name for God. Truly inspiring!
Dear Scott, Mahatma Gandhi was another wonderfully spiritual inspiration to us all! My favorite quote from him goes something like, “First they laugh at us, then they they ignore us, then they fight us, then we win.” And so it was!
“The sisters didn’t waste time fixing, controlling, or even needing to understand what is wrong with others. Instead, they put all of their time and energy into letting God change them”
Something I struggle with….How do we go about telling the truth to those that are so deeply indoctrinated in the Christian religion? On a daily basis, I see how this fear based thinking deeply effects people that I love. They could be so happy if only they could think for themselves and objectively look at the facts. If they could learn to trust their own conscience instead of what they have been taught. What is our responsibility here? I don’t want to get into fruitless arguments with people, but at the same time it seems so wrong to go on letting them believe something that is so out of touch with reality. Say there is someone that you are close to that takes their Christianity seriously, but you can tell how fearful and unhappy it makes them to believe all of the fear based stuff. Do you try to formulate arguments to make them change their mind? Or is a more passive approach (as in the quote above) best? Or somewhere in the middle?
Dear Daniel, simply put, you don’t try to persuade Christians. It is not your responsibility to save them from the lies and negativity of Christianity, and your attempting to do that will only make them even more defensive. You aren’t “letting them believe”! They will believe or not, quite independently of what you think!
My husband is a devout lifelong Catholic. I left Catholicism, but it is not my place to try to persuade him of anything. After nearly 50 years of marriage, he has at long last stopped telling me that I’m going to hell, and he actually asks me questions about the afterlife and listens open-mindedly. Of late, he even asks me questions about Jesus! My dear Daniel, this is the best that we can do for those we love: we simply love them as we love all the world, and demonstrate God’s love in our own lives. We can be a patient and loving resource, but really nothing more than that!
I love that he is now asking questions and listening! I guess people really do come around when it is their time. I know that was the case for me.
Roberta, thank you for all you do. This blog has been a treasure to me.
Dear Daniel, if you knew his long history of ineptly trying to combat my interest in this work, you would be even more amazed! But I am happy for him. At last he has made peace with everything.
And thank you for saying such lovely things, Daniel! Doing this for you is my delight.
Daniel and Roberta: When I was in my 20’s, I had a friend and neighbor who was a Christian minister. He persuaded me to allow him to conduct a bible study course with him that was supposed to last 3 weeks, but only lasted for less than an hour, as he insisted that the bible was the absolute “Word of God.” When I pointed out the translation problems from Aramaic to Greek to English (and likely other languages), I told him it would be impossible for there to be no errors. This caused him to become upset and actually angry with me, yet he couldn’t come up with a valid argument. even though I was just using common sense,, so even common sense arguments go nowhere with these people. As you point out, Roberta, it only makes them more angry and defensive.
Dear Lola, it’s true that most fundamentalist-style Christians insist, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the entire Bible is the Inspired Inerrant Word of God. If you show them some of the hundred textual reasons why that cannot be true (and why we are really glad that it isn’t true!), they become outraged.
Once long ago someone told me why he was enraged by my insistence that there are errors and contradictions in the Bible. And he expected that this would persuade me! He said:
1) If the entire Bible is not God’s word, then none of it can be for sure God’s word,
2) So we can’t for sure believe in any of it!
3) Which means that God isn’t real, Jesus never lived, and we cannot believe in anything.
My counter to all these arguments today would be the simple fact that we now have independent verification of what parts of the Bible are really of God. Liberating Jesus would give you the details, but essentially it is only the words that Jesus actually spoke that are the Inspired Inerrant Word of God. Those that we used to think were dead really know the truth, and they are very clear about what is true!
What an absolutely ridiculous argument! Even something as simple as a cake recipe is bound to have errors after being passed around for many years and translated into different languages. People like this would never read books like “Liberating Jesus,” as they would be too afraid that their fixed ideas would be compromised.
Roberta you knocked this one out of the park. A grand slam home run.
Oh my dear, thank you for this!!
Hi Roberta. I think I might see why Thomas is on this topic. Along with sexuality, (reproduction) which he just covered, conflict (self and species preservation) in all it’s permutations is one of the most basic issues of human psychology. There are so many forms of negative states and thinking that it can produce, which block our spiritual growth. Now that we are past fighting off saber toothed tigers, if we want to continue to evolve and thrive, both as a species and as spiritual beings, we need to learn how to manage these aspects of our minds in a more modern and enlightened way. There will always be problems to deal with, part of what we come to earth school to push against and learn from, but it is time to up our game. I’d love to see the birth of a world in which we can start to tackle more elevated creations than just the same old same old.
Dear Scott, I think this is pretty much right. All of human history has been steeped in negativity and man’s inhumanity to man, with kindness and forgiveness pretty much the exceptions. It is stunning to contemplate how much better human history could look with even just a little more kindness in the mix!
A truly magnificent blog post this week.
I’m reading it several times to really let it sink in. Then I’ll see what inner understanding comes, as to how become more of that ‘Love principle’ myself.
And I await next week’s post with pure alacrity. ❣️🙏🏼 🌅
Oh my dear Efrem, thank you for being so supportive! These are more advanced principles, I fear, and harder for most of us to accept as actually practical for daily life, especially when we feel called upon to take a stand that might put us at risk. But fortunately, we have some wonderful roll models!
Your words are so important more than ever.
Thank you, Roberta.
Oh dear Camille, thank you so much for this! I do very deeply love what I do, and the fact that you find it helpful is so precious to me!!