When a British scholar called on the world’s religions to work together for worldwide unity, people everywhere applauded. Pointing out that the major religions share a belief in the Golden Rule, she suggested, “The chief task of our time is to build a global society where people of all persuasions can live together in peace and harmony.”
Jesus cited the Golden Rule in His Sermon on the Mount: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). In the same sermon, He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (5:44). Putting those radical commands into practice would indeed go a long way toward peace and harmony. But immediately following the Golden Rule, Jesus called for discernment. “Watch out for false prophets,” He warned. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (7:15).
Respect for others and discernment of the truth go hand in hand. If we have the truth, we have a message worth telling. But God extends to everyone the freedom to choose Him or reject Him. Our responsibility is to lovingly present the truth and respect the personal choice of others just as God does.
Our respect for others is vital to winning their respect. It’s an important step in gaining an opportunity to convey the message of Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Charity Island is the largest island in Saginaw Bay in the Michigan waters of Lake Huron. For many years the island has provided a lighthouse for navigational aid and a safe harbor for those sailing these waters. The island received its name because sailors believed it was there “through the charity of God.”
Sometimes in life we have to navigate through seas of troubling circumstances. Like those sailors we need guidance and a place of safety; we might wish for our own Charity Island. The psalmist understood that God is the one who can bring tranquility to troubled waters and guide us to safe harbors. He wrote, “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” (Ps. 107:29-30).
While no one asks for the storms of life, they can multiply our appreciation for the guidance and refuge God provides. He offers the light of His Spirit and His Word to guide us. It is the safe harbor of His love that we long for. He alone can be our ultimate “Charity Island.”
During the turbulent years of the 1960s, popular music in America was a strange mixture of protest and patriotism. Some songs lashed out against war, greed, and injustice in society, while others affirmed duty to country and traditional values. But “Pack Up Your Sorrows,” written by Richard Farina and Pauline Baez Marden, seemed to fit all of the categories with its focus on the quest for personal peace. The refrain said the following:
In Tennyson’s classic poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” valiant cavalry troops riding into battle are described by the imposing phrase, “Into the valley of death rode the six hundred.” Those words portray a sense of foreboding that anticipated the tragedy that lay before them.
On a recent trip, the flight attendant asked if I flew very often. When I said I did, he asked, “Have you noticed people on planes becoming increasingly more belligerent and aggressive in recent months?” I had to confess that I agreed with him. We began talking about what might be contributing to it—things like increased airport security, higher costs, fewer services, and a general dissatisfaction with travel. As if to prove the point, our conversation was interrupted by a passenger who refused to sit in his assigned seat because he liked someone else’s seat assignment better!
There’s an old Sunday school song that periodically comes back to my mind. Its words testify to the blessing of the peace that Jesus so generously gives: “I have the peace that passes understanding down in my heart—down in my heart to stay!”
Where you live has a way of making certain demands on how you live. In my neighborhood, the garbage collector comes on Tuesday mornings, so it’s my responsibility to get our garbage can out to the curb the night before. Letting the trash pile up on the curb for days before doesn’t make for happy neighbors. And we have lots of children playing outside, so signs are posted everywhere reminding drivers to slow down. That means I drive slowly and watch for little ones who, without looking, chase wayward balls into the street.
November 9, 2010, marked the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. On that day in 1989, an announcement over East German TV informed people that they were free to travel to West Germany. A day later, East German bulldozers began to dismantle the wall that for 28 years had divided East and West Germany.
In her fascinating book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Ruth Reichl reflects on her 6 years as a New York Times restaurant critic. Because she was the most influential critic in the country, top restaurants posted her photograph so their employees could recognize her. Hoping to earn a high rating in the New York Times, the staff intended to provide her with their top service and best cuisine.