We were sure that we, and our civilization, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels, and heaven.” Peter Hitchens said those words in describing his younger years when he and his brother Christopher Hitchens, who would become an outspoken atheist, were moving from nominal faith to atheism. Peter ceremonially burned a Bible at age fifteen to declare his disbelief in God.
We can take for granted the idea that any money loaned to someone should be paid back with interest; this is seen as normal. Secular culture often judges things on a purely functional basis, whereby acquiring wealth and even gaining at the expense of another is simply the way things are. In contrast, God has always judged things from a “heart perspective.” What’s the motivation behind our actions? Are we fueled by desire for our own gain, or by compassion, love, and a desire to glorify God?
A mere half-hour watching the news today can fill one with despair as we witness the effects of greed, selfishness, and depravity. It pains the heart to see the utter devastation of the downtrodden. As we take in such brokenness it can lead us to lower our weary heads and simply trudge through life one day at a time—hope for a better tomorrow diminishing with each passing moment.
After the initial performance of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin on April 13, 1742, George Frideric Handel received acclaim much greater than any expectation he could have imagined. The Dublin News-Letter gushed how the oratorio “far surpass[ed] anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom.” In a letter Handel penned to a friend soon afterwards, however, he wrote, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wished to make them better.”
When he was a child, Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel’s mother would greet him the same way each day after school. She never asked, “What did you learn today?” Rather, she always asked: “Did you have a good question today?”
In 2015, a country in the Middle East elected its first women to public office. In fact, in the first electoral cycle in which women appeared on the ballot, 17 were elected! I listened to an interview of a woman who had won a seat on her local council, and she exuded ecstatic joy. She acknowledged how difficult life can be for women in her country, but this didn’t diminish her celebration. Many more reforms are needed, but all people should revel in this historic transition. After years of exclusion from the political process, women have now seen the door open a bit with the possibility of something better ahead.
The phrase “dirty laundry” could refer to the bag a college student brings home, or it may mean a person’s private business—personal matters not to be discussed publicly. We can safely say that it’s not Christlike to air that kind of dirty laundry.
Many of the local churches in our city still exist with the same spirit of segregation that has plagued my country for so long. Aware of this evil, a group of pastors and leaders across ethnic divides meet monthly for breakfast. We pray and eat. We talk about economic realities and political structures. We talk about our local history (decades ago a neighborhood with thriving black-owned businesses was razed to the ground). The most powerful thing, however, is when one of us is bold and vulnerable enough to share our own story, our pains and fears, our hopes and our longings. In that moment we draw others close. We allow other people to share our burdens, to share our life.
My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”
When my friend received a traffic ticket for speeding in a construction zone, he decided to contest it in court. As he put it, he was driving below the posted speed limit when another vehicle raced past him. The police officer’s radar gun had recorded the other car’s speed. But the judge would have none of it.
Following a tumultuous season in her life, Bethany Haley Williams battled with shame and brokenness. The journey was difficult, but through Jesus she experienced healing that transformed her life.
In great cities,” noted Nathaniel Hawthorne, “it is unfortunately the case, that the poor are compelled to be the neighbors and fellow-lodgers of the vicious.” Hawthorne was writing about the slums of early 19th-century London, but his observation is timeless. Those among us who lack money tend to congregate in neighborhoods marred by crime and human exploitation.
They say that justice is blind, but recent research suggests that justice likes to snack as well! In 2010, a team of researchers tracked the rulings of eight judges during 1,100 parole-board hearings over 10 months. Nearly 65 percent of the prisoners were granted parole during hearings held right after the judges had eaten breakfast. Over the next few hours, the chances of getting a favorable parole hearing plummeted. But the prisoners’ chances of parole increased to 65 percent again after the judges’ mid-morning snack or lunch.