- Chapter 41 -
MY BELIEF AND MOTIVATION
hen my son Bryan was a freshman in college he asked me to try my hand at writing down some "wisdom", which, he said, would be his "greatest gift." Knowledge can be acquired, and lessons learned. Also, it is possible by observing human behavior to develop effective human relationships.
But the most important influence upon how one treats others, and indeed upon one's attitude toward self, is based on the spiritual values a person holds. And from spiritual values comes true wisdom. In this last chapter, I present the basis for my own belief, the foundation for which I have tried to communicate to my son and to others.
The words "Christian" and "Christianity" have been so misused, and been subject to so many different interpretations that, unfortunately, for many people they have become virtually meaningless, if not negative. There are those who check "Christian" on an application form, because they know they aren't Jewish, but that is the extent of the commitment. Many in the Third World associate Christianity with imperialism and all of its problems and excesses. Their thinking is influenced by the large-scale historical travesties which were committed in the name of Christianity, but which certainly were not Christ-like. Men act irresponsibly and not in true conformity with religion, so others blame the religion or blame God.
All of this has led to the unfortunate result that many people interpret what should be very important to them only through how they see some other people act. A young man once said that he would not have anything to do with Christianity because there were too many Cadillacs in front of churches. This is the quintessential example of a man's letting other people determine his thinking on the most important subject in life.
The intelligent course of action, in learning what Christianity and being a Christian really means, is so obvious that it is incredible how much it is ignored. It is to go to the source of Christian belief. The source book, the Bible, is the most readily available and best selling book of all times, containing all of the ethics and inspiration of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
As far as Christianity is concerned, what did the original authority say, what did He teach, what did He do? What did the life of Jesus Christ demonstrate to us? He brought us wisdom, spiritual values, salvation, and eternal truth. Jesus did not write books, or fill lecture halls. He taught people directly, with parables. Although they were illustrations from daily life, they were deep with meaning. He brought a new hope, a new covenant for us all.
He also established relationships with 12 ordinary men, with women for whom he had concern and compassion, and with many others whom He cured and fed, and to whom He meant so much that they followed Him everywhere. After the accounts in the four Gospels, the Bible tells of the effect Jesus Christ had on the people after His death and after the miracle of the Resurrection. It also tells of others who accepted the good news.
The relationship which Jesus established was not frozen in those few years, for those people, at that place, at that time. It is a relationship available for all people, for all time. It is available for all of us, now, for each of us, a personal relationship. This I have joyfully accepted in my life.
Each year, for many years, I have read, or listened to tapes of, the whole Bible. As with many people, my experience is that the Bible is new and different every time I go through it. Since the last reading, my life has changed enough so that a teaching has a meaning it did not have before, or certain points jump out at me as if they were entirely new. Learning about the history and customs of the times has added a deeper dimension. It is amazing how many people consider themselves educated, yet have never read all of, or even much of, this most important and influential book of the ages.
It is comforting to know that the Bible states that if we pray for wisdom, it will be granted. Many people think of wisdom as "moxie" or "smarts," all out of the head. But there is a more profound wisdom. Solomon did not pray to be smarter than other people. He prayed for a "wise and understanding heart."
My priorities in my life are: first, the Lord, second, my wife, third, my children, fourth, my vocation, and then my service and outreach to others. And finally it is important not to forget play and fun.
It is easy to get priorities mixed up. We all do at times. Many men put their vocations above everything, with the rationalization that they are "providing for the family." In some families, the relationship between husband and wife gets sacrificed to the concept of "doing everything for the children". There are those who get their ministry, or their outreach, mixed up with their relationship with the Lord, thinking that it is all being done for Him, but, in actuality, family and other relationships are being sacrificed while they get ego satisfaction from their many activities.
Obviously there are times in life when priorities are altered. A sick child deserves full attention, and there is a time, particularly at the beginning of a career, when a vocation demands all-out effort. Unfortunately, this can become a habit. It is important, to keep priorities straight in the long run.
It is my hope that what appears in the previous pages is based on Biblical principles. Preventing other people's policies from interfering with your life, or persuading someone in an organization to accede to your request are activities which can take place in the world in which we live, but I do not believe they are in conflict with Christian principles. Much of Lessons in Lifemanship representing: forgiveness, encouraging people to spend more time with family relationships, rendering service to others, and showing kindness, a word not much employed these days, are Biblically based. The intent is that ideas presented here are summed up in the concept of treating others as we would like to have them treat us, but even more so in the command of Jesus to "Love one another."