A crust of bread in a house of peace
Is worth much more than the finest feast.
As you may find out at any time
You won’t find love in a house of dissention.
I was sitting in a pew in my church when I was handed a flyer. In modern slang, it asked questions about God and life. I turned it over and saw an address stamped at the bottom.
I had to know where this came from so I made my way to this address that turned out to be a house in Detroit. There I met some people that were doing something for God but really I couldn’t understand what.
Just stay and find out someone suggested. As it got later, different people showed up. When I say different, I mean very different from me. They sat on the floor mostly and conversed among each other. A guitar was produced and there was some singing. These were spiritual songs but very different from the church ones. The enjoyment of singing these songs amazed me. People loved singing these songs.
Eventually, a fellow a few years older than most present sat himself on a short stool between the living room and dining room. He began what I took to be a sermon. He emphasized that something was happening among young people that was unusual. He described it as a movement. He had seen it in other cities and came to Detroit to be part of what God was doing here.
The young people there were those who had tried to find a different lifestyle other than a conventional one. But they had found that it did not deliver the freedom they hoped for. In fact, their disappointment in the counter-culture left them without much. They put off their despair by using drugs but this only pushed the questions to their next sober moment without giving any real answers. And ‘Free Love’ took a toll on your soul as well.
Not that this was all explained at that time, but I will tell you what I also learned later about that moment. This fellow was indoors now on a cold winter evening talking to these young people that had been hanging out in public parks during the summer. A few lived there and I learned their stories as I returned in the following days. The comparing of life before and after was the main point. Before, they were wasting their lives and now their lives were full of meaning. It was that simple.
They stunned me with the news that Jesus had found them. Really? In a park? Among fellow drug users? Yes. Their clear-eyed accounts told of a shocking change to their life-style. “I stopped using drugs and started following Jesus.” Really? How? Maybe you should ask Jim to explain.
Jim was a fellow that sometimes went by Smiling Dog. He was called that because he had been like a famous drug dealer named Smiling Dog Henry. He answered to either name. He was quite serious now and said several fellows were going out to talk to others about Jesus.
To the original point, what had I learned about what a Christian should do? One thing was: tell others about Jesus. Another was: gather with fellow believers. Yet, there was also: go somewhere and do something. This last was the most vague but maybe the most important.
All these things had some form in churches I knew about: Share your faith with your neighbors. Go to church often. Become a missionary!
I had been exposed to these ideas in churches without any inward response. They were uncomfortable at best. Risky and dangerous at worst. Yet, here were people doing them in a seeming natural way. Effortlessly. Or so I thought. I joined the group as it gained larger quarters in Detroit.
I learned that there was suffering involved. Jim said it was difficult talking to old friends who did not want to change their lifestyle. They felt they were to live counter to the ordinary as a revolt against something. They thought Jim was not doing this anymore and had betrayed the cause. It all made sense when you were high, I guess.
Several others found that their families thought they had just found a new way to waste their lives though they were glad drugs and sex were not a part of it. To be misunderstood this way made them unhappy at times. They were accused of being in a cult or being too extreme in religion.
They could not go back to either lifestyle, conventional or unconventional. The group multiplied in a form much like the original house. A married couple would be like house parents and several single people would live in the house with them. Some would work and others would be active in places like universities or just on the street where people gathered. Sometimes church groups wanted to know about how former drug addicts could so changed.
Not all had been drug addicts but most looked the part of unconventional Christians. Some conventional churches had become interested in hearing about this activity among young people. What did it mean? It was so different. How could you reject conventional society and embrace a different sort of Christian lifestyle?
Here are two conclusions that came much later: First, we are meant to suffer. Some will tell you that God only wants to bless you and there is no need for any suffering. But what God wants is for us to grow in good character. This can only happen with a certain amount of suffering. You must choose between easy happiness or a struggle to become as good as you can become. Did you know God wants you to be good? Selfishness can only be overcome by following the Jesus method.
The second is to discover how God wants to use you in this world. I marveled at a man who had been a pastor for some years. He had an experience in his office as he was ready to give up on the whole thing. He came out of that room a different man. It was like Jacob wrestling with that man of mystery. I thought he would leave the church but no. He put on the church vestments and he told the people how God had met him on his way and changed everything for him.
Another lady who had rejected God had a second divorce and saw herself in her younger son. She became horrified that he was becoming like her when she knew she was unable to find happiness in life. She went to a church and wept as she listened to the sermons week after week. Then she got cancer. The treatment kept her alive but the cancer would return needing more treatment. The treatment was brutal. She did not give up and continued to be somewhat healthy at times and enduring painful treatments at other times.
I knew her before as a rich woman in charge of her life and business. Now she had a simple job that had good health benefits and spent her healthy times working and sick times going for various treatments or tests.
Her change in character was great. She had become a different person. I learned that the suffering that seemed a cruel addition to her life had some incredible value. She had passed others, myself included, in becoming like Christ. This situation had troubled me a great deal. I asked why? Why was she chosen to suffer so much?
I still don’t have an answer for this. I do have questions. It is not ‘Why?’ anymore. They are: How am I conforming to Christ? Do I act and react like him? How am I working toward his kingdom on earth right now? Am I doing my part the best I can?
Then these questions became others: Do I love Jesus too little? Do I believe too little? Love believes all things. It’s the measure of our love for Christ Jesus that answers all the other important questions. Ones about faith, about serving God, about suffering, and about hope. Your relationship with Jesus will never find an end. The limit is your love. He who is forgiven little, loves little. But those that love much are forgiven much. We are forgiven all our sins. But if you love Jesus like the woman who poured out her expensive perfume on him, you receive much more than if you think you only need a little forgiveness and a tiny bit of help from God in your life.
The first command is to love God with all. The new command is to love others as I have loved you. Do you know why he tells us to love? He doesn’t know any other relationship. He only knows this: him loving you and you loving him. Our relationship is as large as our love for him and our service is as much love as we can receive and share with others.
Remember: love believes all things. Like maybe you believe some people are evil and want to harm you. Okay, but do you also believe God is all good and is well able to care for you in all circumstances? Love believes all things. Do you believe some things? Or do you believe all things?
Did you know that ‘The Media’ does not exist. It’s just what we call a bunch of voices saying different things with various megaphones about various topics. The Media speaks to The People, which also does not exist. The People, is really a method for leveling people. The individual is supposed to see themselves as part of The People. This is to set aside your individuality and become part the nameless mass, The People.
Now The Media stands up for The People. If there is someone better than or worse than The People, The Media attacks them like a dog that tears his clothes, and bites his leg. This is amusing to watch but becomes boring if done too long. Yes, this is the method of leveling individuals. It condemns the individuality they show by distinguishing themselves from that indistinguishable mass, The People. Now, they can be doing something bad or good. As one of The People, you don’t want to be put in the spotlight like them. If they are doing good, they will at some point do something bad and then that can be shown by The Media. Really, their crime is doing something that distinguished them from The People and so they must be punished by The Media.
That The Media does not exist can be shown as any individual in it does not want to be spotlighted. “I don’t want to be part of the story!” they plead. When questioned, they say, “These are merely facts I am giving out.” They are selflessly serving The People and do not want to be questioned by anyone. By just questioning, the individual has stepped out of The People, which he has no right to do. And by questioning an individual as part of The Media, he has ruined the game. He is revealing the trick of the magician. He has identified an individual of The Media, who wants to slip back into the place where there is no individual responsibility for their words. We talk to you, The People, and you listen to us, The Media.
So The Media speaks to The People, filled with unreal individuals. It’s like another ghost called The State. Another group without names. Neither can ever be shown because they are not real. But you are to see yourself as part of The People or The State depending on your country.
The People is not a generation, it is not a community, it is not a society, it is not those particular people over there, because all these actually exist since they are real; however, no single individual who belongs to The People has any real existence; sometimes during the day he belongs to The People, namely, in those times in which he is listening to The Media.
In those times when he is a particular person, doing a particular thing, he does not belong to The People nor The State because he cannot. The People consists of such people, who as individuals are not important. And you, you are supposed to be a part of this imaginary thing. Why? So people at the top can do something for the good of The People. It may not be good for you but what does that matter? It’s for the general good and you must believe it is somehow for your general good. The Media will let you know what to think so just don’t worry about it.
Now, here is the worst part. You as an individual can be sacrificed for the good of The People. In fact, any individual can be eliminated or at least sidelined for the good of The People. But, of course, the ones who will benefit are the people in power. If you, an individual, are removed from The People, well, The People will go on fine without you. Now individuals who know you may be sad, but The People? The loss of one does not change anything. No individual is important. Only The People is important.
One final note. This is because people are so limited in their thinking. They cannot deal with very many individuals as such. They must group them in some way. But as soon as a group is named, anyone within that group become nobody. There are no real individuals, so to speak. But there is someone who is able to regard each individual as a particular person. This person is God. He is not limited as we are. He can consider you as an individual. He does consider you in this way. His attitude towards you is love. He wants your best. That means two things: he wants you to be the best person you can possibly be and he wants to do the best he can to help you become that best you. He does not see groups. He regards you as one of a kind. That kind is humankind which he modeled after himself. This means you and he can become related.