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Friday, January 4, 2013

It Is Well with My Soul

What is the relationship between peace and righteousness? What would be different if those qualities dominated in your community's civic life? In your church life? In your family life? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1045). 

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-1).

The currently recognized version of the [Seven Deadly] sins are usually given as wrath, greed, sloth [laziness, dejection], pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. (

Often when perfect peace is dreamed of it is seen as the absence all energizing forces of life. Peace comes only after all life has been drained from our veins. For practical purposes, it is necessary to get beyond this notion. To do that a good place to begin is a listing of the seven deadly sins and reviewing how they relate to the absence of peace. For surely wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony bring us endless turmoil individually and within social groups. Righteousness can be seen as the effective way to outflank these diseases that inflict interminable unease. One could spend a good deal of time defining and amplifying what each of the deadly sins actually represents. Let us cut to the chase and take it is as given that each of them help realize the tempestuous stew we find ourselves in when we live by them. 

What the deadly sins have in common is a grasping nature – a raging desire to "get mine". It can be seen as mindless selfishness, for even the most casual mapping out of the case abundantly indicates the dead-end street this puts us on. Man is by nature a social animal and this necessarily entails what must be called a generous spirit. To the extent that there is any difference at all between selfishness and self-interest, it can be seen that the former is thoughtlessly rapacious while the second implies thoughtful social accommodation and generosity. For endless bitter strife is not good for mental or physical health either personally or for the body politic.

There's a difference between competing to offer the best of ourselves (a move born of generosity) and competing to grasp the most for ourselves (a move born of miserly aggrandizement). The first is friendly competition, the second is selfish domination. For practical purposes we can say that heaven on earth would be a place where competition born of generosity predominates. This cannot mean a place where we have to be essentially dishonest and pretend that nothing divides us when it does. It is my firm belief, for example, that two people can be righteous and still in good conscience disagree – both arguing for the greater good. To put it another way, the mind of Christ is not the sole property of any one political party. The day that peace on earth requires essential dishonesty is the day I want no part of it. Due to the inherent existence of multiple perspectives (including diverse righteous ones), what is truly generous will always be open to discussion and debate bringing conflict within oneself as well as to the social group.


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