Guarding Against Prejudice

One of the greatest challenges the church faces is prejudice. We think that because we are Christians, saved by the blood of Christ that we no longer suffer from prejudging people. The truth is, whether we grew up in the church or not, our society teaches us to be prejudice. However, this is not what God desires! Henri Nouwen has an interesting reflection on guarding ourselves against prejudice.

“One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

“Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”

God wants us to be free of prejudice because it keeps us from seeing people as God sees them. Let us make a concerted effort to avoid prejudging others and ask the Holy Spirit to constantly remind us of Christ’s love for all of humanity, despite their differences.

Here is another reflection from Henri Nouwen: “We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

“The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let’s remember Jesus’ words: ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged’ (Matthew 7:1).”

Love: Our Motivation for Giving

How many people do you know who give to the poor but honestly do not care much for them? How often do we give to good causes without being emotionally involved? Is it possible that we give to the church and to the Lord out of mere obligation instead of  love?

Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary to India once wrote that “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

In our churches, we do not need to teach giving, nor should we teach our obligation to give. We should preach God and his love! If we truly knew God and understood His love, we would be truly transformed by His love.

Once we are touched by the love of God, giving will be our natural response! We will no longer give alms to the poor because of social virtue nor to the church because we know we should. We will love and give because God loves and gives. In our sacrificial giving, we will become like Christ (Ephesians 5:1).

Reflecting God’s Perfect Love

God’s love for us is everlasting. That means that God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. It is an eternal love in which we are embraced. Living a spiritual life calls us to claim that eternal love for ourselves so that we can live our temporal loves – for parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends, spouses, and all people who become part of our lives – as reflections or refractions of God’s eternal love. No fathers or mothers can love their children perfectly. No husbands or wives can love each other with unlimited love. There is no human love that is not broken somewhere.

When our broken love is the only love we can have, we are easily thrown into despair, but when we can live our broken love as a partial reflection of God’s perfect, unconditional love, we can forgive one another our limitations and enjoy together the love we have to offer.

Henri Nouwen.

Confession & the Cross of Christ

“Without the cross the Discipline of confession would be only psychologically therapeutic. But it is so much more. It involves an objective change in our relationship with God and a subjective change in us. It is a means of healing and transforming the inner spirit.”

“Confession is a difficult Discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners.”

“The Discipline of confession brings an end to pretense. God is calling into being a Church that can openly confess its frail humanity and know the forgiving and empowering graces of Christ. Honesty leads to confession, and confession leads to change. May God give grace to the Church once again to recover the Discipline of confession.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.

 

“Anybody who lives beneath the Cross and who has discerned in the Cross of Jesus the utter wickedness of all men and of his own heart will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him. Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by the even the rankest sins of a brother.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.

 

Friends as Signposts

We need friends. Friends guide us, care for us, confront us in love, console us in times of pain. Although we speak of “making friends,” friends cannot be made. Friends are free gifts from God. But God gives us the friends we need when we need them if we fully trust in God’s love.

Friends cannot replace God. They have limitations and weaknesses like we have. Their love is never faultless, never complete. But in their limitations they can be signposts on our journey toward the unlimited and unconditional love of God. Let’s enjoy the friends God has sent on our way.

Henri Nouwen.

Ser bendecidos para bendecir

La persona bendecida siempre bendice, y las personas quieren ser bendecidas. Este parece ser el caso por doquiera que uno vaya. Nadie recobra la vida a partir de maldiciones, rumores, acusaciones o culpas imputadas. Todo esto sucede demasiado a menudo a nuestro alrededor y sólo trae consigo oscuridad, destrucción y muerte. Como personas bendecidas, podemos caminar por este mundo y ofrecer bendiciones. Esto no exige demasiado esfuerzo, pues es algo que fluye de forma natural desde nuestro corazón. Cuando escuchamos en nuestro interior una voz que nos llama por nuestro propio nombre y nos bendice, la oscuridad deja de distraernos. La voz que nos llama ‘hijo amado’ nos dará palabras para bendecir a otros y revelarles que ellos no son menos bendecidos que nosotros.

Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, 1992.

Una oración de Tomás de Aquino

Concédeme, Dios misericordioso,

Desear ardientemente lo que te agrada,

Investigarlo con prudencia,

Reconocerlo verazmente,

Cumplirlo con perfección,

Para alabanza y gloria de tu nombre.

 

Ordena mi estado,

Y dame a conocer lo que quieres que haga;

Dame ejecutarlo como se debe

Y como conviene para la salvación de mi alma.

 

. . .

 

Que no me goce ni me duela nada

Sino de lo que lleva a Ti o aleja de Ti.

A nadie desee agradar o tema desagradar sino a Ti.

Que todas las cosas transitorias se me hagan viles por Ti, Señor,

Y que todas tus cosas me sean queridas,

Y Tú, Dios mío, sobre todas las cosas.

 

Que me fastidie todo gozo sin Ti,

Que nada desee fuera de Ti.

Que me deleite, Señor, todo trabajo por Ti

Y tedioso me sea todo descanso sin Ti.

 

. . .

 

Hazme, Señor Dios, obediente sin contradicción,

Pobre sin falta, casto sin corrupción,

Paciente sin murmuración, humilde sin fingimiento,

Alegre sin disipación, triste sin abatimiento,

Maduro sin pesadez, ágil sin liviandad,

Temeroso de Ti sin desesperanza, veraz sin duplicidad;

Concédeme hacer el bien sin presunción,

Corregir al prójimo sin altivez,

Edificarlo con la palabra y el ejemplo sin disimulo.

 

Dame, Señor Dios, un corazón vigilante,

Que ningún pensamiento curioso aleje de Ti.

Un corazón noble,

Que ningún afecto indigno rebaje.

Un corazón recto,

Que ninguna intención siniestra desvíe.

Un corazón firme,

Que ninguna tribulación quebrante.

Un corazón libre,

Que ningún afecto violento reinvindique para sí.

 

Concédeme, Señor Dios mío,

Una inteligencia que te conozca,

Un amor que te busque,

Una sabiduría que te encuentre,

Una vida que te agrade,

Una perseverancia que espere confiada en Ti,

Una confianza que al fin te alcance.

 

. . .

 

Dios que vives y reinas

Por todos los siglos de los siglos.

 

Amén.

You Know You’re a Missionary If

You know you’re a missionary if . . .

 

The scale in your house has been used more to weigh luggage than to track your diet.

 

One fine day you realize that people in other parts of the world eat the animals you kept as pets in your childhood.

 

Someone scares you and you’re likely to react in any number of languages.

 

You’re an expert in bathing without running water and washing dishes without a sink.

 

You can chat with friends in different countries in multiple languages at the same time.

 

You can talk on two phones at once, interpreting from one language to another.

 

You’re ready to teach a Bible class, preach a sermon or teach kid’s class at any moment.

 

You have no problem picking up and showing love to unknown street children.

 

You’ve learned to never take the word “no” from a government official.

 

You’ve learned to negotiate a price so well that the locals congratulate you when you seal the deal.

 

Someone has yelled at you for being a “gringo” to which you politely respond in any number of accents to confuse the aggressor.

 

At one time the barber told you that you were the first person with blonde hair that he has attended to in his forty years of work.

 

You’ve slept in any number of spaces, kinds of floors next to any number of people.

 

You know how to get off a bus without waiting for the bus to stop.

 

When after living so long in a tropical climate, you put on a jacket when it’s 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

 

You really start believing that it’s best not to show up on time for any appointment.

 

You have entire conversations with people and later you forget which language you were speaking in.

 

You see visits to dangerous ghettos as an opportunity to grow in your faith.

 

You’ve shared a fermented drink out of same cup with people who have no teeth.

 

These are just a few!