In 2012, several people plotted to defraud an insurance company. The plot culminated in an explosion on the south side of Indianapolis on November 10, 2012. Around 100 homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood were either damaged or destroyed. My son, Dion and his wife, Jennifer, were the only people killed. Early during the recovery from the grief, I came to feel that I must take a stand on good and evil in the world. My family, friends, the Richmond Hill neighborhood, and the people involved in the investigation of the crime experienced the effects of evil that night and in the months to follow.
Especially in the month following the explosion, I was struggling to cope with the loss of Jennifer and Dion. I decided that every person has the opportunity to move their life along a continuum of good and evil and that as life becomes more occupied with good, the benefits to the world increased.
After attending two trials, and much more study and prayer, I now feel that there is only a continuum of good or as I think Spong would say, a continuum of God. I agree that Jesus is the ultimate example of a life filled with God. As a life contains less God, the more evil the life becomes. In other words, the absence of God results in evil. As the Bible and other scriptures from various traditions say, the absence of light is darkness and light can always chase away the darkness.
Five people are accused of involvement in the murder of Dion and Jennifer. Mark and Bob Leonard have been tried. Mark is serving life without parole and we await the jury’s decision about Bob.
Bob Leonard is the most evil person I have knowingly encountered. I am sure there are worse, but the obvious lack of respect, honesty, compassion and concern for others is frightening.
I believe it is important that each of us work to fill our lives with God. If you do not feel that you believe in God, then, replace “God” with whatever you call the goodness or love in the world.
Filling one’s life with God does not necessarily mean any of the following:
· Spending your life in church or any other religious organization or activity;
· Greatly increasing prayer;
· Tithing or charity;
· Being “good”;
· Being baptized;
· Any of many other religious prescriptions that are frequently promoted.
My own prescription was provided for me to use in the Bible in Matthew. It begins with Matthew 22:36-41. Those verses, also known as the most important commandments (MIC) or greatest commandments, give us the directions from Jesus about where to begin with everything in life. Next, turn to Matthew 25:31-46 which provides greater detail about how to tell when you are living according to the MIC.
Filling one’s life with God means filling it with love. For me, it has meant also filling my life with prayer, attending church with loving friends who seek the path of Jesus, more carefully considering money in my life, and taking the time to evaluate my daily interactions and plans.
My prayer life is not the one that is prescribed by familiar “experts” such as churches and pastors and writers such as Terry Tekyl. Prayer is never magical. We are often told that we can pray and be delivered from our problems. I have heard over and over during my life that we can pray for what we want and it will be delivered. At least one of the big names in prayer is fond of proclaiming that God is impressed by our prayers. He says that the bigger and more fantastic the request, the more impressed God will be with our prayer. The typical explanation of prayer is that one prays to get something one wants or to manipulate God.
For me, prayer connects me with the love of God. Prayer connects me to others and helps me to understand myself. Prayer helps to fill my life with the love of God. I have a prayer running in the background of my life at all times.That prayer is based upon the MIC. I ask for the ability to channel God’s love through me to influence my interactions with the world. The purpose is to sensitize me so I am more likely to remember to look to God for a way to love all who I contact and all that is around me as I live.
I believe that prayer provides connections. One connection is with self. Another connection is with God. A third is with other people. It may be possible that since prayer connects us with God, it can also connect us with even more. Prayer helps us to give, receive, and share, all important components of love. Connections are necessary for filling one’s life with love. The more loving connections that can be established, the greater the love.
Note that I stated “the more loving connections that can be established, the greater the love”. I intend an emphasis on loving connections. Connections are not enough. It is very, very important that we consciously work to build loving connections (also called “relationships”).
In studying the Bible, I have found that it is a book of relationship and of relationships, of a love story and of love stories. The Bible must be considered in its completeness in order for one to see this about it and for one to use it as I believe Jesus would intend it to be used.
Jesus gives us the starting point in the MIC. Verse 41 tells us that everything else in life depends upon loving as directed by Jesus in the MIC. Read something in the Bible, return to the MIC, evaluate what you read and see if you can use it by following Jesus and the MIC. Somebody tells you something, see how it fits with the MIC. In my dealings with every person each day, I want to handle it with the MIC as my guide.
The MIC prayer that runs in the background for me has meant much more since I learned to use triggers in my life. These triggers have been crucial for implementing meaningful prayer in my life. I could say that it is really only one trigger, the recognition that I am reacting in some negative fashion to something in life around me. Examples are:
· I can easily find another person to be annoying;
· Somebody or something has surprised me;
· Somebody disagrees sharply with me on some matter;
· On some days, the sun comes up in the east;
I find that nature, music, friends, family, and even strangers can help me to fill my life with God and thus fill my life with love. My wife, children, and grandchildren are very good for me in that regard.
To me, Jesus represents a life filled with love. John Spong refers to Jesus as one whose life was filled with God. That is also how I see Jesus.
This year is the year of a presidential election in the United States where I live in Indiana. The politicians have become better than ever with the messages of hatred, anger, and greed. Most of them are shamelessly promoting whatever they think will get them enough votes to be elected. We have not become a monarchy yet, so they must continue to convince large numbers of voters to vote for them.
It would be a great time for more of us to consider what we say and do in regard to politics in terms of the MIC. When we post things on Facebook, is it loving? When we are talking with others, are we loving in our comments?
I will need to continue with another post soon, but for now, consider that loving is to be considered in light of our relationship with God. Even if I am writing about Obama or Trump, I must remind myself that love means respect, honesty, and compassion. Be considerate of others.
Think of how it would change the world if very many of us did this. Jesus calls it the kingdom of God. Nothing much can happen with it in your life unless you learn to carry it on the inside and live it both inside and outside.