Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


How to Judge a Human

Tom felt like he was drifting, upward. His body rocked gently back and forth like a feather falling to the ground, yet Tom wasn’t falling. He was effortlessly moving upward passing through a cloud. Then the soft movement slowed to a stop and the scene came into focus. Before him, two bright beings sat on a cloud.

It made no sense at all, but there they were—with their large white wings resting against their backs as they drifted over the earth ensconced on the anvil-like top of a monstrously tall thunderhead. Tom could see them clearly, but a veil remained between the angelic beings and Tom. He heard them speaking with one another:

Angel 1, “I’ve spent an eternity in heaven, sheltered from the humans. After seeing them yesterday, I’m not sure how to know which are the ones on our side and who are the ones siding with the Rebellion? How can you judge a human?”

Angel 2, “Ours is not to judge.”

Angel 1, “Yes, I know. But how can we appraise them? How do we know them? God looks on the content of the heart, but we can’t do that. How do we tell the believers from the rest of them?”

Angel 2, “Pay no attention to their beliefs.”

Angel 1, “Pay no attention to belief. I thought it was beliefs that matter. Don’t humans just need to believe in Jesus and put their trust in him? I thought this was the essence of how humans reestablish their relationship with God. Isn’t this a matter of belief?”

Angel 2, “Of course, faith is everything. But how could you possibly know what a human believes? Think it through for yourself.”

Angel 1, “Beliefs are thoughts. Right? If you think something, you believe it.”

Angel 2, “Ponder that for just a moment. Could everything you think, be a belief in the way you mean it when you talk about a human having faith in Jesus? Isn’t there a difference between the man who says ‘I believe I will pick up some steaks for supper’ and what happens when someone comes to say ‘I believe Jesus is God in the flesh.’”

Angel 1, “I guess so. That makes sense. The one who comes to know Jesus as God made man should be changed by that belief. But what is the difference? Is it the type of thought? A thought about what someone wants to eat seems different than say their thoughts of love.”

Angel 2, “Yes. You are the right path. But what is that difference between one type of thought and the other?”

Angel 1, “It’s a matter of intensity. Some thoughts are merely thoughts, but some times humans are so passionate about things. It’s why I mentioned love. But after what I saw yesterday, I think college football might be a better example of passion.”

Angel 2, “What is the difference if you apply it to belief?”

Angel 1, “Belief in the way I mean it with faith is more than a mere thought. The intensity is different. So belief in the way you mean it in believing in Jesus is more deeply felt…more than something one simply agrees is true, right?”

Angel 2, “Right. Belief is something around which you pattern your life.”

Angel 1, “Like believing it will rain, so you take an umbrella with you?”

Angel 2, “More intense, remember. Consider the football game. What did the passion about football reveal to you about humans?”

Angel 1, “They can put their very being into someone or something beyond themselves. They didn’t just want their team to win. They needed their team to win. Those whose teams won were elated. The ones whose teams lost were so dejected, even angry. Intense is the only word for what I saw.”

Angel 2, “You couldn’t read their thoughts. How did you know which team they wanted to win?”

Angel 1, “I could have been deaf and still known the orange team won and the fans of the team in red helmets were sad. The fans had taken so much time to be there and spent so much money for the game; I knew that this must be important for them. Their actions were speaking so loudly, I didn’t need to understand their words or read their minds.”

There is a pause, and Tom sees a change of expression on the first angel’s face as the dawn of recognition comes.

Angel 2, “Yes?”

Angel 1, “We weren’t talking about football were we?”

Angel 2, “We were talking about how we can know who holds passionate beliefs and who doesn’t.”

Angel 1, “Indeed. So you don’t have to worry about what humans say they believe, you watch their actions. You observe what they do. Is that it?”

Angel 2, “That has served me well for centuries.”

Angel 1, “Why not concern ourselves with their words? Wouldn’t someone’s words reveal what they believe?”

Angel 2, “Sometimes humans lie to each other and even to themselves. They say things they wished were true or think others want to hear.”

Angel 1, “So I turn down the volume a bit on what they say and notice what they do. That worked at the football game. I could tell their beliefs about the football game by watching their actions. I imagine I could tell their beliefs about God the same way.”

Angel 2, “Well, what might you look for if you were watching a human? How could you decide for yourself if he or she is a believer in Jesus?”

Angel 1, “There are many ways now that I see the trick. I could see how they spend their time. I could watch their wallets to see how they use their money. I could watch what they do when they think no one sees.”

Angel 2, “Much is discovered in that alone.”

Angel 1, “I would see through their actions whether there is any passion behind their words about God. You can’t just say you love God with all your heart, mind and soul. To do that would change your actions. It would transform your life. Soon you would be loving your neighbor as yourself. The one always follows the other. I could watch for how they treat others, and the time and money they devote to God. Then I would know what the humans really believe.”

Angel 2, “Michael was right. You are a quick study.”

The scene before him softened and Tom began to drift downward. Then Tom was startled as he felt an elbow jabbing sharply into his side. His wife said, “Stand up.” Tom realized the preacher was finished. He jolted awake. As he stood, Tom was not quite free from the pull of his dream. He wondered, “What is it that I believe? Really believe?” He wondered how the angels would view his actions? Tom wasn’t so sure he wanted to know. But he was positive that he had some things about his life that were going to need to change.

The story above is my religion column for today's issue of the Tribune & Georgian.



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