“Perfect love casts out all fear.” 1 John 4:18
“In honesty, is it not harder for you to say ‘I love’ than ‘I hate’? You associate love with weakness and hatred with strength, and your own real power seems to you as your real weakness.” ACIM, T-13, III.3
Why is it so much easier to feel hate and anger than love and acceptance? In a sentence, it’s because we easily identify ourselves as our egos, the identification with our body as our true selves. And common reason would remind us that our bodies and world are constantly changing and in threat of annihilation. Change is evitable.
Yet a part of us longs for changelessness and yet a deep memory lingers in our minds of a place, a dimension that doesn’t change. What is that place? It’s the Divine, the God within. The Divine is the only entity which doesn’t change, the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” The world and everything in it passes away but whoever does or knows the Presence of God endures forever.
So our usual state of sleep, or ignorance of the Christ within, leaves us in constant fear; fear of change and of oblivion which is as certain as our bodies are organic. Thus we have a choice; go within, seeking the experience of our immortal, unseen, spiritual self as changeless and eternal, or live with the constant fear of being mortal and frail. We usually will side with fear.
The ego identification is very strong. Even in most religions, the adherents or teachers place the Divine outside, beyond us. Or they teach that access or favor is granted only if we keep certain rules and beliefs, one of them popular in Christianity as God outside and a man named Jesus as the Only Son of God as Divine.
So we live in fear, constantly worrying about staying healthy, looking younger, having safety surrounding us, yet as Longfellow wrote in The Psalm of Life,
“Art is long, and Time is fleeting, and our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave.”
The placement of God outside leaves us in a lonely, fearful state. If I look inside, all I first see is my mortality; thus my anger, hatred, short-temper, constant comparing and judging of others. These become our common identities. To be told I am not that but a beautiful, eternal, lovely Being, One with the Divine, would destroy the sense of body/ego security even more.
Thus many find meditation and waiting in silence difficult and threatening. To “be still and know God” can feel like “losing one’s sense of self,” naked and lost when compared to our accustomed identity with change and mortality.
To grow in identity with Spirit as our Self also threatens the constant busyness of changing the world, bringing it to our ideas of social justice. We keep trying, working to make this mortal world a better place for all to live. We fight for it, lining up against the oppressors. And if we win, then what? The fight and senselessness goes on. Stalin and Mao killed over 50 million of their citizens to make the world a more just place to live in the name of fairness. Hitler destroyed 6 million Jews and another 5 million “outcasts” such as homosexuals and gypsies to make the world a more just place. After America was declared free and independent, thousands of Africans continued to be enslaved to build up financial empires and such national impressive buildings as the Capital and White House.
After freedom from England, nearly three fourths of the Native American populations were estimated destroyed as threats to our “freedom.”
No wonder the mystics of the ages counseled not to work to change the world but to change oneself and one’s perspective on the world. The great Stoic Philosopher Epictetus wrote, “Practice being content, your world will become worry free. … If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry! …. You just need to change your perspective. …” The Gospel of Matthew has Jesus saying, “Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and everything else will be given to you.” Or the modern A Course in Miracles, “Seek not to change the world but seek to change the way you see the world.”
Such words anger us, rouse passions of resistance because they are so threatening to our attempts to change, preserve, and make permanent our ego selves. We have much invested in protecting our structural world, the world of change and decay. We resist the acceptance of peace, lasting peace, since it will ironically destroy our hatred and constant judgment of others.
So we project our anger causes outside of ourselves. You are the cause of my unhappiness; you are the threat to my well-being; you are the cause of my victimizing myself. To give these up would make me feel weak and inept. To forgive and accept my True Self, my Christ Self as inviolate, pure, loving and full of compassion would be a concession to weakness. I would feel like a sissy, weak, and cowardly!
And so we project our anger out onto God. God is angry too so I must join Him in stamping out my peace destroyers. We can find this in “holy scriptures” where we read of God’s wrath directing his “chosen people” to wipe out all the opposition in “their land”; women, children, and old people! We read of God’s wrath damning people to eternal hell fire and damnation. Not a very nice God, but like us, God demands obedience to his laws.
Yet if we look within, beyond the fears of love and the attraction to hatred, we could find God, we could find love, and the whole world we thought we made would simply vanish! Our joyous responses would be uncontrollable. Freedom could be experienced. And others could be released and forgiven to be and do what they wish.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) How is this possible? By accepting the forgiveness of our blindness and sins as nothing more than passing dreams of separation.
Yes, God looks past our sins, mistakes, violent actions, angers, attacks on others, and hatred as nothing! They are simply time bound illusions of the passing and ephemeral. God doesn’t even look or know of them. He keeps no records, no scores, but simply remembers us as love waiting for us to “come home.”
Many years ago in our congregation we had a young man who was very independent, bright, and rebellious. He questioned everything and was quite often in trouble with his teachers. His parents grew weary of his behavior and worried continually over his future success. Once I stopped to see his grandmother. She was a smart, well educated and quite independent person herself. We talked about her grandson and the constant worry he caused in his parents’ minds. She surprisingly told me, “I don’t worry too much about my grandson. He was born with such an independent and sharp spirit of rebellion. He used to display anger at toys and others around him. But one day I told him, ‘Grandson, there is not anything you could ever do to cause me to withdraw my love from you. I loved you when you were born and I will love you forever.’” And sure enough, the young man grew up, matured and became a very responsible, successful businessman with a beautiful family who gives much back to society.
God is the wise and loving grandmother, the father to the Prodigal Son. God allows us to run our lives with fits, violence, anger, attacks, and depression. God allows us to think we are brave, master of our fates, and able to take out any opposition. God gives us freedom to choose. And when we come to our senses, we awaken from the sleep and dream, God is waiting with open arms ready to prepare a great party for us!
Yes, hate and judgment may be much easier for us, even seeming to make us secure. Yet beneath the façade waits a loving Presence, forgiving, eternal, and wishing to fill all with unspeakable joy. When we have come to the end, come to our selves, awaken and go back Home, Father/Mother God will be waiting with open arms, forgiveness, and a love which knows no bounds.
Talk offer November 20, 2011 at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 85 Union Road, West Seneca, NY, by Rev. David G. Persons.