Thursday, July 4, 2013

Karma, Ripley, Barbie, Jerry Springer… & St. Francis of Assisi

"You reap what you sow.” You may have said these words before, but did you know they come from the Bible? I suspect that when we use that expression, most of the time, we’re taking comfort in the fact that what goes around comes around. If somebody does you wrong, they’re going to pay for it someday. The whole idea of karma is something that brings us comfort. But if you read these words in their context of Galatians 6, that’s not exactly what Paul is saying. To understand what he’s getting at, you need to go back to chapter 5 where he talks about allowing your ego to guide you or living in the Spirit. If you’re living out of your ego, it will affect your behavior, and there will be consequences. If you’re living in the Spirit, it will affect your behavior, and there will be consequences.

Is it not true? There are consequences for our behavior. Those consequences are not the result of a wrathful God reigning down terror on those who displease him. Those consequences are the natural result of the way we choose to live our lives.

I read this spring that people are having more problems with their sinuses and allergies because there is more pollen than there used to be. And it’s going to get worse, because this is a result of climate change. And I read about how the melting of ice in Antarctica is much worse than we ever realized because where it’s melting the most is underneath, where we can’t see it. And it’s going to get worse. That same day, I read that in New York City they are predicting that the temperature is rising more every year so that in the not too distant future the summers will be as hot in NYC as they are in Birmingham, Alabama. Now, my daughter Gretchen lives in Brooklyn. She has a cat named Ripley. And one of the problems they have in the summer is that every time they open the fridge, Ripley climbs in. (Once the cat was in there all night and they didn’t know it.) And I can’t blame her. When I’m there, if I could climb in the fridge, I’d join her. Summer is already unbearable in NYC. The underground subway stations are stifling. Most people don’t have AC in their homes. The power grid would never support it if they did. And we learn that this is only going to get worse. Some people look at all the weird weather we’ve been having and attribute it to God’s doing: the tornados, the droughts, the flooding, the out of control fires. But we know better, don’t we? We are reaping what we have sown.

We live in terribly violent world. Violence is so pervasive in our culture that may be as unaware of it as a fish is oblivious to the fact that he’s swimming in water. And yet, what can we expect? What have we done to sow seeds of peace in our world? We entertain ourselves with graphic pictures of people being punched, shot, blown up. We see violence in everything, from the video games our children play, to NFL football, to the Jerry Springer Show. We have a history of supporting unjust wars because it’s our patriotic duty. We spank our children with gusto and wonder why they grow up thinking the way to resolve problems is by threatening or causing physical harm to another. Do we have to wonder why our world is so violent? We are reaping what we have sown.

We objectify women from the day they’re born as we fuss over their appearance, and then we hand them little replicas of the ideal woman, that is… Barbie dolls. And we teach them that their greatest purpose in life is in pleasing other people, particularly men. You can see it on T.V. and in the movies and at shopping malls and in hundreds of venues all across this city. And then we wonder why so many women are victims of rape, and domestic violence, and sexual harassment, and human sex trafficking. We are reaping what we have sown.

Well, I could go on, but that's probably enough. You know it’s true for us as individuals, it’s true for us as a community of God’s faithful people, it’s true for us as a nation. We reap what we sow. Yes, Paul was right. But his purpose in saying those words wasn’t primarily because he wanted people to see how their bad choices lead to dire consequences. He wanted them to know that they aren’t simply captive to those bad choices. They are free to live in the Spirit and sow seeds that bring them to life in all its fullness.

“…if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.”

It reminds me of a prayer about sowing that goes like this.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


May it be so with you. 

1 comment:

Lennie said...

Not captive.