“Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.” – Jose Marti
As a human being, I’ve always felt an inherent need for peace and harmony. I find it difficult when I know that I’ve offended or upset someone, and I’ve become increasingly comfortable with confrontation that leads to resolution. I suppose you could see this in a negative ‘people-pleasing’ light, or as a positive ‘peace-making’ attribute. I think I see it as both.
I’ve included the above quote from Jose Marti, because I think it largely sums up our culture’s attitude towards harmony. Harmony, reason, knowledge and generosity all lead to happiness… and I suppose in some sense, Jose isn’t wrong.
As a Christian, I’ve been battling with the concept of harmony. We live in a culture that puts great emphasis on acceptance, tolerance and the comfort of others. In some ways, I’m proud of this – that we can put our differences aside and connect with people from various social backgrounds, religious beliefs, personal convictions, sexual orientations and so on. There’s absolutely no reason that our lifestyles should mean we are separated from those who are different to us, and I believe there’s a lot I can learn from people who don’t necessarily share my beliefs.
So, where’s the problem? If we’re all about living harmoniously, letting people be, accepting people for who they are and where they come from, then why do I feel convicted to stir the pot? The ‘problem’ (if you see it in that light), is that I’ve experienced something that I can’t keep to myself, but live in a culture where it’s somewhat socially unacceptable to share my joy.
I’ve had a personal relationship with Jesus since I was a little girl. I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a Christian home, where I was told about God’s rich love for me from a young age, and I’ve spent my teen and adult years striving to know and love Him better. I never felt that religion was ‘pushed’ on me – a relationship with God was, and is, part of my everyday life, and when I became old enough to understand faith and salvation for myself, it was too good for me to walk away from.
When you experience something life-enriching, and ultimately soul saving, it’s incredibly difficult to stomach keeping that to yourself. I fully believe that Christ died so that I may have eternal life with Him in heaven, and equally, I fully believe that the consequence of not knowing and accepting that means eternal agony and separation from God in hell. It doesn’t sound pretty, and it’s not supposed to – but even if you don’t believe this is true, imagine being convicted of the fact that it is, and knowing that people you love, or even people you don’t know, could be facing hell after their time on earth is done.
Here’s the struggle – living harmoniously, would (to many) mean living in accordance with your own beliefs and not bothering about the convictions of others. Society says, ‘let them believe whatever they want’, and ‘you make your own path’, and ‘worry about what you think, not what anyone else thinks’. But my heart says, ‘these people will surely die and miss out on the hope of God and the promise of salvation if I don’t say something’. So, what’s more loving…?
Last year, someone told me about a quote by Pen Jillette of the magician duo, Pen and Teller. Pen is famously atheist, and his words stir me every time I read them.
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytise. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward – and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytise and who say just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself – how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytise? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
He continued, “I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
While I don’t wish to push my beliefs on people, I also can’t stay quiet – and I believe that sharing my hope can be done with grace, love and an open heart. What I sincerely hope, is that as a loving society, which values comfort, peace and harmony, we can listen to the hearts and beliefs of others, even if we don’t agree with what they’re saying.
So, what does that look like? Perhaps it means listening when someone wishes to share their beliefs with you, whether it’s a religious conviction, a moral standpoint, or a social perspective. I cannot rightfully expect someone to listen to what I have to share unless I’m willing to listen to them. While I’m confident in my beliefs, how wrong would it be for me to reject the opportunity to learn about what someone else thinks or how they experience life?
While it may seem far-fetched, I’d love to believe that there will come a time where openness is not only accepted, but appreciated. That instead of seeming pushy or hateful, sharing the gospel (or any belief) would be seen as generous and loving.
For me, true harmony and happiness is this:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:8-9