This week has been an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings received and to share time with family and friends.
For many people, it is a time to be thankful for the blessings of their faith. Yet, we know that in our surrounding communities there are those who are struggling just to obtain food. I am most grateful for the faith communities and organizations in our area who provide food for thousands of people. As we give thanks for personal blessings, may we also promise to try to eradicate hunger and homelessness.
In this week of gratitude, I have been thinking about my blessings. My parents gave me lifelong gifts. The first was a home where values were taught. Second, they introduced me to my Christian faith. For some people, these are commonplace, but for many, these gifts have not been available. In these cases, our society should deal with the issues with available means.
I was fortunate enough to attend good universities. Getting an education does not always come from a college. My father did not attend college, but he set an example by studying law books, passing the bar exam, and practicing before the Supreme Court of Georgia. I have friends who were unable to attend college, but they have worked and studied to become successful in their personal and professional lives.
These thoughts lead me to sources of important life lessons. First, I find valuable messages in the Bible. The history of God’s love for all brings me hope. The struggles of the Hebrew people challenge me to be strong in the face of adversity. My greatest lessons are found in the words of and about Jesus. John 3:16 is a good starting point: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I encourage readers to embrace the verses that teach us how to live.
- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is love your neighbor as yourself.” — Matthew 22:37-39.
- “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” — Matthew 25:37-40.
- “Do not judge, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” — Matthew 7:1.
- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33.
It has been helpful to learn from other religions. Confucius, who was born in China in 551 B.C., gave me an understanding of morality, civility and justice. I consider him to be a philosopher, but he is considered by the Taoist to be a deity.
He wrote about personal and civic responsibilities. Remembering his thoughts, it struck me that his lessons are needed today as we witness unethical behavior, and a lack of kindness and truthfulness.
He included in his writings what we call the golden rule. This wise concept of reciprocity is found in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
In a review of religions with peaceful goals, I found that Jainism, one of the oldest practicing religions, is the most peaceful and does not tolerate harmful acts. Buddhism states that violence is not acceptable. Judaism advocates peace in Isaiah 65:25: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. They shall not hurt nor destroy.” Hinduism, Christianity and Islam also advocate peace, though clearly followers have sometimes chosen to wage war.
I am thankful for all advocates of peace, and I admire Buddha, the prophet; Christ, the Prince of Peace; Mahatma Gandhi, a leader of nonviolence in India; and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Reading the Rev. Daniel Berrigan’s “To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography” was a valuable introduction to peaceful approaches for conflicts. Father Berrigan was a dear friend who daily upheld the life lessons of Jesus.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9.