To Whom Do We Listen?
by Tom Smith
Quaker Life, March 1979, p.19
You have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you that you resist not evil, but whosoever shall build up their nuclear weapons, take down all your defensive weapons. And if any man will sue you at the law to obtain open housing, offer your help in buying him a house in your neighborhood. And whosoever shall compel you to work eight hours a day, work for him conscientiously even if it takes nine hours to finish the job. Give to him that asks for welfare and from him who needs your help to live a full life, turn not away. You have heard that it has been said, America, Love It or Leave It and Hate the Communists. But I say unto you: Love the Cubans and Russians, and pray for those people who seem bent on the destruction of your world. That you may be the children of your heavenly Father."Paraphrased interpretation of Matthew 5:38-44.
You have heard it said that we need to put ourselves first, to be number one, "I deserve the best, after all I'm worth it." "I've worked hard for my money, I deserve credit for that." "We need to get used to the finer things of life here on earth, we will have them in heaven." But the Spirit of Christ says, "Be servants one to another." "The first shall be last." We should be more concerned that this world is better when we leave it than that we will be going to a better world. It is not that Friends are against heaven but that the Kingdom of God is here and now and Christ is King.
You have heard it said "They run the church." "I didn't get a thing out of the service today.""They changed the order of service and I didn't like it." "I don't like it when they pick new hymns, I have to concentrate on the words too much." But the Spirit of Christ says to come to meeting prepared to participate, not spectate. Unless we participate we are like those of whom the prophets spoke, "The Lord despises your worship services and songs." Friends were not against sermons, there was a lot of preaching during "silent" meeting. Nor were they against music, but they were for listening to Christ, meeting Christ as the head of their fellowship, thinking of the words that were shared and the meaning of these words. The church of today must be the strong clear voice of Christ and not only a weak echo of society.
You have heard it said "Let us wear good (or is it fancy?) clothes to church to show our respect for God." But the Spirit of Christ says unto you, "The Lord despises your pretense at pleasing Him by wearing special clothes and having 'Sunday best' when those clothes or that money could be providing clothes to those who have none." Friends are not against colors, lapels, ties, or fancy clothes, but they are conscious of waste at all levels because we are stewards of all God gives us, not just ten per cent or one day a week.
You have heard it said, "Cut back on taxes so we don't have to pay the cheats on welfare, the incompetent bureaucrats, etc." But the Spirit of Christ says unto you if the fellowship of Christians was carrying out the commandments, the government would not have to have large welfare rolls or a huge bureaucracy which complains about the billions of untax-able dollars hoarded by the church for its own security. Friends say stop spending tax money on the ability to destroy human life and concentrate on caring for each other by improving the life of all individuals regardless of color, language, country or belief.
You have heard it said, "Christ is coming again, what a glorious day that will be." "These are the end times." "Christ will change the world soon." But Christ is here. Christ has come to teach His people Himself. Christ brings us the power to change the world now. The greatness of His power to us is according to the working of His mighty power in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. It is not that Friends did not believe in the Second Coming, but they did believe and act on the Real Presence of Christ. The Spirit of Christ says that He does bring power over sins, but you must forgive to be forgiven and make your will be Christ's. Let Christ within you become the central power of life, not as a substitute for you, but as the enabler and guide. Then you will not only be a finder but also a seeker. You will begin to grow and continue to seek God's will. Christ brings a cup. The cup of
Radical Obedience. We must love all persons if we are to love Christ. We must forgive if we are to be forgiven. We must grow and continue to seek if we are to find and to be found.