Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - I Believe ...

I have listened occasionally to a radio piece called "This I Believe." Inspired by the essays I have heard (including a very thoughtful one by MWB Harry S Truman), I wrote an essay on what I believe. It's a little longer than most that I post, so I hope you will forgive me for that:

Freemasonry accepts into its ranks all men of good character who have a belief in a Supreme Being. Tolerance and respect for a brother’s faith is a fundamental principle of our fraternity.

I was born and remain a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” I believe that the way to Heaven is only through Jesus, the Christ.

I also believe that my brothers who believe that Yahweh speaks to and saves them are not without hope. I believe that my brothers who call upon Allah have a God that hears them.

I believe that the Triune God can and does provide a way for all His children to be with him in Heaven. While I believe that the only way to Life is through Jesus the Christ, I also believe that somehow, the Lord God can and does accept his children into heaven.

How is this done? I don’t know. I believe that these are peculiar mysteries known only to Nature and Nature’s God, on whom we all rely for creation, preservation and every blessing we enjoy.

There is a story in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke about a rich man who asked what he must do to gain heaven. Jesus’ response ended with a recommendation that the man sell all that he had, give to the poor, and come and follow Him. The man went away crestfallen, as he was very wealthy.

Jesus said to his disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples expressed astonishment at this statement, Jesus responded, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Who is a rich man?

In this country, the per capita gross national income is $41,500.

In order for a person to qualify for a court appointed public defender in this state, he must be indigent. That is defined as 125% of the poverty level. Today, a single person qualifies for a court-appointed public defender with an income of $13,538.

The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2009 is $1,153 per month, or $13,836 annually.

In over 100 countries of the world, the per capital gross national income is less than one-half the indigency level or average social security benefit for a retire worker. In 142 countries of the world, the per capita gross national income is less than the average income of a retired worker relying solely on Social Security retirement benefits.

By that measure, most who are reading these words are “rich”, and thus are ineligible for Heaven, absent God’s good mercy.

I believe that rich men can and do go to heaven. I don’t know how. God’s mind is not man’s mind.

I believe that non-Christians go to heaven, too. I don’t know how. I cannot prove that they do any more than you can prove that they don’t.

But if God can get a camel through the eye of a needle, and he can admit a rich man into the Kingdom, then I believe that he can find a way for men of good will and spirituality to obtain eternal reward, even if they call Him by a different name.

I believe that God, through His Son, invites us, but does not command us to believe in Him. I believe we should follow the example of our Creator. If He can respect the decision of His creatures to worship in a way they deem proper, we should respect that, too.

Religious tolerance: I believe.