Goodness akin to spiritual likeness
Marshall Lackrone, pastor, Calvary Temple Assembly of God, 606 W. 29th St.:
This question points to a person who is “concerned with religious values.”
Being good is relative to your own community, but for the most part we associate “good” with another word that has the same root word in its background, “goodness.” This by definition is “Godlike.”
It would seem that by the nature of being good we could not avoid having a spiritual likeness. Paul wrote the following (Ephesians 4:24-27:): “And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (27) and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Here, Paul shows us that we were created to be like God and we are not to allow the devil to get a “foothold” in our lives. There is no doubt that being good will result in being spiritual. Paul also wrote (Ephesians 6: 11-17): “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
— Send e-mail to Marshall Lackrone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kindness without spirituality limited
Zalman Tiechtel, rabbi, Chabad Jewish Community Center, 1203 W. 19th St.
We have all met people of great character who are not religious, and lowlifes who present a pious facade. Some concentrate on having a good relationship with God, while others would rather focus on having good relationships with fellow human beings.
It is not up to us to judge who is better — that is God’s business. But we do have to decide what is right for our own lives. Are rituals meaningful if not accompanied by kind-heartedness? Is goodness missing something if it is humanistic rather than divine-based?
From a Jewish perspective, you can’t really have one without the other. Ritual without human compassion is hollow; and kindness without spirituality is limited.
If someone is able to serve God — pray fervently, observe all the traditions and more — but nevertheless doesn’t act kindly to others, then that is dysfunctional religion. If you really love God, then surely you should also love his children! Such a person’s service is empty.
But by the same token, one who is kind and caring but has no spiritual connection may be a very nice person, but lacks a vital element — the soul element.
From a purely “humanistic” perspective, I am me, you are you; we can love each other, but we will always remain distinct and separate. If I am kind to you, then it is “me” going out of my way to be kind to “you.” But from the soul perspective, we are all one. Our bodies may be separate, but our souls are deeply linked, because we are all part of the one divine source. So the kindness I show you is as natural and innate as the kindness I show myself.
In Judaism, our rituals are means to become more sensitized to this soul-reality that unites us.
Yes, there are religious lowlifes. But imagine how much lower they’d be without religion.
And there are secular saints. But their kindness would be infinitely deeper if they became more aware of the soul dimension, and practiced the actions that make it real in our lives.
— Send e-mail to Zalman Tiechtel at email@example.com.