THE BLESSINGS OF VARIETY

THE BLESSINGS OF VARIETY

 

A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

 

Preached in Glenview, Illinois March 3, 1996

“No one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9:39-40).

“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30).

Who is on our side and who isn’t? Who is considered a friend and who an enemy? The Lord’s disciples were concerned because a man was casting out demons in His name, but wasn’t part of their group. They were so concerned that they told him that he had to stop. The Lord gently corrected their perspective.

The natural human mind has a difficult time with differences. One of its tendencies is to be suspicious of differences. For example, most children go through a period when they react skeptically or negatively if something new and different is served for supper. While many outgrow this particular response, we can continue to react in similar ways throughout our lives.

The perception of differences is an interesting phenomenon. We know that strong contrasts in color or illumination are easy to distinguish, but subtle variations are almost impossible to separate, especially when they are not paired immediately with each other. And we know that variations can be subdivided an amazing number of times. For example, in a political election several candidates can all call themselves conservative politicians, but within this group each one will work to describe him- or herself as the “good kind” of conservative, and the other candidates as representing opposing positions of being too moderate or too extreme. The attempt is to convince the voters that one candidate has a better set of policies or a better fundamental view than the others. In order to convey this idea, contrasts are emphasized to show that one is better than others.

A fundamental teaching of the New Church is that variety is an intentional part of creation. We are told that the variations among people mirror the infinite things that make one in the Lord (see DLW 21). We are told: “An image of the Infinite and Eternal in the variety of all things is apparent in this, that there is not one thing the same as another, nor can there be to eternity. This is manifest to the eye in the faces of men from the beginning of creation, and equally so from their minds (animus) of which their faces are images; and also from their affections, perceptions and thoughts, for the mind consists of these. Hence it is that in the universal heaven there are not two angels or two spirits who are the same, nor indeed can there be to eternity; and so it is with every object of sight in the two worlds, the natural and the spiritual” (DP 56).

The Lord loves variety because when a variety of people or things works together in harmony, there is greater perfection than can be achieved any other way. In a harmonious system the ecology of different things working together benefits them all. And the greater the variety, the greater the benefit. So communities in heaven are always made more perfect when new angels join them. Each individual in the community is better served by the increase in variety, and the community is better able to perform its function.

Consider that when a human being is first conceived, he or she exists as a single cell. Within that single cell there is the blueprint for the whole human body, but it doesn’t exist in any recognizable form. The first stages of development occur when this single cell divides and redivides many times. For a time all that is produced is a small cluster of cells each of which is just like the other ones. Then a wonderful thing happens whose mechanism challenges the scientists who study it. The cells begin to specialize. Distinct differences appear among cells. Early in the process there still is no appearance of the human form as we know it. But gradually with increasing differentiation, the form of the yet unborn child takes a recognizable appearance.

This same kind of order exists among people who are led by the Lord from a love of serving others: “If [charity were the essential thing among all people] all would be governed by the Lord as though they were one person, for they would be like the members and organs of one body which, though dissimilar in form and function, still related to one heart on which every single thing, everywhere varied in form, depended. Everyone would then say of another, No matter what form his doctrine and external worship take, this is my brother; I observe that he worships the Lord and is a good man” (AC 2385:5).

The Writings of the New Church make a very strong point about differences that can exist among churches: “In the Christian world it is their doctrines that cause churches to be distinct and separate, and because of these they call themselves Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists or the Reformed and Evangelicals, among other names. It is solely by reason of their doctrines that they are called by these names. This situation would never exist if they were to make love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor the chief thing of faith. In this case their doctrinal differences would be no more than shades of opinion concerning the mysteries of faith which truly Christian people would leave to individual conscience, and in their hearts would say that a person is truly Christian when he lives as a Christian, that is, as the Lord teaches. If this were so, all the different churches would become one, and all the disagreements which stem from doctrine alone would disappear. Indeed the hatred one person holds against another would be dispelled in an instant, and the Lord’s kingdom on earth would come” (AC 1799:4).

In human communities like this congregation, variety working in harmony also produces a far better result than uniformity. Each of us is created to be different in so many ways. Fundamental aspects of our personality began to show themselves in our very early infancy. Experience and specific education further molded and shaped our perspectives. The Lord does not intend us to be the same as each other, and if we are too similar, there are many useful things that will not get done or will not be done as well as they could be.

Variety is wonderful, but there are differences that destroy rather than enrich. We know very well that not all perspectives or inclinations that come from the human heart and mind are beneficial. There is such a thing as evil. Sometimes evil can subtly and quietly make tiny alterations in things and sometimes it can be horribly destructive. “The Lord cannot possibly be present with someone whose end in view is his own good. That which is a person’s own excludes the Lord; for in so doing it diverts and directs toward itself the common good of society, that of the church, and indeed the Lord’s kingdom, even making these exist so to speak for its own sake. Thus it takes away from the Lord that which is His and substitutes itself. And when this is the prevailing attitude with a person, the same is the case in each one of his thoughts, and indeed in the smallest details of his thoughts” (AC 1316:1).

This prevailing attitude is sometimes called a person’s ruling love. It is the fundamental goal of a person’s life, and each of us is ever more clearly defining our fundamental goal with the decisions we make, the values we give life to, the thoughts that we foster within our minds. This fundamental goal in our life or our end in view at any particular point in our spiritual journey directs every least thing that we think, say or do. It is impossible for us to sense that this is the case, but it is nevertheless true. “Whatever his thoughts and deeds may be, varying in countless ways, they are all good provided the end in view is good. But if the end is bad everything is bad. The end in view controls every single thing a person thinks or does … A person’s end in view is his very life. Everything he thinks and does receives its life from the end, for … it is determined by the end. As is a person’s end in view, therefore, so is the life within him. His end is nothing else than his love, for nobody can have as his end in view anything other than that which he loves” (AC 1317).

The Lord has given us the Word to help us recognize good and bad things that we may think, say and do. He has given us the Word to help us recognize the ends that can be guiding our lives. If we learn from the Word and prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance in leading a more useful life, He will lead us without fail on our pathway to heaven, and He will lead us to work together in harmony with others. In contrast, learning from the Word without a desire to help others can increase our tendency to separate from and condemn other people. We are told: “[T]hose who possess doctrine yet lack charity … dispute everything and condemn anyone who does not speak (though they say it is to believe) as they do” (AC 1798:5).

A key measure of whether we are being led by the Lord is the degree to which we are led to empower others to do what they do best. Charity rejoices in increasing the capability of others to be of service while evil tends to restrict that capability in others.

“The sphere of someone [in the next life] who in every respect regards himself takes to itself or … absorbs everything which gratifies it, thus takes to itself all the delight of the [people] surrounding him. It also destroys all the freedom they have. … When, however, [the common good of all is regarded], one person never takes to himself the joy of another or destroys the freedom of another, but as far as he can he furthers and increases it” (AC 1316:2).

As we live our lives, we will see many differences between ourselves and other people. May we, as individuals and as a congregation, work to see the Lord’s presence in so much of the variety that exists in this world. May we try to do our part that He can lead us to work together in the harmony that will make this world more like His heavenly kingdom. Amen.

Lessons: Mark 9:38-41, Arcana Coelestia 1285:2,3

 


 

Arcana Coelestia 1285:2,3

As regards the first Ancient Church, in that although it was so widely spread over the earth it was still one in lip and one in worlds, that is, one in doctrine in general and in particular, when yet its worship both internal and external was everywhere different as shown in the preceding chapter, where by each nation there named a different doctrinal and ritual were signified the case is this. In heaven there are innumerable societies, and all different, and yet they are a one for they are all led as a one by the Lord, concerning which see what has been said before (n. 457, 551, 684, 685, 690). In this respect the case is the same as it is with man, in whom, although there are so many viscera, and so many little viscera within the viscera, organs, and members, each one of which acts in a different way, yet all and each are governed as a one, by the one soul; or as it is with the body, wherein the activities of the powers and motions are different, yet all are governed by one motion of the heart and one motion of the lungs, and make a one. That these can thus act as a one comes from the fact that in heaven there is one single influx, which is received by every individual in accordance with his own genius, and which influx is an influx of affections from the Lord, from His mercy, and from His life; and notwithstanding that there is only one single influx, yet all things obey and follow as a one. This is the result of the mutual love in which are they who are in heaven.

The case was the same in the first Ancient Church, for although there were as many kinds of worship some being internal and some external as in general there were nations, and as many specifically as there were families in the nations, and as many in particular as there were men of the church, yet they all had one lip and were one in words; that is, they all had one doctrine, both in general and in particular. The doctrine is one when all are in mutual love, or in charity. Mutual love and charity cause them all to be a one although they are diverse, for they make a one out of the varieties. All men how many soever they may be, even myriads of myriads, if they are in charity or mutual love, have one end, namely, the common good, the Lord’s kingdom, and the Lord Himself. Varieties in matters of doctrine and of worship are like the varieties of the senses and of the viscera in man, as has been said, which contribute to the perfection of the whole. For then, through charity, the Lord inflows and works in diverse ways in accordance with the genius of each one; and thus, both in general and in particular, disposes all into order, on earth as in heaven. And then the will of the Lord is done, as He Himself teaches, as in the heavens so also upon the earth.

JUST CARING ISN’T ENOUGH

JUST CARING ISN’T ENOUGH

A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. CarswellPreached in Glenview, Illinois on February 25, 1996

 

“Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: ‘O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom,- if only I had died in your place! 0 Absalom my son, my son!”‘ (2 Samuel 18:33)

Consider the words of David’s lament. What is his perspective? What does he care about? All that was in his thoughts was the death of his son Absalom. David felt deep sadness at his death. Perhaps he felt this sadness in part because he realized that he was somewhat responsible for the course of events that had happened. Firstly, the events that had unfolded were the fulfillment of prophesied consequences for David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband Uriah. The prophet Nathan had spoken for the Lord with these words:

 

Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun” (2 Samuel 12:9-12).

Secondly, David could also have felt responsible for Absalom’s rebellion against him because David had apparently not done anything when another of his sons, Amnon, raped his stepsister Tamar, who happened to be Absalom’s full sister. Two years after this event, Absalom had treacherously killed Amnon and then fled to a neighboring country where he remained in semi-exile for three years. Even when he was first allowed to return to Israel, he was not permitted to appear before David’s face.

But probably the most important cause of David’s sadness was that he had a strong tendency to blindly love his own children. The King David of this story is not the wonderful and trusting youth who faced Goliath with a sling and few stones. He isn’t the heroic soldier or the man who could express a strong allegiance to following the Lord’s commandments. He is a very flawed figure.

His heart was tied to a dangerous love. He loved his son Absalom blindly. Absalom had carried out a carefully planned campaign to ingratiate himself in the people’s hearts and then steal the throne from his father. He had no misgivings about having David killed. Absalom powerfully symbolized his complete rejection of his father by publicly taking David’s concubines as his own women.

But we could ask, “Didn’t David care about something good in his love for Absalom?” We can imagine a father in a similar situation asking, “Am I supposed to hate my son and want to see his destruction?” A person today might reference the Lord’s words in asserting, “Am I not I supposed to love even my enemies?”

The problem in this situation is not that David cared about Absalom. The problem was that he didn’t care enough about everyone else. He didn’t care for the health and well-being of his whole country. The book of 2 Samuel states that, rather than being able to rejoice at the victory over this attempted coup, “the people stole back into the city that day as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle” (19:3).

The commander of David’s army, Joab, took him to task for his actions. He said to David: “Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well. Now therefore arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now” (2 Samuel 19:5- 7).

What does this story mean for us today? David’s response to these events shows a dangerous tendency in human behavior that we are prone to ourselves. Some people go through life giving comparatively little thought to what they do or don’t do. If some question arises about their behavior they do a simple check by asking themselves, “Am I caring about something good?” If they can see some good behind their present direction, they give it no more thought. The trouble is that there are countless things that we can care about that have some good quality to them. And if we pursue some of them without recognition of the higher or more lasting goals or good things that we are consequently ignoring, the result is very destructive.

The fundamental issue is who is to define what is good. By our natural spiritual heredity we are inclined to define as good those things that serve our own short-term perspective. The good that this state of mind is focused on is called in the Writings of the New Church “natural good.” The following are some definitions of natural good given in the Writings:

 

The natural good born with human beings is itself a mere animal for, for it exists also with animals; but the natural good which is acquired, or which is given to man by the Lord, contains in it what is spiritual, so that it is spiritual good in the natural. This good is real natural human good, while that which is born with men, although it appears as good, may still not be good, and may even be evil, for it may receive falsities and believe that to be good which is evil. Such natural good exists among nations of the worst life and faith (AC 3408).

Until it has been reformed, the natural good of truth is not spiritual good, that is, the good of faith and the good of charity … Natural good is from parents, but spiritual good is from the Lord; and therefore in order that a person may receive spiritual good, he must be regenerated (AC 3470:2).

A clear distinction must be made between spiritual good and natural good. As before said, spiritual good has its quality from the truths of faith, their abundance, and their connection; but natural good is born with a person, and also arises by accident, as by misfortunes, diseases, and the like. Natural good saves no one, but spiritual good saves all. The reason is that the good which is formed through the truths of faith is a plane into which heaven can flow, that is, the Lord through heaven, and lead the individual and withhold him from evil, and afterward uplift him into heaven; but not so natural good, and therefore they who are in natural good can be as easily carried away by falsity as by truth, provided the falsity appears in the form of truth; and they can be as easily led by evil as by good, provided the evil is presented as good. They are like feathers in the wind (AC 7761).

Natural good is a dangerous guide to life. If we just ask ourselves, “Am I caring about something good?’ we will be able to justify all sorts of destructive behavior. A gossip could be questioned about his relating personal stories about another individual and might think to himself, “I thought my listener needed to know this information,” or “That individual’s behavior was incorrect. I was merely reinforcing the standards of morality in our community.”

A powerful example of natural good is that of a man who is openly faithless in his own marriage, but is outraged if his sister’s husband does the same. He really isn’t concerned for the sanctity of marriage. His anger arises because he feels the damage to his sister as damage to himself. It is really his own good that he is concerned about.

Even in his relationship with his own wife and his desire to make love to her can arise from natural good. Consider the following passage: “To be conjoined with one’s wife from lust alone, this is natural not spiritual; but to be conjoined with one’s wife from conjugial love [or a true love of marriage], this is spiritual natural; and when the husband is afterward conjoined from lust alone, he believes that he transgresses, as one who does what is lascivious, and therefore he no longer desires that this should be appropriated to him” (AC 4992).

Sometimes people can get the impression that a dedication to what is good in the Lord’s eyes means being concerned about issues that seem big in their eyes. But this too can be natural good. For example, a mother can be so caught up in community causes that her children don’t receive the guidance and love that only she can give. A father can be so concerned for his children’s long-term financial security and well-being that he likewise fails to give his children the guidance and love that only he can give. In both cases the parents are concerned about something good. But the good that they are focusing on is missing a key role that they have in their children’s lives.

If a person goes about living his life with little more reflection than periodically checking to see if there is something good that he is looking toward, he can be dangerous to himself and others. He is like a plane incorrectly set on auto- pilot. Many of you are probably aware of the recent crash of an airplane against a mountain in South America. One account says that the pilots were unaware that they had already passed a directional beacon when they entered its coordinates into their autopilot. The course that resulted led to the crash. Significantly, there was a warning given prior to the impact, but even then the pilots didn’t take severe corrective action, but instead entered a change into the autopilot presumably so that the passengers would scarcely notice the problem. Unfortunately, there were only nine seconds between the warning and the crash, and a gradual change was much too slight to prevent it.

The Lord has given us the Word to guide us in knowing what is genuinely good and true. He has warned us that the ideas of what these things are that we first gain will be flawed. They will be like faulty settings on an airplane’s autopilot. If we are heading for a tragedy, the Lord will try to prompt us that danger is near, but we must be willing to respond to these warnings with powerful action.

King David’s lament over the death of his son Absalom reflected a concern for something that could have been called good. However, its focus was on David’s own perspective and loss. It didn’t consider the health of others and the welfare of his kingdom. Although good in itself, as a focus it was destructive of more important things. May we ever seek to grow in wisdom and love for the Lord’s definition of what is true and good. May we pray that He guide us to follow their direction in all that we think, do and say. Amen.

Lessons: 2 Samuel 18:32-33, 19:1-8; Luke 6:32-39; AC 8002:1,2,5,7

 


Arcana Coelestia 8002:1,2,5,7

“A lodger and a hired servant shall not eat of it.” That this signifies that they who do what is good from mere natural disposition, and those who do it for the sake of their own advantage, are not to be with them is evident from the signification of “a lodger” as being those who do what is good from mere natural disposition; from the signification of “a hireling” as being those who do what is good for the sake of their own advantage; and from the signification of “not to eat of it” as being not to be with them. That a “lodger” denotes what is good from mere natural disposition is because lodgers were those who came from other peoples and were inhabitants, and dwelt with the Israelites and the Jews in one house; and “to dwell together” signifies to be together in good. But because, as before said, they were from peoples out of the church, the good which is signified is not the good of the church, but is a good not of the church. This good is called “natural good,” because it is hereditary from birth. Moreover, some have such good in consequence of ill health and feebleness. This good is meant by the good which they do who are signified by “lodgers.”

This good is utterly different from the good of the church, for by means of the good of the church conscience is formed in man, which is the plane into which the angels flow, and through which there is fellowship with them; whereas by natural good no plane for the angels can be formed. They who are in this good do good in the dark from blind instinct, not in the light of truth by virtue of influx from heaven; and therefore in the other life they are carried away, like chaff by the wind, by everyone, as much by an evil man as by a good one, and more by an evil one who knows how to join to reasonings something of affection and persuasion; nor can they then be withdrawn by the angels, for the angels operate through the truths and goods of faith, and flow into the plane which has been formed within the man from the truths and goods of faith. From all this it is evident that those who do what is good from mere natural disposition cannot be consociated with the angels ….

They who do what is good merely for the sake of their own advantage in the world cannot possibly he consociated with angels, because the end regarded by them is the world, that is, wealth and eminence, and not heaven, that is, the blessedness and happiness of souls. The end is what determines the actions and gives them their quality. Concerning those who do what is good merely for the sake of their own advantage, the Lord thus speaks: “I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But he who is a hireling and not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10: 1 1- 13). “Egypt is like a very pretty heifer, but destruction comes; it comes from the north. Also her mercenaries are in her midst like fat bulls, for they also are turned back; they have fled away together. They did not stand, for the day of their calamity had come upon them” (Jer. 46:20, 21) ….

But they who do what is good for the sake of reward in the other life, who also are signified by “hirelings,” differ from those just now spoken of, in that they have as the end life and happiness in heaven. But as this end determines and converts their Divine worship from the Lord to themselves, and they consequently desire good to themselves alone, and to others only so far as these desire good to them, and accordingly the love of self is in every detail and not the love of the neighbor; therefore they have no genuine charity. Neither can these be consociated with the angels, for the angels are utterly averse to both the name and the idea of reward or recompense. That benefits must be imparted without the end of reward, the Lord teaches in Luke: “Love your enemies, and impart benefits, and lend, hoping for nothing again; then shall your reward be great, and you shall be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:32-35; 14:12-14).

BEING HEALED BY THE LORD

BEING HEALED BY THE LORDA Sermon by Rev. Eric H. CarswellPreached in Glenview, Illinois January 28, 1996

“Then Jesus went about all the Cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).

Any of us who has had a cold or the flu recently knows that being sick is a very unpleasant experience. When we’re sick, our physical body usually feels somewhat foreign to us, and regularly sends messages of discomfort to our mind. Accompanying the physical symptoms there can be the frustration and discouragement of not being able to do as much and as efficiently as we would like to do. Many people find themselves in the midst of a period of sickness wondering if they will ever get well.

The Writings of the New Church tell us that all diseases correspond to or have a counterpart in a spiritual problem. As I read in the lesson from the Arcana Coelestia: “… spiritual sicknesses … are evils destructive of the life of a will desiring what is good, and falsities destructive of the love of an understanding to see what is true; in short, things destructive of spiritual life composed of faith and charity” (AC 8364:3).

Many of Jesus’s miracles were miracles of healing. His work in the world represents a kind of healing that He wishes to bring to our lives. The question is, What do we have to do to receive this healing?

The first step is that we must recognize that a part of our life is in need of healing. With a physical disease, this often isn’t very hard for us to recognize. When we have a sense of what it is like to be healthy and then recognize in a short period of time that we have begun to feel poorly, we suspect we are sick. It is much trickier when a sickness or a physical problem comes on very slowly and without obvious changes over a long period of time. For example, it is common for a person who needs glasses to be relatively unaware that he no longer sees as well as he should. There is an assumption that probably everyone sees just as he does. He doesn’t even reflect on how fuzzy things are at a distance. Sometimes a person can recognize that he needs to have his vision corrected by noticing that the people around him see things that he doesn’t see.

The spiritual ills that interfere with our lives are particularly hard for us to recognize because some of the core ones in our life have always been there. It’s as if we have only the vaguest idea of what it means to be healthy. We’ve always been somewhat spiritually sick in that particular area of life.

For example, a woman can have a pattern of reacting very defensively whenever the slightest indication is given that she has done something wrong in an important area of her life. Her defensiveness makes her lash out at the source of what she perceives to be criticism. It can make her berate herself and can foster feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It makes a mess of many interactions with friends, at work, with her husband and children. But she doesn’t even realize that there is any other way to react to indications that something might be wrong. If this woman is seeking to be led by the Lord and trying to be a good and useful person, He can gradually lead her to see that this pattern of reaction is hurting herself and others. It is keeping her from realistically seeing herself and recognizing what she can do to be more useful.

Another example of a spiritual sickness would be that of a man who rarely reflects on the broad patterns in his life. Each day’s events are seen by him as unique and explainable in terms of external circumstances. Since he isn’t aware of his own role in reacting to what has happened, he is unaware that if he asked for the Lord’s help in changing his reactions, many events would go very differently from their all-too-typical course. The man is hurting himself and others but doesn’t see it.

Sometimes we can feel discouraged by the too frequent reminders of our fallible nature that occur in the Lord’s Word. It can seem that every time we turn to it, it says, “You are really sick.” This in itself can lead a person to shrug his shoulders and say, “Why even try to get better? There is too much wrong.” The first step in being healed by the Lord is that a person recognize that there is a problem that needs to be attended to. This is spoken of in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:4,6). To the extent that a person just shrugs off problems with the reaction “Well, that is just the way things are,” there is likely to be little sense of personal responsibility or personal capability of bringing about a change, and consequently the present state of affairs may continue unchanged indefinitely or even get worse.

A wonderful passage in the Arcana Coelestia strongly reassures us that we aren’t complete and total messes. It starts out, “In some states a person can be called fairly perfect” (AC 894). And then it goes on to say, “but in countless others he cannot.” The Lord doesn’t expect us to be perfect throughout our lives, but He does want us to recognize that some of our faults and flaws are seriously dangerous to ourselves and others. They are spiritual diseases that will interfere with important uses that we would like to accomplish. They need to be healed.

Usually when we get physically sick, we don’t feel guilty because some germ or virus has gained a foothold in our body. Similarly, the Lord encourages us to recognize that all the evil that influences our lives comes from hell. The debilitating guilt that a person feels for faults and flaws likewise has its source in the evil spirits of hell. They love to induce evil loves and false ideas into our consciousness and then condemn us for their presence. They are the enemies spoken of in Psalm 41 who accuse and condemn with these words: “All who hate me whisper together against me; against me they devise my hurt. ‘An evil disease,’ they say, ‘clings to him. And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more” (7,8).

In many of the Lord’s miracles of healing, the people came to Him for help. They came to be touched by Him and so healed. In many of these miracles the sick person’s faith was an important part of the healing. We too need to seek the Lord if we are to be healed. We can recognize that we need His help in some area of life and pray to Him for what we need.

We may sometimes wish that we could be healed of our spiritual ills as instantaneously as the miracles in the New Testament. We rarely are. Sometimes a person feels that he has been working on the same spiritual problem all of his life, and in some states of mind it appears that he has made little or no progress. The reason that we don’t experience instantaneous change when we ask for it is that the consequences of such change would actually not be good. A person who gets a pair of glasses for the first time certainly can see better instantly, but for some period of time these glasses will seem foreign to him. He won’t really feel like himself. The same would be true if the Lord instantly changed us. Another problem with instantaneous change is that we don’t know what the consequences of changing one area of our life will have on so many others. Our spiritual state is a complex interconnection of so many features that even small changes in one area can have surprising results.

Another feature of being spiritually healed is that sometimes progress can look more as if we are going backward. A natural example of this is renovation of a kitchen. A lot of demolition, dust, and mess are the first steps before a new and much more useful kitchen can begin to take shape. A somewhat similar event occurs in our spiritual development. Consider the following passage from Arcana Coelestia: “Before anything is restored to order it is very common for everything to be reduced first of all to a state of confusion resembling chaos so that things that are not compatible may be separated from one another. And once these have been separated the Lord arranges them into order” (842:3).

Not only did the Lord heal people when He was in the world but He also gave power to His disciples to go out and heal. From this power they were able to perform miracles of healing themselves. We too can be like the Lord’s disciples as we work to support what is genuinely true and good in the people around us. Our words and deeds can help the Lord bring healing to others. We can help others to see themselves more clearly and the effects that their words and deeds have on others. Without condemning them we can help them recognize that there are spiritual diseases harming a part of their usefulness. We can help them recognize that change is possible. We can help them turn to the Lord for this help. We can even help them by helping them understand what is true and good even when they don’t recognize that the Lord is the source of this order. The book of Revelation speaks of the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations. These leaves represent the sensible ideas that we can share with others and help them to live wiser and more useful lives.

The Lord would heal us of the spiritual diseases that are hurting us and those around us. He will certainly come to us when we call. May we trust in His loving care. May we open our eyes to see the qualities in our life that need His healing touch. May we seek this healing touch each day. Amen.

 


 

Lessons: Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1-4; Psalm 41; AC 8364

Arcana Coelestia 8364

All the disease that I have put on the Egyptians, I will not put upon thee. That this signifies that they are to be withheld from the evils that pertain to those who are in faith separate and in a life of evil is evident from the signification of “disease” as being evil (of which below); from the representation of the Egyptians as being those who are in faith separate and in a life of evil (see n. 7097, 7317, 7926, 8148); and from the signification of “not to put upon thee” when said of disease, by which evil is signified, as being that they are to be withheld from evil; for Jehovah, that is, the Lord, does not take away evil but withholds man from it, and keeps him in good (n. 929, 1581, 2256, 2406, 4564, 8206). From this it is that by “not to put disease upon them” is signified that they are to be withheld from evils.

That “disease” denotes evil is because in the internal sense are signified such things as affect the spiritual life. The diseases which affect this life are evils, and are called cupidities and concupiscences. Faith and charity make the spiritual life. This life sickens when falsity takes the place of the truth which is of faith, and evil takes the place of the good which is of charity; for these bring this life unto death, which is called spiritual death, and is damnation, as diseases bring the natural life unto its death. Hence it is that by “disease” is signified in the internal sense evil; and by “the diseases of the Egyptians,” the evils into which those cast themselves who had been in faith separate and in a life of evil, whereby they had infested the upright, which evils have been treated of in what precedes, where the plagues in Egypt were treated of.

Evils are also meant by “diseases” in other passages in the Word, as in Moses: “If thou wilt keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments which I command thee this day, Jehovah will remove from thee all sickness, and will not put upon thee all the evil weaknesses of Egypt which thou hast known, but will give them upon thy haters” (Deut. 7: 11,15).

“If thou wilt not obey the voice of Jehovah thy God, by keeping to do all His commandments and His statutes, Jehovah will send on thee the curse, the disquiet, and the rebuke, in every putting forth of thy hand which thou doest, until thou be destroyed, because of the wickedness of thy works, whereby thou hast forsaken Me. Jehovah shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He has consumed thee from upon the land; Jehovah shall smite thee with consumption, and with a hot fever, and with a burning fever, and with a raging fever, and with drought, and with blasting, and with jaundice, which shall pursue thee until thou perish: Jehovah shall smite thee with the ulcer of Egypt, and with the hemorrhoids, and with the scab, and with the itch, that thou canst not be healed. Jehovah shall smite thee with fury, and with blindness, and with amazement of heart. Thou shalt become mad from the look of thine eyes. Jehovah shall smite thee with a sore ulcer, upon the knees, and upon the thighs, whereof thou canst not be healed, from the sole of the foot unto the crown of thy head. He will throw back on thee all the weakness of Egypt, also every disease, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law. Jehovah shall give thee a trembling heart, consumption of eyes, and grief of soul” (Deut. 28:15, 20-22, 27, 28, 34, 35, 60, 61, 65). By all the diseases here named are signified spiritual diseases, which are evils destroying the life of the will of good, and falsities destroying the life of the understanding of truth; in a word, destroying the spiritual life which is of faith and charity. Moreover natural diseases correspond to such things, for every disease in the human race is from this source, because from sin (n. 5712, 5726). Moreover, every disease corresponds to its own evil; the reason is that everything of man’s life is from the spiritual world; and therefore if his spiritual life sickens, evil is derived therefrom into the natural life also, and becomes a disease there. (See what has been said from experience about the correspondence of diseases with evils, n. 5711-5727.) …

As diseases represented the hurtful and evil things of the spiritual life, therefore by the diseases which the Lord healed is signified liberation from various kinds of evil and falsity which infested the church and the human race, and which would have led to spiritual death. For Divine miracles are distinguished from other miracles by the fact that they involve and have regard to states of the church and of the heavenly kingdom. Therefore the Lord’s miracles consisted chiefly in the healing of diseases. This is meant by the Lord’s words to the disciples sent by John: “Tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise again, and the poor hear the gospel” (Matt. 11:4,5). Hence it is that it is so often said that the Lord “healed all disease and weakness” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 14:14,35,36; Luke 4:40; 5:15; 6:17; 7:21; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10).