June 18, 2006
I find it interesting how religion affects the way people live. Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise, but hear me out.
Religions that propagate an eternal life in heaven or paradise usually assure followers that their rewards will be gained in abundance in the future. That all existence on earth points towards a single end after life also speaks a message that life on earth is temporal and passing. Further, that the weight of activity on earth holds little worth, as it is not the 'here and now' that take primary importance, but the 'there and later'.
This is also the reason that most activity generated by such religions centres around evangelism, or teaching of doctrinal beliefs. Since the focus is on heaven/paradise/eternal bliss, it makes sense for preaching to take place. This ensures security for the future, which is the most essential, as opposed to the present. Spread the faith is the number one call.
While this is right, based on the premises of the various faiths, this does not mean that the 'here and now' should be disregarded. For example, the focus of other religions is purely on doing good to alleviate suffering. Because there is little emphasis on a heavenly afterlife, all energies are spent on social work on earth. To live life to the maximum in the here and now, because this is all that exists and matters.
So, taking my argument to the extreme, you have the Christians/Muslims/Jews whose primary objective is to spread their respective gospel truths. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Buddhists/Hindus whose primary objective is to do good on earth and help mankind. Both these objectives make sense from each religion's doctrine.
Now I come to my real argument, as a Christian, to fellow Christians. Despite the fact that we look towards heaven as an end to life's journey, this does not mean social work is negligible. In many books of the Bible, God calls for social justice. Basic verses speak volumes of helping the needy, standing up for the righteous, ensuring that justice is given out in the courts. The book of Amos even calls for the corrupt to be ridden of in the court.
My message is simply that, although Christians believe that the earth is temporal, it is still our responsibility to ensure suffering is eased. What is the difference then? The difference is this: Suffering exists, but God is the balm. Everything that we do should point towards God ultimately. Social justice needs to be called for at all levels because the ultimate judge is Him. Helping the poor and mistreated, the marginalised in society and the prisoners, those who are ostracised and weak – because all are created equal under His eyes.
While we look to the future and cast our eyes on what is unseen at this point in time, we are in the 'here and now', and are responsible for our fellow beings. Let us take heed.
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