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Sowing the Wind

How do cyclones and giant hurricanes develop in the tropical belt of the earth? Well, not out of nothing. They begin as a tiny vortex in the atmosphere above a warm ocean. The vortex takes in energy from the ocean and grows vertically and horizontally. In its fully mature stage, dense clouds of the hurricane may grow as high as 12 kilometres and its spiral bands may stretch across thousands of kilometres from its eye.

The initial vortex is so small that it may even go unnoticed on a weather chart that shows areas of high and low pressure. Meteorologists use numerical models to predict the development of a tropical cyclone. What they do is to introduce an artificial or “bogus” vortex into an otherwise benign looking atmospheric flow. Then they run the model for several days into the future and watch how the small disturbance grows into a violent storm. They can then predict what path the system will follow and how much strength it will gather.  Their predictions usually come correct and they can warn people in advance and save life and property.

The Bible uses the term “sowing the wind”. (Hosea 8:7) “If you sow the wind”, it cautions, “you will reap the whirlwind!” A violent storm indeed grows out of a small wind, but the reference to wind here is figurative. God’s law of sowing and reaping has a wider area of application far beyond the atmosphere. Just like a small wind will produce a great storm, one grain of wheat that is sown into the soil, is likely to yield an abundant harvest of wheat. Out of wheat we will get wheat, not some other crop.

“Sowing the wind” could be a phrase that is representative of empty, futile work. The result of such a hollow effort could never be expected to be anything concrete or tangible.

“Whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap,” is God’s law for all. “One who sows to his flesh, his sinful capacity, his worldliness, his disgraceful impulses, will reap from the flesh ruin and destruction, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-10)

In fact, in Koine Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written, there is only one word “pneuma” that means the wind as well as the spirit. The two are similar.

 

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Showing Mercy

Unlike love, mercy is not an emotion. One can love another person without ever expressing it openly. But mercy needs to be shown, it involves action. Unlike love which may not always be available from others, mercy can be asked for. Even a convict against whom the final judgement has been pronounced, can make an appeal for mercy to a higher authority.

“God, be merciful to me this sinner!” is the shortest but complete prayer that anyone can possibly pray. (Luke 18:13) It is echoed throughout the Book of Psalms. It is the petition with which many people approached Jesus and he heard them and cured them of their afflictions.

The concept of mercy was explained by Jesus through his parable of the unmerciful or ruthless servant. (Matthew 18:23-35) Briefly, the parable runs somewhat like this: “There was a king whose servant owed him a huge sum of money and he wanted the money back. The servant was not in a position to return it and he asked the king for time. The king was merciful and he wrote off his massive debt. However, this servant later met one of his fellow servants who happened to owe him a small debt. He grabbed his debtor by the throat, would not listen to his plea, and put him in jail. When the king learnt about this, he was greatly annoyed. He called him and said, ‘You wicked man! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ The angry king ordered that he may be made to repay his debt using coercive means.”

The lesson from this parable is that it is God’s requirement that we show mercy to others, else we will not be shown mercy by God. However, there is another positive law of reciprocity that is also in operation in God’s kingdom. As Jesus has said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

 

 

Newness of Life

As time passes, we get older. Not only us. Our homes, our clothes, our possessions, all look older. They lose the freshness they once had. Books have to be dusted, walls painted, curtains washed. Things lose their shine with time. Brassware, silver, even the gold medals and awards we may have won, need to be polished. Gadgets wear out as they get old and require maintenance. The fragrance of flowers, the juiciness of fruits, the aroma of freshly baked bread, last but for a while.

Everything becomes stale with time and needs rest and recovery. That is why God had commanded his people to abstain from work on the seventh day and to keep that day holy. (Exodus 20:8) Not only that, every seven years, farmland was to be given rest, and no crop could be sown in that year. (Leviticus 25:4)

In today’s world, we have no time to wait or relax . Night and day make little difference to life. But in our continuous effort to remain productive, efficient, informed and presentable, we start becoming stale somewhere on the way. Aging sets in slowly but surely. We try to put up a bold appearance, and we may even succeed, but inwardly we begin to wear out.

That is where St Paul’s argument about the newness of life becomes very appealing even in this modern age. (Romans 6:4, 7:6) He says that the old law of sin and punishment is no longer applicable to those who have come to know Christ. They do not have to be bound by the oldness of the written law, but they must learn to walk in the newness of life which is in the spirit.

Organ Donation

In recent years, 13 August is being observed as World Organ Donation Day in order to create public awareness about organ donation, which means surgically transferring a healthy person’s organs or tissues to a sick person. Some organs like the kidneys, liver and bone marrow can be transplanted while the donor is alive. In the case of other organs like the heart or eyes, a person may agree to their transplant after his death.

Because of the progress of medical science and technology, the success rate of organ transplants has been increasing rapidly and many patients who had no hope of survival are now able to live longer because of organs donated by other people.

Interestingly, the Bible offers advice about organ donation of a different kind: “Never offer any part of your body to sin’s power. No part of your body should ever be used to do any ungodly thing. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have come back from death and are now alive. Offer all the parts of your body to God. Use them to do everything that God approves of.” (Romans 6:13 God’s Word Translation)

A hymn written in 1874 by Francis Havergal and still popularly sung, says it beautifully:

Take my hands and let them move,
at the impulse of thy love,

Take my feet and let them be,
swift and beautiful for thee,

Take my voice and let me sing,
always, only for my king,

Take my lips and let them be,
filled with messages from thee.

Take my heart, it is thine own,
it shall be thy royal throne.

Organ donation is indeed a noble thing to do but it is also important that while we are still alive, we offer our bodies and talents to God in a manner that will bring glory to his name.

Being Clean

These days we see a great emphasis on our being clean and also keeping our environment clean. We are being told to cultivate clean habits, to wash hands before meals, to avoid eating food on the roadside, not to spit, not to litter, to dispose of garbage properly. New products keep coming up in the market with a promise that they would give us a cleaner skin, breath and hands, or cleaner water, clothes and homes. Even our computers and phones need to be cleaned up regularly and the junk files removed.

Of course, that cleanliness is next to godliness has been known since ages. God likes people and things to be clean, and the Old Testament is full of instructions about what is to be regarded as unclean and how cleansing is to be done.

Jesus, however, placed the purity within us on a higher pedestal. The Bible reports an incident in which Jesus who had just finished speaking, was invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. (Luke 11:37-52) Jesus went in and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised to see that Jesus did not observe their practice of washing hands and even crockery before eating. Jesus sensed his discomfort and said that it was pointless to clean the outside of the cup and dish, while the inside remained dirty. He explained that it did not make sense to follow rituals that cleansed us outwardly while we continued to be greedy and unjust within.

There was a similar incident that involved Jesus’ disciples. (Mark 7:1-20) Here Jesus made it clear that food cannot defile a person as it does not go into the heart but into the stomach and then goes out of the body. He clarified that “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Surely it is hygienic to have clean hands and clean bodies, and it is our responsibility to keep our environment as clean as we can, but God also expects us to have clean hearts and minds. External cleansing is not sufficient to wash away internal uncleanliness.