SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Law strengthened by Kindness
We were a long way from home - in a charming little café. After ordering our coffees I picked up a magazine and began flicking through its pages. Suddenly I stopped. Yes, there it was; a photo of a young woman with the most amazing smile - the subject of an article documenting a remarkable personal achievement that highlighted her motivation and subsequent actions in helping young girls become more confident in themselves.
My interest, apart from admiration for the beautiful soul that Hayley is, and for all that she's achieving, is that as a minister and registered marriage celebrant, I'd presided at her wedding around 10 years ago. A lovely family photo attached to the article showed Hayley with her husband and two boys. Together and in harmony, they work to progress Hayley's dream for a better society - making a real success of their relationship and impacting the world so positively.
I felt a sense of great satisfaction in this postscript to what had been a very special celebration of love and commitment on the day of their wedding.
However, not all relationships turn out well. Even with pre-marriage counselling, it's sometimes difficult for a marriage celebrant or counselor to identify potentially destructive behaviours beforehand. It's not a very reliable indication of who will endure, and who won't, for they all look remarkably similar in those early days. But when researchers probe more deeply, they find that during the first decade of marriage, there's a very subtle but telling difference. Of the couples who stay together, 5% of the comments they make to, and about each other, put their partner down.
But among couples who later split-up, 10% will have exchanged frequent insults. And that gap magnifies over time, until couples heading downhill towards separation and divorce fling five times as many cruel criticisms at each other as happy couples.
It's very clear from the research that when couples constantly criticise each other, slowly but surely it destroys the positive aspects of their relationship. A breakdown of love and trust follows as negativity takes hold. And, unless arrested, the destruction of the relationship becomes merely a matter of time.
Some view God as judgmental and critical. This is a very Old Testament view, which sidesteps the evolution of thought that culminated in the coming of Jesus into the world. Jesus' whole life was characterised by love, healing, patience and grace.
This love and commitment of Jesus to the people of his day, and by extension, to every single person from that day to this, is clearly evident through the writings of the New Testament. Clearly, in Jesus, God shows that he's much more interested in loving, than criticizing us.
When the evangelist, Billy Graham, was stopped by police and charged with speeding, Graham admitted his guilt and had to attend the local court.
The judge asked: "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge fined him ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile he exceeded the speed limit.
Suddenly the judge recognized him. "You have broken the law" he said, and the fine must be paid. But I'm going to pay it for you." He attached a ten dollar note to the paperwork - and then took Graham out to dinner!
Later, Billy Graham said that God treats us just like that when we turn to him and embrace his will for our lives.