I am a Christian and I Choose Not to Judge

I am a Christian and I do not believe it is right to judge others. Throughout most of human history, the world has been a battlefield. Religion plays a big part in motivating people to take arms against another, killing each other in the “name of God”. These wars led to countless deaths and human suffering- children orphaned, women widowed, and homes and countries destroyed. After all the anguish religion has caused, I wonder if this is really what God wanted. In my walk with God, I have come to believe otherwise.


The Christ I Know

I was born into a devout Christian family. Since a very young age, I was raised to be God-fearing. I was an obedient child. I would go with my parents to Church every Sunday. I involved myself in the children’s choir of our church; and we would sing hymns in front of the congregation as worship to God. I joined church camps and tried to live a holy life as I was told. I was baptized when I was 15, and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Then I became an adolescent. I was a victim of peer pressure. I began to doubt God. At this point in my life, I began to see what the world has to offer and I was seduced. I began to give in to a hedonistic lifestyle: I began drinking and smoking. I did drugs. I did not go to church anymore. I started living a life of sin and began fornicating with the pleasures of the world. Of course my conservative Christian family was aghast. But I did not care. I enjoyed myself. Pleasures of the flesh are indeed very pleasurable.

After about 5 years of living this life of pleasure-seeking, I was hit by tragedy. I was betrayed by people whom I trusted. I did not know what to do, or who I should run to. My pride “forbade” me to pray. So instead of looking up, I started to act out my hate. Looking back, this was the worst decision I have made. I pushed myself to despair. I was living in a downward spiral. Everything was disgusting. I thought to myself: Love is a lie; I can only trust myself, F*** you. I learned that pleasures did not bring me Joy.

regretI was surrounded by people but I was alone.

One day, I thought of ending it all. I was alone in my room. I was crying because of the deep, lancinating pain of my heart. I call it God’s grace when at that moment, I started to pray. All I said was: “God are you there?”. I do not know why, so I will call it grace as well, but I looked for my Bible and opened it. You see, before all this, I was a hardcore church goer, so my Bible is filled with highlighted verses, complete with notes about scripture. When I opened my Bible, I was drawn to one verse in particular:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

It felt like heaven opened up and poured mercy and love over me. I broke into tears and started praying out of remorse. I thought to myself: “What have I done?” I started to pour my anger and grief out to God in prayer. That day changed my life. I started praying again. I did not go to church, I just prayed. I was a prayerful non-church goer for a year.

I was steadily allowing myself to be fixed. Then after a little over a year, I went back to church. I was a changed man. This time of my life made me understand the Love of God and the Peace of Christ. This experience made me understand that worship is not in singing the hymns or going to church.

God looks at the heart.

Worship is having a contrite heart before the Lord. It is knowing God, His love, His mercy and His forgiveness; and living a life of gratitude for all that He has done. It is an outpouring of love and thanksgiving from my heart and soul to the Lord who is always good.


Exclusive Christianity

Christianity is indeed exclusive. We believe there is a heaven and a hell; there will come a day that people will be judged by God. Some people think this is a doctrine that discriminates and condemns non-Christians. But I think about it this way: Christians believe in God as the one true God, and that the Bible is His inerrant word. This belief is a statement of faith. What the Bible says is God-breathed, it is the very Word of God. And God is the ultimate truth. And Jesus said in the Bible: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“(John 14:6)

mahatma-gandhi-quotes-5Now for Christians, those who are not in Christ are not yet in the truth. As I said, it is very exclusive. However this doesn’t mean that those who are not in Christ are incapable of doing good. Just read the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We become each other’s neighbor for as long as we show compassion.

For Christians, we have been tasked by Christ to spread His truth and His love all over the world. There will be people who will not receive Christ and there will be those who will. Exclusivity is GOD valuing free will. God, respecting the will of His created, gave man the freedom to choose to follow Him or not.

ForgivenChristianity as a faith is exclusive, and I also believe that our compassion and love for mankind should be all-inclusive and not borne out of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. In Christianity, I remind myself that we are all sinners before the Lord; that there is no one righteous (see Roman’s Road). I believe in the Jesus who healed the gentile sick, and reached out to the nobodies, the lepers, the outcasts, the prostitutes, and thieves. I believe in the Christ who said:

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

As a Christian, I believe in a final judgment. But I am not the Judge, God is. I will not act as if I am. Instead, I choose to follow Christ’s example.


The Nonviolent Christ and A Love that Endures

God's LoveJesus is the image of reconciliation, non-violence, forgiveness and peace. He preached love and peace wherever he went. He taught us the love of God. He came in love to give love and He came in peace to give peace. I have come to view the cross, the symbol of reconciliation, this way: The vertical line symbolizes the reconciliation of man and God, and the horizontal line is God’s intention that we reconcile with each other. This reminds me of Jesus’ commandment: to love God and love each other.

Above, I said that I did not go to church for over a year and just prayed. Looking back, the reason I did not go to church was because of fear, fear of being judged by other Christians. You see, I know what it feels like to be judged by others. It hurts. Didn’t the Bible say: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged?” (Matt 7:1)

I am a sinner, forgiven by grace. I have experienced the mercy of God first hand, and I have seen how He loves me just as I am. And so instead I will show my Christianity through compassion. God is love and Jesus personified Love. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He never shunned anyone who came to Him. As a Christian, I believe that the way to peace is the way to love. As a Christian, nothing can separate me from the Love of God.

God pours out His love to His people, and from the spring that flows out of His heart, we have access to an endless supply of compassion for everyone. This way, Love endures and never runs out.

God is Love. The way of God is the way of Love.

(Please also see: “8 Tips to Making Peace a Habit“)

An exercise in “W”

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What War does not wreak havoc
on this World of men
Wantonly wanting more space, more water, more land?
What war leaves widows wailing on the parched sand,
Blood-stained by husbands, brothers, daughters and sons?

What War leaves wandering orphans
Waiting for parents who will never come home?
With Wondering eyes no longer innocent,
But old and tired and robbed of Will?
What Written Word can Wrest a Peace from War-torn kingdoms
Shred by Greed and Evil-ness, indeed?

Forge on ahead, grieving widows and wives,
The Woman is the key to land and home.
Lay Waste a World of War and choose, instead,
By sheer force of Will, a World of Peace.

(Please also see: “Youth“)

The Sword of the Tongue

StopWords are powerful aren’t they? Especially if they come from people important. Be it good or bad, sensitive or tactless, pleasant or spiteful; there is a lot of meaning in words, especially if they are true but even if they are not. No one can really see minds and hearts if the mouth is silent. All that can be done in silence is to predict, assume, or let go. The only way our intentions come across are through what we express. It has been said that actions speak louder than words. Still, this doesn’t mean words don’t speak at all.

 I can tell anyone anything and they can choose to believe me or not. However, when the words that come out of my mouth are hurtful swords, they can slice through flesh and heart and bone; regardless of their truth. There’s nothing anyone can do about words when they are spoken like this precisely because they are words- the quantifiable expression of the mind and the heart that can be understood by anyone. They become clear as day.

What hurts most are sword words that are laced with poison.

In themselves, they pierce the heart, but along with the immediate sting, they also carry a slow and deep burn. These words carry the poison of insensitivity, of condescension, of betrayal, of untruth. Poison eats and kills from the inside. The disdain that a person can drench his or her words with can turn even the sturdiest of hearts into rubble, pulverizing each attempt to reason with words heard because the clarity in the tone and tempo upon which they are spoken betrays any hope for misinterpretation. What has been said can never be unsaid.

In lashing out before thinking, we can accuse guilt on the innocent. We can spit on the face of the other. We can pour filth over the pure. Even if the words we say are true, it doesn’t mean saying them is right. Hurtful words, insensitive words, malicious words, even the absence of words when they matter– these can really hack through the heart; especially if they are spoken by someone we trust and love. These words can crush the soul.

wordsWhat words will you choose to say?

Words can kill but they can also bring life.  There is great power in the tongue.  Should we speak to butcher hearts or to mend them? Will we declare words to put others down or to lift them up? Will we use our tongue to kill or to bring life? The way we choose our words matter.

Self-control begins and ends with the mouth. If you have been bullied, it doesn’t justify you bullying others as well. That would be like poisoning others because you have been poisoned once before.

We can speak to destroy or to build.

I hope people start listening to what they will say, before they say anything. Words can wage war or bring about peace. Blessing and cursing is within the power of the tongue.

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“They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows… The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” -Bible

(Please also see: “Idealism and Reality: On Falling Short and Cherishing our Humanity“)

Aikido and the Ethics of Self-Defense

Ethical-Dilemma-and-Brain-Injury

Ethics is defined as is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. It is often interchangeable with morality: what is upright, commendable, or even noble. The right thing to do is the ethical puzzle, as we do not have, in general, a holistically objective parameter to ascertain what truly is beneficial.

But in Aikido, we have adapted a portrait of moral conduct in a martial situation, which I will share with you now. Let us remember that Aikido is not about who wins or who loses. It is about the reconciliation of aggression, to neutralize, and eliminate the threat of harm.

Aikido acts with respect, even with his aggressor, acting with a clear head filled not with rage, but with compassion. These illustrations of the different martial situations are from the book, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook. Here, different levels of the ethical ladder will be shown and explained, with Level 1 being the most unethical and Level 4 as the ideal ethical action:

Level 1

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Above the man on left, without provocation and on his own initiative, attacks the other man and kills him. Ethically, this is the lowest of the four levels unprovoked aggression in the form of a direct attack.

Level 2

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Above the man on the left has not directly attacked the other man but he has provoked the other man to attack him. It may have been an obvious provocation, such as an insulting remark or the more subtle provocation of a contemptuous attitude. In either case, when the other man is invited to attack and does so he is killed. While the first man is not guilty of launching the actual attack, he is responsible for the other man to attack. There is only a shade of difference ethically between this example and the earlier one.

Level 3

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The man on the left neither attacks nor provokes the other man to attack. But, when attacked he defends himself in a subjective manner, i.e. he takes care of only “number one”, and the other man is killed or at least seriously injured. Ethically, this is a more defensible action than the other two examples. The man still standing was in no way responsible for the attack, neither directly nor indirectly. His manner of defense, however, while protecting him from possible harm, resulted in the destruction of another man. As you can see the result in the three examples is identical: a man is killed or seriously injured.

Level 4

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In this last example, we have the ultimate in ethical self-defense. Neither attacking nor provoking an attack, the man on the left defends himself in such a way, with such a skill and control that the attacker is not killed. In this case he is not even seriously injured.

ImageThis last and highest level is the goal of the Aikido as Budo. Though It requires skill; the result of intensive practice of the technical means of defense devised by O’Sensei, it requires more than that. The most important prerequisite to be able to attain level 4 is the sincere intention to defend himself without hurting others.

This is the goal of Aikido: to be equipped with skills needed to defend oneself and eliminate the threat of harm without injury to the aggressor. It is my hope that every Aikidoka tirelessly trains in their dojo with this intention, so as to fulfill the true intent of Aikido in self-defense. Only then can we be able to rise beyond the dynamics of destruction and hate and move to the higher plane where peace and compassion abound.

 

(Want to know more? PLease also see: “Masakatsu Agatsu: Aikido and Victorious Living“)

Iwato Biraki: The Story of Amaterasu

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  • Amaterasu and Susano-O

Long ago there was a beautiful goddess named Amaterasu. For her kindness and compassion toward humanity she was known as the goddess of the sun and spread her light over the entire world, warming it and giving it life. Her father was Izanagi and her two siblings were Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the god of the storm, and Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, god of the moon.

Susano-O, who is known to be a wild, jealous, mischievous God, is also the God of Budo. Susano-O had been given the mission of developing materialism and purifying the karma created in that process, but he refused and was banished from Taka-ama-hara, the heavenly realm. Upset,  Susano-O got drunk and went on a rampage. He stomped all over Amaterasu’s rice fields, filled her irrigation ditches, and threw feces into her palaces and shrines. When Amaterasu asked him to stop, he ignored her and instead threw a skinned horse at her handmaidens while they were peacefully weaving. The splinters from their broken looms pierced their bodies and killed them.

Enraged, Amaterasu hid in the Heavenly Cave and sealed it with a boulder. Without the beautiful goddess’ light, the world was plunged into darkness and began to wither and die. Many gods, or kami, gathered in front of the cave and wracked their brains for a way to lure Amaterasu out into the open once more. Their plan was simple…

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Ame-no-Uzume, the well endowed goddess of merriment, did a bawdy dance showing her breasts and lifting her skirts. All of the kami roared with laughter and cheered her on. From within the cave Amaterasu heard their laughter and merriment and wondered what could be going on to make them laugh so.

Curious, she peeked out of the cave to see what was happening. When she did so, a mirror that the kami had hung on a branch at the mouth of the cave caught her reflection. Amaterasu had never seen herself before and was mesmerized by her own beauty. Having lured her out of the cave (Ame-no-Iwato), she was caught by Tajikara Wo no Kami, a great god of strength, who pulled her back into the world. The other kami pushed the boulder back in front of the cave, sealing it once more. They convinced Amaterasu to return to the Celestial Plain and give light to the world once more. She did so but armed herself with a bow and arrow against Susano-O’s future antics.

(This story was related by Masako Beecken, a professor of Japanese at Colorado State University in Fort Collins)

O’Sensei said:

“Aikido is the second opening of the Ame-no-Iwato (Iwato Biraki).”

Let us first remember that Amaterasu was not brought out of the cave because of brute force. Although when she went out of the cave and was mesmerized by her own reflection in the mirror, and even though in the end she was caught by Tajikara Wo no Kami; it is not brute strength that led her out as she opened the door and went out of the cave.

  • The Second Opening

Aikido is not a martial art of brute strength. It is through technique and different maneuvering that one triumphs in a martial situation. These may be through the physical techniques , maybe even more.  The best way to win a fight is not having to fight at all. And this requires wit, a deeper sense of maturity and a lot of self-control.

It is easy to punch and kick, it is hard to subdue without injury to either party. This is the second opening: during a martial situation, the world has darkened and Amaterasu is in hiding. Aikido is the way to open the cave again.

This may be done through the different waza we are taught, but let us look at the myriad of other things at our disposal. Like the other gods, the way of Aikido is the way of creative non-violence.We have our speech. We have our movement. We have our mere presence. All these are part of the sequence. A clear mind to act with wisdom is the most important thing.

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Let us be serene amid the tension in our everyday situations. Let us be calm amid the storm. Let us not get caught in the darkness but instead draw the light (Amaterasu) out. O’Sensei continues on this topic:

“Iwato Biraki is to create a society in which the body is used as a means to accomplish the mission of the soul and spirit. Establishing orderliness in your breath, bring your ki under control, and plant your feet firmly on the path of self realization. With this foundation, practice the techniques of takemusu aiki and bring the actual body of the universe into your breath.”

When the light of love and wisdom, “Amaterasu”, is in hiding, Aikido, the dance of the gods, should bring the light out back into the world and become a power for peace.

 

(Please also see: “Aikido: The Sword of Life and Death“)