Nurse Annet Kojo feeds a 4-day-old baby girl in the maternity ward of the St. Daniel Comboni Catholic Hospital in Wau, South Sudan, April 16, 2018. We are all born innocent, loving and loveable, so when and where do children learn to decide who is the enemy? (CNS / Paul Jeffrey)
This article was originally posted on the Global Sisters Report
I was born and raised in a Catholic family, and am still proud to be a Catholic. Among all the things I have learned, two words really stand out for me: “unconditional love.” Words easy to say, but very difficult to put into practice — especially during “stormy weather”! As a religious person, I must not only teach the words verbally but must teach them by my actions.
As I get older, I am just realizing that I experienced unconditional love from my birth: from God, from my parents and even from strangers.
In 2004, I was invited to visit the U.S. by an American lady who paid my roundtrip airfare from Canada. Arriving in Wisconsin, I learned that she had already made some appointments for health care tests. The doctor discovered that I was about to go blind, and arranged for me to have surgery. The doctors did everything free, but the hospital charged about $7,000. Later, an unknown person paid the hospital. Unconditional love!
Today, there is no peace in the world: Pope Francis said there is “war in bits and pieces.” As a religious person and Christian, my core mission is to work for peace, but where should this peace start?
If we could only remember that we are made in the likeness of God and saved by Jesus Christ — who saw God’s image even in the very human beings who had failed his Father. Then we would be able to see God’s image in our brothers and sisters regardless of color or state, and understand our obligation to love them without condition — like what happened to me in Wisconsin.
Years later, I was able to attend the 49th Eucharistic Congress in Canada — my airfare paid by youths I did not even know. How can I cease to proclaim God’s loving kindness toward me?
While reflecting on the words “unconditional love,” I remembered a sister in my community with whom I was finding it difficult to talk. She had hurt me and I found it hard to forgive her, unless she would come and ask for forgiveness.
But as I reflected on the many good things that have happened to me for no reason, I realized that it is wrong for me to say the Our Father and approach the holy Eucharist unless I am willing to forgive. Deciding then to forgive and talk to her, I have since felt internal joy and freedom.
There is “war in bits and pieces” because we do not look upon one another as brother or sister but look on them as “somebody or someone.” We see the other person as our brother or sister only if we are born of the same mother and father.
But if we could only remember who we are — made in the likeness of God! And we are called to represent God wherever we may be: in our family, in class and even in the streets.
When I was in Haiti, our gardener reported that a mentally challenged woman had given birth three days before, and the baby had not been washed or fed. I decided to take the child.
Being a sister and a missionary, I was worried about the child’s future. Luckily, a man from Dawson Creek, Canada, who had come to check their project in Haiti, saw the baby sleeping on the table. Hearing what happened, he decided to adopt the child. There was nothing more that could better prove God’s love to me.
If we could understand that we are made in the image of God, we would not have to make money by building weapons. We would not plot against other people’s lives. The good that we would like to be done to us, we would freely do for our brothers and sisters.
Yes, there is “war in bits and pieces”: no freedom to walk in some places, no freedom of speech in some areas. Why? We are not able to see the image of God in the person in front of us; our eyes do not have loving hearts, so we can’t see the goodness in the fellow in front. Greed for money, greed for power makes one blind.
We are all born innocent, loving and loveable, so when and where do children learn to decide who is the enemy? When they start being ill-treated or seeing adults fight. A terrible civil war: Who started it, and why? It grew in bits and pieces: Did anybody win?
When did I forget that I am an image of God, called to love and serve as God has loved me? It was the day that my world echoed with “me, myself and I.” And what does one benefit from that? Nothing — for without God, we are nothing.
Bad things happen when we do not remember that we are God’s image, and our wars in bits and pieces against God’s image are actually against ourselves.
When we lose track of the road we were born to walk, where does our way lead then? As long as we are alive, it is never late to ask forgiveness for having lost the road, and ask for help finding the way.
There are times we cannot avoid fighting. Once when something very unjust was done to the poor, I tried to stop it, and paid the price. Life was very difficult for me in the community for some years, and I kept praying to bear the pain and not hate. I will not hurt others if I love them as I love myself. With God’s grace that time is now over. Unconditional love!
If there are still people sleeping in the street, seeking food in the dust bins, it means the world does not know that Jesus came 2,000 years ago to save it. If there are people who can raise weapons against each other, it means the world does not understand that he came to bring peace to the world. It does not understand what we mean when we say that he came to bring life to mankind.
In 1994, when soldiers were fighting among themselves in our country, some were threatening each other on our property. We couldn’t move freely, we couldn’t sleep, we were hungry, and some of our buildings were damaged. The memory is fresh in my mind. My nephew, who was 3 years old at time, was affected mentally.
Later, in 1998, at a time of political unrest, South African soldiers attacked our army. I can’t control my tears when I think about the people who lost family members and property. I hate this.
There is nothing more Jesus could have done to prove his love toward us. And there is nothing to proclaim if we are not proclaiming his love for us, and thanking him at all times. Hurray! We don’t have time for fighting with each other!
[Monica Moeketsi is a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec. She belongs to the Mosotho ethnic group, and lives in her home country of Lesotho, where she is currently working as secretary for the Lesotho Major Superiors.]
Licensed Counselor and Life Coach Dr. Minnie Claiborn is back with her latest, monthly column. Feel free to submit any questions on a topic of your choice to [email protected], and your question may be answered in a future column!
Hello Dr. Minnie,
My name is Lynn. I am in my mid- thirties. I really want to get married and have children. My friend said that I should be content because Jesus is my husband. Dr. Minnie, am I missing something? Is Jesus really my husband?
Many well-meaning people have said that to other people. It sometimes causes confusion and some people feel guilty because they don’t want to be unfaithful to Jesus. Let me just start out by saying, “No, Jesus is not your husband.” If you are born again, Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
Scripture refers to the “Church”, the collective Body of Christ, as the “Bride of Christ.” However, this is not for an individual adaptation. God instituted marriage as an earthly covenant between man and woman. Ephesians 5:25-33 presents a distinction between that which is natural and that which is spiritual.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is our provider, protector, and healer. He loves us, comforts us, and will never leave nor forsake us. Certainly, these are traits that we desire in a mate, and only Jesus can meet those deep longings of our souls—but not in the romantic sense. He does this for both men and women who seek him for true love and comfort.
For a single Christian, what to do about sexual intimacy can be tough and confusing. You harbor physical urges that God gave to you, but to have sex outside of marriage is a sin. The church’s response has generally been pithy and poor – “Just say no”. Meanwhile, the enemy has seized the void by providing a counterfeit of the sexual love God intended. Through R-rated movies, explicit music and advertising, we are inundated with it. What in the world is a single person supposed to do?
As a follow up to a previous column on sex within a marital context, Minister Pamela Bell of Serenity Pastoral Counseling & Consulting, offers advice for singles.
Minister Pamela Bell, founder of Serenity Pastoral Counseling and Consulting
Minister Bell recently hosted a Valentines Day engagement ceremony for her single clients in the Baltimore area. They celebrated their love affair with the Lord. The ceremony offered the participants an opportunity to renew their vows to God and to increase passion in their relationship with him throughout the year. “Being physically alone does not necessarily equal loneliness”, Bell said. The church needs to reclaim the truth that we are never alone when we are in relationship with God. Being single is actually an opportunity to turn your full attention to your relationship with God. Being married, in fact, can bring complications and opportunities to worship your mate instead of the Lord.
Bell, who has been married 26 years to the same man, says “God allows us to have mates to be able to show our love for him onto a living breathing human being. That mate presents a physical way for us to express our love for God. Whether you’re single or married, what we all have in common is an inseparable relationship with God.”
Humans are spirit first. We are made in the image of a triune God, who is spirit. Our physical bodies are vessels for us to journey on earth until it’s time to return to God. Certainly, we want to express ourselves physically with another human being, but the object of that expression is still God, Bell said. If you understand this, your single status is not a negative, it just means less distractions to God. “It might sound like a cop out to a single person, but a mate is not your source to fulfillment. God is our source,” Bell said.
Ok, that sounds good, but let’s keep this real. What do we tell the single person who is struggling with their sexuality? Bell said she counsels her clients based on what they reveal they are struggling with and yes, many people are struggling with issues such as pornography and sex. “God gave us the ability to imagine and create,” Bell continued. “What we entertain in our minds is important because we are creators. Fantasizing about sexual acts that are against God’s will, creates sin in our lives and sin, whether it is physical or mental, causes us to turn away from God.”
Bell teaches her clients that they can master their bodies through physical exercise, eating healthy and getting proper rest. She also suggests, professional massage, meditation and relaxation techniques to release pent up tension in the body and of course there is prayer. “I often suggest that my clients start a private prayer journal in which they’re writing letters to God about their intimate thoughts and feelings,” Bell said. “David demonstrated the power of prayer journaling. He wrote about his struggles, desires and his victories in what has become the Psalms. He gives us a good example about being in a relationship with the Lord and God referred to David as a man after God’s own heart. We tend to keep our sexual frustrations separate from our relationship with the Lord but He made us and is not uncomfortable talking about sex. By keeping a journal, people can learn from their own experiences and in the future they can go back to that prayer journal and remind themselves that ‘this too shall pass.’”
My wife, Rita, has begun reading the first volume of the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy with her book club. Fifty Shades has been wildly popular because it features scenes of an unmarried couple’s explicit erotic sex that also includes elements of bondage. Published reports say the book has gotten a lot of wives excited about sex and their husbands are reaping the benefits. So, of course, that’s what grabbed my interest.
As my wife cuddled in bed reading her iPad, I asked her about the book. She was tight-lipped, as she shifted her body so that I couldn’t see the screen.
“It’s just what the club is reading now. I’m not really into this sort of thing,” she said. Then she cited some “confidentiality agreement” among her book club sisters, effectively ending our conversation.
Hmmm, more on that later …
The exchange reminded me of a talk I recently had with a Baltimore-based licensed pastoral counselor (who also happens to be my sister). Minister Pamela Bell of Serenity Pastoral Counseling & Consulting recently hosted “Teach Me How to Love You,” a conference to teach Christians how to develop healthy relationships. One of the topics included God in your sex life.
God and sexual intercourse?
Bell’s point is that God clearly created us to have and enjoy sex. One of the reasons why so many Christian marriages are in trouble, singles are fornicating, and pedophilia, adultery and homosexuality are common in churches, is because leaders aren’t teaching forthrightly about godly sex. Natural urges are suppressed and hypocritical and deviant behaviors are covered up. The church has allowed the world to turn into “the nasty” what God intended to be beautiful.
“According to most Christian teachings, sex is referred to in the context of procreation or as a marital duty,” Bell said. “I talk to people about making love and bringing God into the experience, instead of having some gymnastic event where orgasm is the finale.”
WELCOMING GOD INTO YOUR SEX LIFE: “While having sex, thank God for the beauty of the body of your mate,” says Christian counselor Pamela Bell to married couples. “Making love is an expression of gratitude.”
At the conference, Bell, who has been married for more than 25 years to the same man (they have three children), said attendees seemed surprised when she asked how long they thought the average orgasm lasted?
“Oh, they got real quiet,” Bell said.
The answer is about 18 seconds for the average woman and 20 seconds for a man. Once intercourse begins it takes the average women about 12 to 14 minutes to reach an orgasm and about 2 to 3 minutes for a man.
“So we spend so much time and often make bad decisions about our sex partners over a few seconds of pleasure. When we talked about sexuality within the confines of marriage, that’s when people got comfortable and we got a lot of questions.”
Like, what do you do when your husband or wife wants to have more sex than you do? Singles asked question like, what do you do when your urge for sex is high?
“Particularly when you look in the King James Version, the word ‘know’ is used to refer to sexual intercourse,” Bell said. “God intended sex to be about intimacy.”
But for many people it’s hard (no pun intended) to think about a holy God, while having sex. Intellectually you know that God created and commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. But is a man supposed to be thinking about Jesus while he “knows” his wife?
Bell said it’s about a paradigm shift, adding that she often refers couples to passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:4.
“While having sex, thank God for the beauty of the body of your mate,” she said. “Explore how your mate’s body is made. Each aspect complements the next. Making love is an expression of gratitude. You’re thanking God for the person He gave to you. Take your time, be present in the moment, and enjoy your spouse. Remember, love is patient according to 1 Corinthians 13:4.”
For singles, there are ways to feel God’s love without a physical partner, she said.
“It’s a better experience than conjuring up some dude or woman in your mind that you were with back in the day, or that you want to be with and having some counterfeit experience,” she said. “You can have an ongoing spiritual orgasm rather than a five-second deal, followed by feeling unfulfilled afterwards because you’re relying on a fantasy to give you pleasure.”
Bell said she felt led to host the conference because she sees too many Christians who are having major sex-related problems tied to church. As the church fails to deal honestly with sexuality, it is effectively leaving lambs to be slaughtered.
“It’s heartbreaking what is happening,” she said. “Many pastors simply don’t teach this.”
Not all pastors are afraid to “go there,” Bell said. There are Christian books on the topic. There’s even a biblical response to Fifty Shades called 50 Shades of Black and White. But in general, churchgoers seek information elsewhere, such as on cable TV, the Internet, or in erotic literature.
As for my wife’s reading of Fifty Shades, she’d rather not fantasize in that way — but she won’t judge others who like it.
And if I reap some added benefits from this month’s book club selection, I won’t complain.
A few more passages from Scripture related to godly sexual love:
♥ Genesis 2:18
♥ Genesis 2:24
♥ Genesis 2:25
♥ Genesis 3:16
♥ Psalm 139:14
♥ Proverbs 5:18
♥ Ephesians 5:31-32
Caught in the Crossfire: Former USDA official Shirley Sherrod.
Our inability to honestly discuss race in America led to the political takedown of an innocent woman. But Shirley Sherrod’s story offers profound lessons on how to bridge the divide and finally get this thing right.