There’s a story about a woman who many years ago took her first journey on a train. As soon as she reached her seat, she began fumbling with the window to be sure that she got exactly the right amount of air. Then she pulled the window shade up and down until she got exactly the right amount of light coming in. Then she worked with her baggage to get it placed just right. Then she took off her hat and was very careful to put it where it would not get mashed. Then she took her mirror and comb and combed her hair to be sure it was right.
Just about the time she got everything fixed and settled down comfortably, the conductor called out her station. As she got off the train she said, “If I had known the trip was going to be so short, I would not have fussed so much over unimportant details.”
That’s a significant lesson for all of us. Even at its best, life is short. We simply don’t have time to be prioritizing the ultimately unimportant.
So what are some of the more important things? I want us to consider a few.
First, character! In plain truth, God intends that we be people of character. We are directed in scripture to “Examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil” (l Thessalonians 5: 21-22).
As traditionally understood, from the Hebrews and Greeks forward, character is the essential “stuff” a person is made of. Character is what we are in the dark and what we are when no one is looking.
The late Norman Vincent Peale, noted New York minister, said that in every business transaction we must asked ourselves three questions: Is it legal? Is it balanced? Will it make me feel good about myself?
Second, home! As someone observed, “It may be great our going to the moon and all, and it is. But earth never invented anything better than coming home — provided that home is a good place to come home to; provided that home is the center of affection where parents love each other, where children intelligently admire and respect their parents and where there is real joy in being together.”
One of America’s besetting problems is that the benefits of Godly homes are overlooked.
Third, purpose! Recently, the question was asked, “What is the most important thing we should learn?
The answer given: “To know one’s purpose in life.”
I suppose at the end of my life somebody could say that Hal Brady was a big failure in golf. And they would be right because I was much better years ago than I am now.
However, the truth is I chose to be a failure in golf because golf was not my purpose. I found my purpose is in another area, and that is where I found life’s meaning.
Fourth, others! One definition of intolerance goes like this, “Unwillingness to accept values, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.” In the light of that definition, I always thought of tolerance as a good thing.
But when I read an editorial by Peter W. Marty in a back issue of “The Christian Century” (April 24, 2019) that gave reminder that tolerance was not what Jesus taught. Jesus’ directive was “Love your neighbor,” not “Tolerate your neighbor.”
In terms of a better present and future, people of color and whites need to move beyond just tolerating one another. Tolerance will never ultimately bring about love or justice.
But a new commitment to get to know one another, befriend one another, identify with one another and to work together to accomplish the goal of a just society offers our best hope for doing so.
Fifth, God! When the late Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, renowned minister at City Temple London, retired he was asked this question, “What is the most important thing you have learned in life?”
Dr. Weatherhead answered, “Life will work out only one way, and that is God’s way.”
And that is an absolute!