Category Archives: Love

The Love of Ruling

By Rev. Donald L. Rose

The subject of this sermon is the love of ruling other people, a love stemming from the love of self. It is about a selfish inclination to control other people or dominate them. There is a passage about this love in the book Divine Providence which says: “This [love] has its abode in the interiors of every man from his birth; if you do not recognize it (for it does not wish to be recognized) [vult enim non cognosci it does not want to be known] it dwells securely, and guards the door lest man should open it and the Lord should thereby cast it out” (DP 210).

In contrast to this love there is a beautiful thought articulated by Gideon when he was asked to be leader of his people. “And Gideon said to them, `I shall not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you'” (Judges 8:23). How beneficial if people would say (not out loud) as they deal with other people, “I shall not rule over you the Lord shall rule over you.”

There is an invitation in the Writings: “Let those who are in this evil explore it in themselves” (CL 262, TCR 661:4). The Writings call this evil the head of all infernal loves (see DLW 141). Compared to this love all other evil loves are easy (see DP 146). And of course we have already mentioned the saying that if you do not recognize it (and it does not want to be recognized) it dwells securely and guards the door.

What is this selfish love like? We might say, “Oh yes, I know some bossy people. I know some obviously selfish people, people who brag a lot, people who are stubborn about getting their own way.” There are personality traits that are caricatures of evil loves. There are historical figures that seem to epitomize the loves: Adolph Hitler, Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar. The Writings do talk about such extraordinary people, not that they differ from us in having these loves, but they differ from us in having the opportunity to let it go on without restraint. When we look at someone who goes to great extremes, we are not seeing a different love but we are seeing a common love and what it looks like when it goes on to its extremes (see HH 559).

Here is what the love of self is like: “… so far as external restraints are removed, which are fears of the law and its penalties.. so far it rushes on until it finally wants to rule not only over the whole terrestrial globe but also over the entire heaven, and over the Divine Himself, knowing no limit or end. This propensity lurks hidden in everyone who is in the love of self, although it is not manifest to the world” (HH 559).

Looking into evil loves brings surprises. It surprised Swedenborg. “At first I wondered how it is that love of self and love of the world could be so diabolical, and how those who are in these loves could be such monsters in appearance; for in the world there is little reflection on the love of self, but only on that elated state of mind in external matters which is called haughtiness, which because it is so apparent to the sight, is regarded as the only love of self” (HH 555).

Let us look for a moment at our own experience of the more evident traits of selfishness, bossiness and pride. If you encounter someone who is constantly calling attention to his accomplishments and superiority, you might sense that rather than an unusually evil person you are encountering an insecure person, perhaps a person who suffers feelings of inferiority. This can be especially evident in a young person who brags about himself.

We read in the Arcana: “The love of self is not always that which in the external form appears like haughtiness and pride, for such persons may sometimes have charity toward the neighbor, for such an external is born with some, and with others is contracted at an early age, but afterwards is brought into subjection, the externals still remaining” (AC 2219:5). The number says the love of self is much uglier than that.

Another passage in the Arcana says that the exteriors of the love of self are “contempt for others in comparison with self, and an aversion to those who are in spiritual good, and this sometimes with manifest elation or pride, and sometimes without it” (AC 4750:5).

In our lesson (AC 1505-1508) we read of some who have a kind of overbearing sphere they have contracted but it is conjoined with a sphere of goodness. It is a sphere which they are able eventually to get rid of (see AC 1508).

It makes good sense to get rid of the external characteristics of bossiness or of the habit of imposing on the freedom of others. It is good for your popularity and for effectiveness in your work. A good, competent marriage counselor who may have no belief in God or in the spiritual side of marriage will rightly advise you in this regard.

On another level the love of dominion of one partner over the other “entirely takes away conjugial love and its heavenly delight” (HH 380). “Where there is dominion no one has freedom; one is a servant, and the other who rules is also a servant, for he is led as a servant by the lust of domineering” (Ibid.).

Here is a story of Swedenborg’s experience relating to the love of dominating. Once when he was meditating, there came upon him the wish to understand the universals of heaven and of hell or a general knowledge of each. He asked a wise teacher what those universals were, and he was told of three sets of opposites. The universals of hell are: 1) the love of ruling from the love of self; 2) the greedy love of possessing the goods of others, and 3) obscene love. The three loves of heaven were three opposites: 1) the love of ruling from the love of being useful; 2) the love of having the wherewithal to be useful; 3) true conjugial love (see TCR 661).

He went home with this thought and a voice from heaven said, “Examine those three universals that prevail above and below, and afterward we shall see them on your hand.” He realized that when you examine something until you understand it, the angels can see it as if it were written on the hands.

He began with the love of ruling from the love of self. “While I was studying [it] a perception was given to me that this love is in the highest degree infernal, and therefore prevails with those who are in the deepest hell.. This love is such that so far as loose rein is given it, which is done when no impossibility is in the way, it rushes on from step to step, and even to the most extreme; neither does it stop there.. But on the other hand, those who wish to rule from the love of uses have no wish to rule from themselves but only from the Lord, since the love of uses is from the Lord Himself..

“While I was meditating upon these things it was said to me through an angel from the Lord, `Now you shall see, and it shall be proved to you by sight what the infernal love is.'” Then there arose a devil from hell so ugly that he did not wish him to come near. This devil said he came from where they are all emperors of emperors, kings of kings. At first Swedenborg started to reason with him and to say that this was insane, but then he realized that he was addressing an impossible insanity.

Then as he beheld this overbearing insane monster it was made known to him that he was not talking to someone who had been a world leader or a prominent figure. In fact he had been a house servant, but had nursed a contempt for other people.

Then another devil arose even more terrible, with ecclesiastical trappings. The first devil fell down on his knees and worshipped him. When asked why he did so, he said, He is God. Swedenborg asked the one who was being worshipped what he said to that. The reply: “What can I say? I have all power over heaven and hell; the fate of all souls in my hand.” Swedenborg was allowed to scold him and say, “How can you rave so? In the world you were merely an ecclesiastic.. You have worked up your spirit to such a height of madness that you now believe that you are God Himself.” Being angry at this, he swore that he was God and that the Lord had no power.

This experience gave a glimpse of the political and ecclesiastical love of self. We are taught that priests ought to teach “but still they ought to compel no one, since no one can be compelled to believe contrary to what he thinks from his heart is true” (HD 318). They “ought not” to compel and they cannot compel. Do not do what you are unable to do anyway! Actually the love of dominating is a love of the impossible. Do not try. Do not want to compel. Say, rather, “I shall not rule. The Lord shall rule.”

The encounter with the ugly domineering spirits was followed by a beautiful experience. Swedenborg encountered two angels. He found in them no desire to domineer. They conversed about what it is to serve uses. They said that they had actually sought out their positions, but only so that they could be of more service. They talked of the difference between doing something from a selfish motive and doing it from an unselfish motive. They were asked the question: How can the individual know what his motives are? The answer was that we cannot decisively tell, but “All who believe in the Lord and shun evils as sins perform uses from the Lord; but all who do not believe in the Lord and do not shun evils as sins perform uses from themselves and for their own sake” (TCR 661).

The shunning of evil involves the acknowledgment that evil exists. Most of the time we are unaware of evil in ourselves. Who among us has any sense that he desires to rule over the whole universe? Who among us can say that he has within himself the hatred of God? But there is no one with open eyes who is not aware of evil in the world and its horrible results. In a way we are like Belshazzar in knowing second hand about evil. He knew all about Nebuchadnezzar and how his arrogance had been humbled. As Daniel said, “You knew all this” (Daniel 5:22). He knew it and yet he had not humbled himself.

When we observe the result of evil love, such as the horrible devastation of war (and wars are taking place right now), we are observing the effect of evil loves which have a dwelling place with us. We need not say as we view atrocities, “There go I.” We can say, “There goes it.” “It” is the love of self. “If you do not recognize it (for it does not wish to be recognized), it dwells securely, and guards the door lest man should open it and the Lord should thereby cast it out. Man opens the door by shunning evils as sins as if from himself, with the acknowledgment that he does it from the Lord” (DP 210).

Put the Lord in the picture as you go about your life, and in the name of the Lord renounce the love of self and the love of dominion. Inwardly say over and over again. “I shall not rule over you.. The Lord shall rule over you.”


The Ideal of Marriage To Eternity

By Rev. Douglas M. Taylor

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

For centuries there has been but one standard interpretation of this teaching given by the Lord. It has been regarded as an unassailable proof that the Lord taught that there was no such thing as a married couple in heaven, that angels are not characterized or distinguished by sexes, that consequently all marriages are dissolved at death, and are never to be resumed in the other life. This is the way that people have thought when thinking from the doctrine of their church, though many, when thinking from common perception or common sense, have expressed belief in the idea that they will be re-united with their married partners. When thinking in this way, they invariably, and rightly, think of the partner as remaining of the same gender as he or she was while on earth. The notion that men in the other life are anything else but men, or women anything else but women, mercifully does not then enter their heads. Nor does the doctrine that prevails in the Christian world concerning our text come into the thought while one is thinking from common perception.

It is good that this is so, that common perception prevails over the common doctrine, because few things destroy a marriage of love truly conjugial more readily than does the notion that there is to be no marriage lasting into eternity. The teaching on this point ought to be clear, and indeed it is; for we are definitely taught that unless there is in the mind an idea of what is eternal in marriage, that is, an eternal companionship, the woman becomes less than a wife, and the man something less than a husband, and conjugial love perishes (see SD 6110:16, CL 216).

Yet the error of supposing that there are no married partners in heaven, while very serious, is nonetheless understandable. If once it is supposed, as is often done, that a human being is a human being from his body rather than from his mind or spirit, then it is fatally easy to fall further into error, the error of thinking that with bodily differences erased by death, those in the other world will be neither male nor female. If, further, it is thought that the married state is something less than perfect, a kind of natural permission for the sake of the propagation of the human race on earth if, in other words, marriage is held to be inferior to the state of celibacy, as has been taught for centuries and is still being taught then it is only to be expected that people would believe that angels would certainly not have anything to do with marriage. Such false and twisted ideas concerning life’s most precious jewel, a marriage of love truly conjugial, such falsities act like a pair of distorting spectacles before the eyes of many who read in the Word that the Lord said: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (text). Such false assumptions distort the vision of many readers of these words, causing them to see things there that were never written.

For example, it is not said there, nor anywhere else in the Word, that there are no married partners in heaven. It is said that after death they are like “the angels of God in heaven.” It is not said that the angels are a race apart from the human race, or that they live in a state of celibacy. That is an unwarranted assumption made unthinkingly for hundreds of years. Yet this is nowhere stated. The text does not say that there is no such thing as the state of marriage in the other life. For all joys from first to last, we are frequently taught and reminded in the Writings, are gathered into conjugial love; it is the container of all other delights. So it is that all in heaven are in the married state, and that in the Word heaven is actually compared to a marriage (see Matt. 22:2).

If married couples, while living together on earth, have begun to receive from the Lord a spiritual love of marriage, i.e. conjugial love, and if they have continued steadfastly in it and in the Lord’s commandments until the end of their days on earth, then their marriage will be resumed in the other world. They enter into heaven married. It is not necessary for them to marry or be given in marriage, for they are as the angels of God in heaven. But if a married couple, believing in the eternity of marriage and having love truly conjugial as their ideal, nevertheless find in the other life that there is a hitherto unsuspected internal dissimilarity that separates them, they will each be provided with a suitable partner with whom they may live as married partners in heaven. But note: it is not that they married or were given in marriage in heaven. The suitable partner is provided on the basis of the person’s ruling love, on the basis of the love that he or she attained while on earth. The partner has to be suitable to our degree of regeneration, for regeneration and acquiring conjugial love walk hand in hand. So the criterion is the same; it is our life on earth that determines the nature and quality of our married state in the other life. The marriage takes place before we come into heaven or it does not take place at all. “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (text).

This leads us to consider another kind of marriage that is also to be understood by the Lord’s words on this occasion. What the Lord was referring to in mostly was the marriage that has to take place in every human mind: the marriage or wedding of the will to the understanding. The mind consists of two parts, the will or affectional side, and the understanding or thinking side. The will is made up of affections or feelings, while the understanding is made up of thoughts and reasonings. The whole effort of our life on earth should be to make these two the will side of the mind and the understanding to act as one, to be no longer two but one flesh. This is done when we act according to what we believe and understand to be good and true. The understanding is first instructed in what is good and true, and then begins the struggle to bring the will into line with this new vision of heavenly life. What the understanding sees as the true and good way of life, the will must learn to love and live. Or, as the Writings express it, the doctrine of life in the understanding must become the life of doctrine in the will. In this way, when every deed matches our creed, our mind is united and at peace. One part is no longer battling with the other; the will and understanding work together in conjunction. They are wedded together, married to eternity.

It was this kind of marriage to which the Lord was primarily referring when He said that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” This marriage of good and truth, of will and understanding, of deed and creed, must take place in this life or it will never take place. In the resurrection it will be too late. After death, the will and the understanding do not marry nor are they given in marriage. They must be united in this life.

But why did not the Lord explain this to the Sadducees when they tried to trap Him with their question about marriage in the afterlife? Why did not the Lord explain plainly that there is certainly a heavenly marriage, though it differs from an earthly one? Why did He allow the Christian Church, founded upon the words of His Gospel, to remain in such obscurity with regard to marriage? Could He not have given (at that time) the unambiguous explanation He has now given in the Writings?

No. That would have been worse than useless. The Lord in His infinite wisdom and mercy could perceive that mankind in general was incapable at that time of seeing such interior truths. Even the disciples, who were allowed to see more than the multitude, were unable to see the heavenly meaning of the parable of the sower, and needed to have it explained to them (see Luke 8:9). There were many things that they could not bear, including the doctrine about the spiritual marriage of good and truth, and the idea of a happy marriage to eternity. This was simply over the heads of the disciples.

Still less could the bodily-minded Sadducees have grasped even an introductory idea of a spiritual marriage. They were renowned for their complete denial of the afterlife. Concerning the nature of such people, we read: “When a man is such that he does not believe that he will live after death, he also disbelieves that there is anything internal which is spiritual and celestial; and such are those who live in mere lusts, because they live a mere life of the body and of the world, especially those who are immersed in loathsome avarice” (AC 1201).

These Sadducees were like that, and because their idea of marriage was manifestly restricted to the plane of the body, the concept of conjugial love, a love pure and clean above any other love of which mankind is capable, the concept of a spiritual kind of marriage, was quite beyond them. Even the Lord’s Divine wisdom itself on this subject would have been like thick darkness to their carnal minds. It was better, then, to let them think that there was no marriage in heaven than to have them defile the idea of a heavenly marriage with their gross, bodily ideas. For certain it is that there is no such thing in heaven as the kind of marriage the Sadducees had in mind. There is no such thing in heaven as marriage simply and solely for the sake of the propagation of physical offspring. The Lord’s words were literally true when applied to the Sadducees’ concept of marriage, and that is another reason for His speaking in the way He did.

In the work Heaven and Hell there is a passage explaining these words of the Lord with regard to marriage in the afterlife, in which it is said that while there are indeed married people in heaven, such marriages differ from those on earth. They differ principally in this, that there is no propagation of offspring. We read: “The procreation of offspring is another purpose of marriages on earth, but not of marriages in heaven, since in heaven the procreation of good and truth takes the place of the procreation of offspring … In heaven marriages are spiritual, and cannot properly be called marriages, but conjunctions of minds from the conjunction of good and truth. But on earth there are marriages, because these are not of the spirit alone but also of the flesh” (HH 382b).

It should not be supposed from this, however, that in the other world the inhabitants are bodiless minds without shape or form. Let us recall the familiar teaching that there is a spiritual body as well as a natural body, and that when the natural body is put off by death, we live in the spiritual body, and this is an exact replica of the mind, a beautiful mind being represented or manifested by a beautiful spiritual body, a masculine mind being manifested in a male spiritual body, a feminine mind in a female spiritual body. So it is that in the heavens also the conjunction of minds resulting from the conjunction of good and truth descends into the body, the spiritual body, the only difference being that there is, in the nature of the case, no propagation of physical offspring, but instead the propagation of spiritual offspring, that is, of new affections and delights belonging to good and truth.

These and many other detailed teachings about marriages in heaven are given in the Writings, notably in the works Heaven and Hell and Conjugial Love, in both of which works a whole chapter is devoted to the subject. Besides this, there are sundry other references scattered throughout the Writings.

But to what purpose were such details with regard to a blissful marriage to eternity revealed? The answer has already been given in a general way. We have already seen the teaching of the Writings that unless there remains in the mind an idea of what is eternal with regard to marriage, that is, an eternal conjunction of minds, the woman is reduced to something less than a wife, the man becomes something less than a husband, and conjugial love perishes. It is of the utmost importance for the men and women of the New Church to understand this teaching and the implications of it, so that they can use it, because it is promised that to the New Jerusalem will be restored that precious jewel of life, conjugial love.

But this is not attained simply by being a member of a church organization. Conjugial love is given by the Lord according to His laws, according to His way of operation. It is received by mankind only in the proportion that what is contrary to conjugial love is shunned and rejected. And one of the forces most destructive of conjugial love in the world is the notion that there is no marriage in the afterlife, that marriage has nothing of eternity in it. Likewise, in a particular marriage, the failure to keep before the mind the ideal of a happy marriage continuing into eternity causes the loss of conjugial love in that marriage. To entertain constantly the idea that one’s married partner in this life is probably not going to be one’s conjugial partner in the spiritual world is to cause conjugial love to dry up in that particular marriage, leaving an inward coldness even if outwardly there is agreement.

Such is the teaching of the Writings, especially in the following passage: “The reason why those who are in love truly conjugial look to what is eternal is that there is eternity in that love; and its eternity is from the fact that this love with the wife and wisdom with the husband increase to eternity, and in their increase or progression married partners enter more and more deeply into the blessings of heaven, which their wisdom and its love at the same time store up within them. If therefore the idea of what is eternal were eradicated, or if in any case it were to escape from their minds, it would be as if they were cast down from heaven … They are disunited as far as conjugial love is concerned, though not at the same time as to friendship, for this dwells in external things, but [conjugial love] in internals. It is the same in marriages on earth. There, when married partners tenderly love each other, they have what is eternal in their thoughts with regard to the covenant, and nothing at all of its end by death; and if they do think of this, they grieve, and yet in thought are comforted with the hope of its continuance after death” (CL 216a).

The same number from Conjugial Love goes on to give the experience of one couple in the spiritual world who sometimes believed that they would be eternal partners, but at other times lost this belief, the reason being that internally they were really dissimilar. When this became quite clear after death, they separated; but because they both believed in the eternity of marriage, each was provided with a partner who was internally similar.

So the conclusion is that it is the general denial of anything eternal in any marriage that destroys conjugial love. With regard to one’s own married partner in this life, the thought that he or she is internally dissimilar and will not be one’s eternal partner puts an end to any conjugial love in that particular marriage. However, if there remains the general acknowledgment that there is marriage in the heavens, a suitable partner can be provided in the other life; but under no circumstances can this be done if there is a confirmed denial of the eternity of conjugial love; for to deny this is to deny the inmost bliss of heaven.

The practical purpose for which the Lord has revealed so much about the nature of marriage in the heavens ought now to be clear. We are to hold steadfastly to the ideal of the eternity of marriage. We are to enter into our marriage with the conviction that it will last to eternity, and at all times we are to abhor the corroding thought that it will end at death. We are to act as if we know for certain that we are eternal partners, for only in this way can conjugial love, the container of all joys from first to last, be given by the Lord and preserved upon the earth.


Protecting Marriage

By Rev. Brian W. Keith

“From true conjugial love there is power and protection against the hells … for the reason that through conjugial love a person has conjunction with the Lord, and the Lord alone has power over all the hells” (AE 999:2).

Marriage is precious. That most intimate of human relationships has the potential to provide a happiness that can hardly be described. Nowhere else can we share as much. Nowhere else can we receive as much from another human being. Nowhere else can we develop as strong a bond one that will last forever.

Think of the love that Isaac and Rebekah had. Although it was an arranged marriage, each willingly accepted the other and cared for the other. And it is expressed so simply: “and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her” (Gen. 24:67). Such love is different from every other affection that we might feel. It leads us to enjoy the presence of our spouse. It leads us to think of that person as our closest friend. But it also leads us to become one with our partner. It leads to a union that is special, unique. It leads to a human life that is full two becoming one flesh.

This is so important, so essential to our lives that it is worth protecting. It is worth taking care of and preserving that it might be realized.

For the person who is not yet married, the ideal of conjugial love is to be held high. Although there may have been disappointments, marriage is not just of this world. The person who asks the Lord for a conjugial partner may not receive one here, but the Lord will be able to provide one in the spiritual world for those who have cherished the concept of conjugial love. Protecting the conjugial for the single person is maintaining the dream, the promise, of what the Lord intends.

For the person who has experienced loss in marriage, or who has deeply hurt feelings from a bad experience, there is also a need to protect the concept of marriage. Although the ideal of two people spending a lifetime together, drawing ever more close, may not have been realized, the ideal is never lost, merely postponed. Marriage cannot be destroyed unless a person wills to destroy it by rejecting the ideal and living as if a happy marriage were impossible. Avoiding the poisons of disillusionment and bitterness may be enough to protect and preserve the hope of conjugial love.

And for the person who is married, that relationship is to be treasured above all other human relationships. No other human being is as important or worthy of respect and attention as one’s spouse. Any step taken to enhance the marriage, any effort made to strengthen the love, protects this precious jewel of human life.

One critical way to protect conjugial love is to face and deal with anything that might harm the marriage. The most extreme attack upon the relationship comes from adultery. We should avoid this at all costs. As we see how opposed to marriage it is, and how destructive it is, we should flee from extramarital entrapments.

In some ways this may seem easy, for most people are not openly enticed by others. But the Lord noted that the love of adultery, a love that will eventually lead into open adultery, is present in lust (see Matt 5:27, 28).

It is also important to point out that adultery rarely occurs between complete strangers. Where a person is forming a close relationship with someone other than one’s spouse, where a special trust or confidence grows up, the normal barriers against adultery are lowered. Lust does not always take the form of an animal desire for sexual relations. It can initially hide itself under the guise of a desire for communication and intimacy apart from marriage. When relationships outside of marriage become very appealing or satisfying, warning bells should be sounding. For marriage requires protection by resisting the lures of anything that would become more important than one’s spouse. Shunning adultery as a sin enables a love for one’s spouse to grow in fact, to increase daily (see SD 6110:7).

But to protect marriage we need to do more than just fight against the allure of adultery. For one evil cannot be resisted in isolation. Anything that would encourage our selfishness, anything that would encourage an over-emphasis upon worldly things, must be fought against (see CL 356). Anything that would diminish our humanity also harms our marriages. For the quality of our marriages will be determined by the quality of love within our hearts. As we progress in all aspects of our spiritual life, so will we have more love for our spouse and a stronger bond of marriage.

For just fleeing from what is opposed to marriage is not enough. We cannot spend our entire lives constantly on the lookout for anything that might threaten our marriage. If we attempt to be on the alert at all times, we will soon assume that enemies lurk in every corner, in every conversation our spouse has with another, in every look of passing strangers.

Lasting protection for our marriages can come only from the Lord from receiving His love. Yes, we have to guard against what might harm marriage, but that is only so that a genuine conjugial love might grow. It is like gardening. We have to pull up weeds and prevent the rabbits from getting in, but we cannot neglect to plant the seeds and harvest the crops. A strong marriage one that is based upon common beliefs, similar loves, and willingness to grow is the only sure protection against the hells. Or as the Heavenly Doctrines state: “from true conjugial love there is power and protection against the hells” (AE 999:2).

Strengthening a marriage is the process of two becoming one. Some of this miraculously and secretly occurs just by living with another in marriage. For the wife’s innate love directs the potential conceit of the husband to be focused on her, “neither the man nor the wife being conscious of it” (CL 193:2, 123, 171). The Lord wonderfully draws the two souls together as they talk, as they sit quietly, as they share all the little things that add up to a marriage.

Marriage is also protected by the couple’s attitudes. If marriage is seen as important, as sacred and holy, then a special bond can exist between them (see AC 2733). They can then view their relationship not just as a convenient way to live together, not just as a legality, but as a foundation upon which all happiness can rest.

It is also important for a couple to recognize the role of the Lord (see De Conj 81). If conjugial love is seen as a heavenly love descending from Him, there can be a humility and reverence toward what has been given. When we realize that we do not have to make ourselves happy, that we do not have to create love, then we can relax and accept the Lord’s direction.

And one final attitude is vital if we believe that marriage is eternal, that what is begun on earth is continued in heaven, then a stronger commitment can be made and all the little problems of living with another person can be put in perspective (see CL 216).

These beliefs attitudes enable a couple to constructively work on their relationship. As their goals and values are one, so they can strive in the same direction.

But much of the visible work of the marriage is found in emphasizing the couple’s similarities and harmonizing the differences (see CL 228, 176). What draws a couple together similar loves and values are a continuing source of delight. From superficial to core facets of life, what is held in common is the basis for the growth of love. But how differences are handled also can promote the growth of marriage. Often a young couple will think that becoming one means becoming the same. Different ways of thinking or doing things can be threatening, so each may try to be exactly like the other, or force the other to be like him- or herself. A false oneness or forceful dominion is the result. As marriages develop, couples do become more similar, but they also more clearly define and appreciate their unique qualities.

And there is no secret method for how a couple should improve their marriage. The simple principles of charity taught so clearly in the Sermon on the Mount form the ground rules for a happy marriage: be helpful, do not attack with words or deeds, turn the other cheek and forgive, seek the Lord’s help in prayer, don’t be too critical, and see the good of the other person. These and all other aspects of acting charitably enable the Lord to unite hearts and minds, producing the joys of love truly conjugial.

With a developing relationship there is a growing protection of marriage. For the tender love they share then surrounds itself with jealousy (see CL 371) not the green-eyed monster which is suspicious of all, but the recognition of what would be lost if the marriage were harmed. It is a type of fear, a fear that something precious might be damaged. It is not selfish, for with genuine conjugial love the marriage becomes more important than the temporary delights either person experiences. The fear for marriage is the fear lest the other person suffer, lest the eternal promise of happiness be lost.

Jealousy is a protective covering for marriage. It is the flame of a genuine love defending what is precious, what is heavenly. It may show itself in hostility toward others who may be forming inappropriate relationships with one’s spouse. It may show itself in resentments toward excessive work or play that draws one’s spouse away from the home and marriage. From the depth and strength of conjugial love, a just and sane jealousy emerges, protecting what is good that it might remain the source of eternal happiness for husband and wife.

The heavenly union of one man with one woman is the priceless pearl of human life. The wholehearted giving of two people to each other can bring delight and joy that is beyond imagination. It begins as the Lord leads two to discover each other, sensing that they were made for each other. Their love then develops and grows and a marriage of spirits occurs. Love truly conjugial gradually descends into their relationship, and the two become one.

Protecting and guarding this relationship lest anything harm it is vital. One form of protection is resisting hellish loves opposed to marriage. Adultery and its loves found in lust are to be rejected. Turning away from the false sirens of temporary delight enables the tender love in marriage to grow.

But lasting protection against the enemies of marriage can be found only in love truly conjugial. It is that love itself, or rather the Lord’s presence in that love, which affords us protection. As we work at our marriages, the investment of time and energy, caring and self-sacrifice will strengthen our hearts. And with such strength comes Divine protection, protection so that heaven may be created even within our lives, within our marriages.


Love: What Is It?

By Rev. Grant R. Schnarr

What is love? The Writings say that everybody knows that love exists but it is difficult to define what love is. There are so many different kinds of love if you think about it. There’s romantic love. You see that on television, read about it in books today, in the movies. There’s love for children, parental love. There’s love of self, love of goods, possessions. There’s a love to God, a love to the neighbor, a love of life. There are so many different kinds of love.The Writings say that if you want to take one all-encompassing definition of love it would be this, that love is the life of man, the human race. Love is life.

If you think about that, God being love itself, life itself, flows into us with that love, and that’s what gives us life in this world, gives us motivation. We can see that whatever we love in our life we put in front of us, we pursue it, we follow it. What we love within, deeply within, we build our life around. It is very much a part of our existence, this love. So it is our whole life, this love.

Now we are also told that the more we learn to love genuinely, the love of our neighbor, to bring in God’s life, God’s love, into ourselves and outward to share it with others, the more we truly begin to live for the first time. Because with that love comes a genuine life from the Lord, a feeling of self, comes a feeling aliveness.

So how do we learn to love our neighbor? And what is this love to the neighbor? Christ defined it this way, “It is the essence of love to love others outside of oneself, to be one with them and to render them blessed from oneself.” Three things there: to love others outside of oneself; to want to be one with them; to make them happy. We can see this if we look at the nature of creation and God and why He created us.

God, being love itself, desired someone, something outside of Himself, that He could love, that He could benefit. Someone who would have their own identity, someone who could take that love and return it back to Him. And so God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life, that gave man the feeling of self life, gave the man the feeling as if he were God in his own right. He gave man the opportunity to take that love and bring it into his heart, to express it to his fellow men. That’s why God created us apart for Himself, gave us our own identity, our own sense of self life. He gave that to us so that He could love us, so that He could be with us in the world.

You know, it’s not as if some day if we are very good people we’ll be absorbed back into God, into the Godhead. That would do away with the purpose of why God created us in the first place. The more we learn to bring God into our lives, bring love into our lives, the more we feel that identity, the more feel as if life is our own, and the more we feel as we are alive. So God created us apart from Himself.

At the same time He wants to be one with us through our choices, through our choices in our daily life, through what we make our ourselves we bring the Lord into ourselves. We bring in His goodness, His life. We do this in service to others. We do this in changing those things that are wrong within us, that block it out, putting them down, putting them away, opening up the way so that the Lord can come in and be one with us. And so He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me.”

And then the third part of love, to render someone blessed outside of himself. When we learn to bring the Lord into our life, to lead a good Christian life, then the Lord can flow into us. And with that goodness comes happiness.

That’s what creation is all about. The more we follow the Lord’s ways, the more we follow the order of life that He has set up for us, the more goodness, and with it joy comes into our life. Happiness and goodness are one and the same thing. And so the Lord can bless us through our choices, can make us happy.

But we don’t have to just see this in creation, we can also see this in our daily lives, that effort to conjunction, that effort to be one with people. Perhaps you remember when you were a child, picking up a puppy dog for the first time, a little kitten, and holding it tight, and trying to be one with it, to bring it in. You just couldn’t get any closer to it. Sure, many of us remember that feeling, that effort to be conjoined, that oneness, to bring that little xx into our lives.

The same is true as we grew older with the friendships we first started to develop when we were teenagers, exploring friendships for the first time, something deep, something more meaningful. We wanted to share the inmost secrets of our heart with someone, and share the depth and breadth of what it means to be a human being, to have an intimacy with someone who we could be with, who would understand us, whom we could help in their life, that effort for conjunction.

And can we not see it in a man and a woman, a husband and wife, two people who come together in an effort to be conjoined, not just on a physical level, but within, to be one in thought and affection in all things of life, not to lose identity, but the two identities coming together to create one identity, another identity, only the two of them can create. To come together to have all those delights, friendship between a man and a woman, can bring within, spiritual delights. And then in a marriage relationship, with a commitment there, that can be brought down into the ultimate physical, where sexual relationship becomes an ultimate of that love, where we can bring that love into this world in a way that we could not do it otherwise. And so the Lord said, in the beginning He created them male and female, and said, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cling unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh, wherefore they are no more two but one.”

How very different this is with a person who has made their life one of selfishness. The selfish person, unlike those who have tried to give, builds a whole universe around themselves. They become the center of the universe as it were, and everyone and anything that is around them, becomes a tool that they can use. True, they do love people, but why? Those people who are close to them, those people who serve them, they love. So the Writings say, “To the degree that someone serves the selfish person, that selfish person loves them.” The friends of a selfish person become pieces of property more than anything else, things that they own, things that they can use, rather than things that they can help, give, share with. And so we have people who develop relationships simply so that they can get something out of them, so that they can take instead of give.

We can see this possibly in a man who chooses his partner of the opposite sex because of what she looks like, simply because she is a status symbol, and he wears her around like she’s a piece of clothing and discards her as soon as she gets old, worn out, or if he finds a better one. Does that happen today? It does.

People who choose friends, not because of what’s inside of them, not because of what they can do for their friends, but because of how much money they make, or whether they have status, or whether that person will help them out to get that job or to keep the job, or to get in with the right crowd. Does that happen today? It does happen today. It’s selfishness.

So the person who builds their life on self, everyone around them serves them. And this is confirmed also from Eric From in his book THE ART OF LOVING, he says, “A selfish person is interested only in himself, wants everything for himself, feels no pleasure in giving, but only in taking. The world outside is looked at only from the standpoint of what he can get out of it. He lacks interest in the needs of others and respect for their dignity and integrity. He can see nothing but himself. He judges everyone and everything from its usefulness to him. He is basically unable to love.”

Now the only thing we may disagree with there is that bit about being unable to love. The Lord has set it up in such a way that we can always turn back to Him. We can always open up our hearts and change our lives and begin again. But it is true to the extent that we build our lives on selfishness that it is harder to get out of it. If we wrap ourselves up within ourselves, how hard is it to unwrap, to begin to love. And so the Lord even said, “He who commits sin is the slave of sin.” That after a while following those paths, your attitude does become harder and harder to change.

And so there are some questions that we should ask ourselves: one of those being, why do I have the friends that I have? Is it because of selfish reasons? Is it because of what they can do for me rather than what I can do for them? And you know what we’ll find? We’ll find that there are mixed motives. Every one of us has friends for selfish reasons, and also good reasons. But to look and to see where the bad is, where we are using our friends instead of giving and try to change that, to perfect ourselves, to pray to the Lord for help to become better and more loving people, more concerned and more understanding about our friends, about our partners, rather than just taking. So we’ve got to look at that in our lives.

Now it’s so easy being a single person, being alone, to fall into the trap of going for the quick fix, going for that feeling of intimacy that we all desire so much, to go into friendships with people without thinking at all what they’re like inside, to move into physical relationships with members of the opposite sex because we need that feeling within of security. And we can get that for an hour, maybe a day or two, moving into relationships that aren’t really based on any kind of commitment. But if we do that, what happens? If we don’t have to discipline, to sit back, to think about what we are doing and use our heads and not just what we feel in our insides. What happens is that we form relationships that on the external, on the very sensual level, are formed together and bonded, but within you may be miles apart from the other person. And people can move into relationships where, on the external bonds are created, emotions come up, where people are together and stuck together as it were, but on the inside they have nothing in common. They have no real or genuine affection from within, and it`s such a hard thing to break. And it causes so much pain.

All the Lord’s teachings about leading an orderly life, the way He’s set it up, are there for helping us. They are not there just simply to tell us what to do and if we don’t do it we are going to be hurt. No. Think about that. He gives us those teachings so that we can be happy. That’s the only reason, so that we can be with Him.

Now, love isn’t all giving. And if you think that Christian love means to give and give and give and be used and be hurt, you are wrong. Christian love is not being the martyr. What good does it do if you are giving and giving to someone who’s always taking and taking from you and hurting you, what good does it do? Does it do you any good? No. It doesn’t do you any good. You are being hurt. Does it do the other person any good? No. They continue on being selfish. They continue on hurting themselves by that selfishness. Christian love sometimes says, No. And if you will believe it, Christian love not only benefits, it sometimes punishes. It looks to the end in view. It looks to be the most good thing to do, the most useful thing to do. And if you really love someone and they are hurting themselves and you by using you, the best thing is to say, No. That’s Christian love.

Now how do we love? It’s a hard question. It takes real discipline to learn how to really genuinely love. It takes sitting down and looking at yourself and deciding what you need to work on, to change, what selfishness comes up in your life, and deal with one or two of them, to put them out of your life and begin to start giving. And so you’ll find in life that the more you look at yourself and be honest with yourself, sure you may be afraid for a while to see those things within, but if you deal with them, pray to the Lord for help, a change will take place in your life. You will be able to begin to feel that love come within you. But it takes a real discipline.

How often in our lives do we decide to change something, and maybe the next day we remember and we start working on it. Maybe the next day we wake up and we remember again we make the same change, and then the next day we wake up and we forgot all about it. Maybe a month later we remember, Oh yeah, I was going to work on that, wasn’t I? It takes real discipline. It takes concentration. And even more than this, the love takes patience, patience not only to those we deal with, but patience with ourselves. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen instantaneously in our lives. There are going to be times when we fall down. There are going to be times when we hurt ourselves, but we’ve got to get back up again and try. And if we do this, that’s all the Lord asks is that we try. And if we put that little grain of mustard seed of effort into our lives, it will grow and become a tree.

Now the last and probably one of the most famous quotes from the Writings of Swedenborg is this. “Love consists in this, that its own should be another’s. To feel the joy of another as joy in oneself, that is loving. But to feel one’s own joy in another and not the other’s joy in oneself is not loving.” To feel one’s joy in another, what does that mean? That means to give that goodness that we have in our lives to someone else. To give what is one’s own to another person. It means, if we have gone through an experience and learned something about life, and if someone else needs that, to give it to them, to help them.

Let’s say somebody is having a real problem with anxiety, they are very anxious over something that is going on in their life. Maybe you have dealt with that before. Maybe you’ve come through it. Sit down and talk to them, to help them out, to give them those answers that you have found in your life. That’s loving.

Maybe someone’s going through a tragedy in their life, the death of a loved one. Maybe you’ve gone through that too and have dealt with it, to help them out, to tell them what it’s going to be like, to tell them how you hung on through the storm. That’s loving. I remember that Tom had said that after his wife had died that it was as if the Lord had put all these people in front of him in the next couple of weeks, all these people who had the same thing happening to them, that their spouse was dying. It was after the Lord was saying, “I’m going to make something good come out of this, that you can do something here to help your neighbor. And to go and to give to that person, to tell them what you went through, that is loving. That is giving. You don’t have to do that. It’s so easy to stay in our own little houses, our own little closets, and our own little minds and not reach out and give because it’s so vulnerable to give. If you don’t give after all, you won’t be hurt. What the Lord’s saying is, take the chance. Risk. Give. And you will receive that love within. That’s what life is all about.

And to feel the joy in another in oneself is also loving. But we can see that. Maybe in a child’s first step, those of you who have seen that. When that child takes that first step, you should see their faces, they’re beaming. They know what they’re doing. It’s a great miracle. The feeling that we feel within, that’s love. To see a couple, a young couple in love, get married, all the dreams that they have, their visions for what their marriage will be like, that feeling we can feel in our hearts during the wedding, that’s love. To see someone who has worked for a company all their life go up and be rewarded and recognized upon retirement, and to look into their face and see them as they are reflecting back on all the things that they have done and accomplished, that’s love, to feel that feeling within.

But it’s not all the good things, to feel the joy, but also the pain. When other people are suffering, when people are hurting, to feel that within ourselves, to feel what they must be going through within and hurting us too. But more than this, to go to them, to pick them up, to hold them, to make them feel better, that’s what love is. That’s what love is all about.

Love doesn’t come naturally, not the genuine love the Lord wants us to have. It’s something we’ve got to cultivate in our lives. It’s something we’ve got to bring with us, to open our hearts to the Lord. We do that by recognizing our shortcomings, by praying to the Lord to remove them and beginning a new life. If we do this and then begin to give with sincerity, with concentration, be willing to risk, then the Lord will begin to flow into our life and fill us with all goodness and all happiness. For even as the Lord said, “Do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return and great will be your reward in heaven.”


Love Your Enemies

By Rev. Peter M. Buss, Jr.

We have a challenging section of the Bible to focus on today. The words themselves are easy enough to understand, but the meaning–what the Lord is asking us to do, can easily elude us. We read from the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

We can guess at the intended message: that the Lord wants us to respond to evil with something other than revenge or anger, but beyond that questions arise. Are we really meant to let evil run its course? Do we have to put up with the abuse other people inflict upon us?

Fortunately, answers have been given. The Writings for the New Church come to our rescue and explain that we do not need to take these words too literally. There is an important message contained within, which teaches us a great deal about how to respond to injustice when we are the victims.

David and Saul. To begin thinking about the meaning we turn to the story of David and Saul (see 1 Samuel 26:5-12). Saul was deeply jealous of David’s success–so much so that he wanted to kill him. Twice during David’s extended flight from Saul, he had the opportunity to kill Saul. We read about how David and Abishai came into the middle of Saul’s camp one night and stood over Saul while he and the whole camp slept. Abishai, ever willing to please, asked David if he could take Saul’s spear by his head, and thrust it through him, for as he said, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand” (1 Samuel 26:8). But David would not let him, saying, “who can stretch out his and against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9). David had the motive, the opportunity, and even the justification (by most people’s standards), to kill Saul. But he didn’t, because the Lord forbade it. He refused to repay evil with evil.

Although he may have acted out of simple obedience (he may have wanted to kill Saul even though he didn’t), we can admire his steadfast character–especially in the context of a nation whose rule was: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (see Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:17-20).

Looking within. In the New Testament we hear the Lord asking people to go the next step. Instead of just resisting revenge, He asks us not to resist evil. We are to love our enemies–to turn the other cheek. The interior message is that we need to master more than our actions and speech–we also need to notice the emotions and feelings, our thoughts, intentions and attitudes which cause us to act in certain ways. These are things of the internal realm, within our minds. In His request to “turn the other cheek” we are invited by the Lord to reflect on our reactions to evil when we see it–when we are the victims. Do we clench with anger and coil up repay wrong for wrong? Or do we have the courage to resist that primal urge and hear the Lord asking us to be merciful instead of vengeful?

The urge to seek revenge. Like it or not, we are the center of our own universe. Although this does refer to our love of self, a love which the Lord wants us to work on, the main reason for bringing it up is that it speaks to our perspective in general. We know our own thoughts and intentions; we do not necessarily know those of other people. We feel the pain when someone says or does something cruel to us; we don’t automatically perceive what’s going on in the other person’s mind.

Because of this self-centered view, we have an natural and automatic surge of defensiveness when attacked. It takes an effort of will to rise above such an inclination to think about the thoughts and feelings of someone else.

Let me offer a couple of examples to give a context in which to think about this principle of overcoming our native perspective. If someone short-changes us at the checkout, it’s easy to assume that person is incompetent. It takes more effort to reflect that the person may just have made a mistake. If someone lies to us knowingly, it’s easy to insinuate all kinds of negative things about that person’s spiritual character–maybe even say a few of them. It’s harder to open ourselves up to think about the reasons the person lied, and how best to deal with the situation. If someone insensitively yells at us for something we didn’t do, our natural tendency is to yell back–to make sure he or she knows of the injustice. It takes more courage to explain the error calmly, and to hold no ill will towards the person.

The list could go one and on. These things happen all the time. Therefore we need the Lord’s words of encouragement, reminding us to rise above our instinctive desire to repay injustice, and instead be moved to think about what’s going on in other people’s minds as we experience our own thoughts and emotions.

“Turn the other cheek.” I believe the Lord knows He’s asking a lot of us in this regard. It is difficult to counter cruelty with mercy. He explains this by means of the very words He chose during His Sermon on the Mount. The things He asks there intentionally go against our common sense–beyond what we would reasonably expect the Lord to ask of us. Think about what it means to “turn the other cheek.” A person slaps you in the face. Such an act is an affront to our selfhood. It is a way of cutting someone to the core–of provoking us to almost certain anger. Yet the Lord says in effect, “Let him slap you again.”

The rest of the requests are equally as alarming if we think about actually doing what the Lord says. If someone wants your clothes, He asks you to give them up. If someone needs to borrow money, He asks you to lend without expecting repayment. He commands us all to give any of our possessions to anyone who asks. The reason for this imagery is to make us aware that it is not easy to overcome our desire for revenge. It is not something we would tend to do, if left to ourselves.

There is a deeper reason, of course. It comes by means of the internal sense or the meaning which is contained in each of the words and images. A passage from the Writings for the New Church explains:

Who can fail to see that these words should not be taken literally? Who is going to turn his left cheek to one who has smacked him on the right cheek? Who is going to give his cloak to one who wishes to take away his tunic? Who is going to give what he has to all who ask for it? And who will not resist evil? But these words cannot be understood by anyone who does not know that the right cheek and the left, tunic and cloak, a mile, a loan, and all the rest are being used to mean. The subject in these verses is spiritual life or the life of faith, not natural life, which is the life of the world. (Arcana Caelestia 9049:5; cf. Apocalypse Explained 556:8)

Spiritual life is the key. Again the Lord is asking us to focus on what’s going on in our minds- our intentions, affections, thoughts, attitudes. When someone insults us what happens to our spiritual life? What causes us to react in a merciful or vengeful way? This is what comes out by means of the internal sense.

Spiritual associations. A major idea is contained within the Lord’s introduction to His message: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'” (Matthew 5:38). This again is the law of retaliation. It is the exact opposite of the Golden Rule which the Lord spoke of later in the same address: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).

The truth contained within is that one is the law of heaven, while the other is the law of hell. In heaven, people are motivated by mutual love, or charity–they do to others as they want others to do to them (see Apocalypse Revealed 762). But devils in hell place themselves first, desiring to abuse and manipulate those around them. When it doesn’t work they break forth with acts of violence and cruelty. But the law of retaliation takes effect, and whatever they do to others comes crashing back on them in the form of punishments (Ibid.). By such means the Lord maintains some semblance of order in the hells.

The power of such a teaching is that it opens up a reality never before known. In the lessons we read about our spiritual associations (see Arcana Caelestia 4067). We are in the presence of spirits and angels right now. The spiritual world, the realm of the afterlife, is full of people who once lived on earth. The Lord uses them to lead us. Every single thing we think and feel is caused by our association with certain spirits. We are present with spirits who like to think and feel the same way we do, even though we are entirely unaware of it.

The passage gave some examples. A covetous person is in association with covetous spirits; a person who loves himself pre-eminently is with those who share this self-pride; one who takes delight in revenge (an emotion particularly appropriate in this context) is among spirits who feed that desire. It also mentions that people who avoid such vices are in association with angels in heaven, and are thereby led by the Lord Himself.

With this backdrop we can think again about our response to evil or insensitivity. When we react with anger or vengeance it is never from the Lord. When we repay anger with anger, violence with violence, then we are acting under the law of retaliation–the law that governs hell. The result is that we are in association with devils in hell, and as the passage from Arcana Caelestia explains:

[We are] utterly under their control, so much so that [we are] not under [our] own jurisdiction but under theirs, [even though we imagine] from the delight [we experience], and so from the freedom [we have], that [we are] in control of [ourselves].” (Arcana Caelestia 4067)

Only when we reflect on the fact that there’s more going on than our own emotions and thoughts, that someone else is involved, that there may be reasons for his or her actions–then we open ourselves up to charity, to thoughts about how we would want to be treated if the roles were reversed; then we are in association with angels of heaven and we are led by the Lord.

This is an amazing new truth which gives us a totally new way of approaching our dealings with other people. Our goal is to be led by the Lord and His angels, rather than to fall into the traps of hell.
Specific requests. With this backdrop of our connection with the spiritual world, we can look at a few of the phrases of the Lord’s words, and see clearly what the Lord is asking us to do.

(1) “Do not resist an evil person” He says. What He means is “Don’t repay evil with evil.” Why? Because it will never help. All it does is bring us into association with the hells. Their desire is to hurt us and control us. If we respond to their impulses we suffer. We can think of anger as an example. It is a powerful emotion. We may derive some delusional pleasure from “letting someone have it,” but more often than not we end up feeling remorseful and guilty. It doesn’t lead anywhere good.

(2) Our goal, then, is to avoid such consequences. The first way to do so is “to turn the other cheek.” A “cheek” represents an interior understanding of the truth (see Apocalypse Explained 556:9; cf. Arcana Caelestia 9049:6). When we truly understand the Lord’s request to resist vengeful emotions, we will see that He is asking us to respond from a charitable perspective. “Striking the cheek” represents a desire to destroy (Ibid.). When someone steals from us, or is cruel, the Lord asks us not to strike back–not to desire to destroy. Instead our goal is to respond from that interior understanding which is “the other cheek”-from an interior affection of love towards the neighbor. Such is the meaning of His words which follow: “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43).

In this we see a tremendous challenge–to overcome that instinctive reaction and to act from a higher motive instead; to take influx from heaven rather than hell; to think about the other person–the one who is abusing us–from respect, as a person; to ask ourselves how the Lord would want us to respond. Once we’ve considered these things then we can react. It may be with zeal, or with a desire to clarify the cause for the confrontation, or with a decision to remove ourselves from the situation. Whatever our response actually is, it must be from charity, and so from heaven.

(3) Again the Lord knows that is hard. It is our goal, but we may not always succeed. So the Lord offers a starting point in the next sentence: “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40). A “cloak” represents an external understanding of the truth, as opposed to the internal understanding represented by a “cheek” (see Apocalypse Explained 556:9; Arcana Caelestia 9049:6). What the Lord asks here is that we obey, even if we don’t feel like it. If we can’t bring ourselves to respond to our “adversary” from a genuinely charitable attitude, then obedience is a place to begin. We may want to respond with anger or revenge, but the Lord asks us not to. It might be useful to think again of David and Saul. David had the opportunity to kill Saul, his enemy, but he did not, because the Lord forbade it.

(4) Still, such external obedience should not be our home-base. It is just a starting point. The Lord wants us to work towards the goal of genuine mercy and forgiveness. He says so in the last phrase we’ll look at today: “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41). Going the extra mile represents our willingness to work towards the goal of charity. The more we resist our urge to repay wrong for wrong, the more the Lord will lead us towards control to such a degree that we feel nothing but affection for those in disorder. This doesn’t mean we have to feel happy for them. But it does mean we feel concern, and respond with the idea of helping the situation rather than making it worse. If we do so, then we are on the road to experiencing love towards the neighbor as the angels of heaven do.

Conclusion. The Lord asks us not to resist evil. In the internal sense He explains that evil has it’s own punishment (see Apocalypse Revealed 762). He asks that we avoid being affected by someone else’s wrongdoing to such a degree that we drop to their level of operation. All it does is cause us to receive influx from hell.

Instead He says, “Love your enemies.. Do good to those who hate you” (Matthew 5:44). The overriding rule is to do to others as we would have them do to us. If we heed this rule and hold it up as our goal, then we will be “sons of the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). In other words, the Lord will be leading us. He will protect us from harm, and evil will not have its intended effect on us. We won’t respond with anger or vengeance because the source of our response will be heaven rather than hell. As the passage from Arcana Caelestia says:

As [we allow ourselves] to be led to good which is more interior and more perfect, so [we are] conveyed [by the Lord] to more interior and more perfect angelic societies. (Arcana Caelestia 4067)

Into these societies we will come after death, if we make mutual love or charitable regard for others, our rule of life.


Love Is Not a Feeling

By Rev. Erik Buss

How often have you heard someone say, or said yourself, “I know I ought to do it, but I just don’t feel like it”? And how often have you heard, “We fell out of love. The feeling was gone”? Many things seem exciting and fun at the beginning, but become chores later. The thrill of a new project or hobby fades; a friendship or a marriage seems less and less fulfilling. When the feeling goes away, our most common response is to stop doing what we were doing and give up on the friendship, the marriage, the job.

On the other hand, when feelings are strong, we will do anything to make sure we keep them going. How often have we heard people explaining what they did by saying, “The feeling was right,” or “I just felt that it was the right thing to do?” In our culture, strong feelings are used to justify just about every possible action, from angry words to spending money we don’t have to committing adultery. The phrase, “I couldn’t help myself,” is used so often it has become a cliche.

For many of us, feelings dictate how we live our lives. We use them to motivate us. We use them to decide what we love, who we are, and what we should do. If they are strong, we will do anything to keep them going, and if they are weak, nothing can make us do anything.

This can seem like a very reasonable way to live. Since we are what we love, we might say, our feelings show us who we are. Some have even reasoned that since they want to do something they know is wrong that they must love it, and since they love it they might as well do it. After all, there’s no point in pretending to be any better than we really are; that’s adding hypocrisy to our list of evils.

The reality is that our feelings do not always tell us what we love, and therefore they should not be a factor in choosing what we should do with our spiritual lives. What we feel is not what we love. Loves do produce feelings, and feelings do help us know what we love, but they can also be misleading. A feeling can be good, yet come from a good or an evil love. Take romantic passion for example. It always feels good. If it comes from a chaste love, and is expressed only within the bonds of marriage, that good feeling shows a good love. On the other hand, that same feeling could come from a horrible selfish desire. The feeling alone will not tell us which love gave rise to it.

Similarly, a feeling of sadness may come from a good or a bad love. A person could feel sad because a good love has been thwarted, or because he has lost someone he loves. Or he could be sad because an evil love has been foiled, and he is pouting.

It’s easy to see how far apart our loves and feelings often are when we are angry. Think about a time when you were angry with someone you love very dearly. In that time of anger, you may have felt like hurting that person, that you hated him, maybe even that you wished he was dead. But did that feeling of anger and hatred mean you didn’t love him anymore? Of course not! In an hour, or even fifteen minutes, the feeling was probably totally gone, and you were ready to appreciate and even feel love for the person again. The love was there all along, but you were blind and deaf to it. While it is true that the presence of anger shows that you do not totally love that person, that’s no big deal. It just means we aren’t perfect, but we knew that already. What is important is for us to recognize that feelings don’t necessarily show us what our overall love is.

Several more problems arise from trying to see our loves from our feelings. The first is that there is no one-for-one ratio between feelings and loves. In other words, a strong love will not necessarily show itself as a strong feeling. A deeply held love, like the love of a child or a love of order, may not come to our conscious mind as anything other than a general feeling of contentment and a willingness to fight for something that needs protection. On the other hand, a superficial love may show itself as an almost overwhelming feeling, one which makes it almost impossible to concentrate on anything else. An example of this is sports. Hardly anyone has a deeply held love for sports, but when someone’s favorite team loses, it can seem that the whole world collapsed. Based on the feelings he feels, you’d think the world was about to end.

A second problem of trying to discover our loves by means of our feelings is that evil loves create proportionally stronger feelings than good loves do. The reason for this is that the hells try to make that feeling so important to us that it sweeps away all rational thought, and even all free will. They want that feeling to become so important that we will do anything to keep it going. Swedenborg once was allowed to feel what the love of dominating others is like and he said it was the most delightful feeling he had ever had. What is more, it totally filled his mind. This is how the hells use feelings to manipulate and dominate us. The angels, on the other hand, offer us good feelings in a way that we can freely receive them or reject them as we wish. They don’t want to dominate us with feelings.

There is a better way to find out what we really love. We need to look at what we do. What things do we make time for? What things form consistent patterns in our activities? What do we always do no matter how we feel? Love is not so much a feeling as a commitment.

Two stories from the Word can show us how love is a commitment. One is when Abraham is willing to sacrifice Isaac at the Lord’s command, even though it clearly hurts him. In the story, the Lord tells Abraham to give up “your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.” What the Lord asks Abraham to do is to make a commitment to Him. Picture Abraham climbing up the mountain and then tying his son onto the altar. He must have felt terrible. But he was committed to the Lord: he did what His God asked rather than obey his paternal feelings. Abraham’s commitment to obey the Lord in spite of his feelings showed a greater love to the Lord than any feelings of devotion could.

We can see an even more powerful example of this principle in the Lord’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. This was probably the low-point of the Lord’s life on earth. He had been deserted by the whole Human race; He was about to be deserted by His disciples, and He knew it; even the angels had despaired and were telling Him to give up on humanity. He was totally alone. He felt so bad that He even prayed to His Father, to the soul within Himself, to ask if He had to go through with the trials of the next day. Yet think of the words He said in this low-point of His life: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will but as You will.” Think about that. Even during the most overpowering feelings of loss and loneliness, ones we cannot begin to imagine, the very question He asked to get out of His appointed task is qualified with the commitment to do what is right: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. That total commitment to the salvation of each one of us is staggering. No one has ever felt more like giving up, and then no one has ever gone on to give more in spite of His feelings.

The closest we can get to doing what the Lord did is to be willing to lay down our life, either physically or spiritually, for someone else. The Lord said that this is the greatest act of love a person can do. Yet to do it we have to overcome the strongest feeling we have, which is our desire to preserve our own lives. No one feels like doing this. No one gets up in the morning and decides, “I think I’ll lay down my life for my friend today.” Rather, when a person or cause is threatened, he sees the need for sacrifice, and acts. True love acts on what it knows to be good, rather than what it simply feels to be good.

These loves, which we develop by our commitments, are what conjoin us to the Lord. There is also a group of passages in the Word for the New Church which state that we are conjoined to Him by what we do. Once we see love as a commitment, these two statements become different ways of stating the same thing. When we feel destructive anger, yet act fairly, we love fairness more than anger. When we control ourselves when we feel like flirting, or testing our power with the opposite sex, we love our spouse and the bonds of marriage more than adultery. On the other hand, when we feel loving toward someone, but don’t act kindly to them, we do not love them. Or if we sit in church every Sunday and feel close to the Lord there, yet act selfishly the rest of the week, we don’t love the Lord, regardless of what we feel. What we are committed to doing will always show us what we love more accurately than what we feel. This is a wonderful fact, because we can all make ourselves do good deeds, but we have an extremely hard time making ourselves feel good things.

So where does this leave our feelings since they should have nothing to do with how we act? Are they just useless adornments the Lord has given us, something we can’t enjoy because we can’t trust? The answer is that feelings are not made to show us our loves or to show us what to do.

Our feelings serve two important uses. The first is to stimulate us to think about an issue. If a feeling comes up, we know that some love must be active. That mean we need to evaluate what that love is, and see if runs contrary to our commitments. If we feel a rush of anger coming on, it is a warning either that the hells are attacking us, or that we are feeling a strong desire to protect ourselves or someone we love. That feeling can stimulate us to decide what our commitments are. Similarly, if we feel the strong desire to hug someone, that feeling should prompt us to decide whether the setting is appropriate, and if that would be the most useful thing to do for that person.

But feelings serve one far more important purpose. We can see it from the word used to name feelings in the Word for the New Church: they are called “delights.” That word, delights, tells us how we are supposed to use our feelings: we are supposed to enjoy them, delight in them, accept them as a wonderful gift from our God to make our life enjoyable. Once we know that a feeling is from a good love, the Lord wants us to enjoy it.

Until we get to the point where we instinctively know whether feelings are good or bad, in other words, until we become among the very best of the angels, there is another way of judging them. While it is true that the hells are particularly good at manipulating our feelings, they have a much harder time manipulating our thoughts. Therefore we can use our thoughts to judge our feelings. A simple way of doing this is to ask ourselves, “If I follow this feeling out, does it lead me to do good or evil things.” If it leads us away from what we know is right, we should shun it, but if it does not, we can enjoy it, even abandon ourselves to it. Using our feelings in this way frees them up to simply delight us.

All feelings do come from loves, but we often can’t tell if it is a good or bad love. If we identify ourselves and our loves with what we feel, we give a great victory to the hells because at times they can make us feel just about whatever they want. Although we cannot control the feelings that flow into us, we can control the loves we develop. If we can recognize that love is not a feeling, but a commitment, and that we can choose to love something by deciding to do it no matter what we feel, we will negate the hells’ power. We will still feel terrible at times, just as the Lord did while He was on earth. But more and more often we will be able to rise above the strong feelings the hells inspire in us. We will learn that love in the form of commitment is more enduring and more powerful than any feeling we may have. And what is wonderful, we will discover the joy of allowing the good feelings the Lord has given us to delight us with their full power.

Heaven & Hell 396 All delights flow forth from love, for that which a person loves he feels to be delightful. No one has any delight from any other source. From this is follows that such as the love is such is the delight.

Divine Providence 215:9 It has been granted me to feel the quality of the delight of ruling from the love of self, and also how great it is. I was let into it that I might know this. It was such as to surpass all the delights that are in the world. It was a delight possessing the whole mind from its inmost things to its outermost; but in the body it was felt as something pleasant and agreeable with a feeling of elation in the breast. It was also granted me to perceive that from this delight as from their fountain-head there issued the delights of evils of all kinds, such as adulteries, revenge, fraud, slander, and evil doing in general.



By Rev. David Moffat

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, right at the end, Neville Longbottom, the class geek, is awarded the house points which win Gryffindor the House Cup. Why? Harry, Ron and Hermione had discovered a plot to steal the Philosopher’s Stone, and as they headed out of the common room after curfew, Neville had stood in their way, certain that they were going to get themselves in trouble once again. Unsuccessful though he was, Albus Dumbledore (the school’s headmaster) awarded Neville his points with the words, “There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

How true! Faced with knowing that a friend is in the wrong, most of us would be tempted to turn a blind eye, at the very least. We do not face the same quandary when the wrong doer is a stranger.

The doctrine of charity tells us how we are to deal with the other people we relate to – according to the goodness which is present in them, or what is the same, to the extent that they have accepted what is of the Lord. This applies to people of every race, religion, social status, etc. in practice, it means that we ought to do a little work in getting to know the person and the circumstances before we perform any type of ‘good’ for them, for example, a natural kindness such as the giving of money.

All these guidelines apply equally to friendships. But, I maintain that we find the rule much harder to apply with objectivity in the case of a friend. Let’s return to the example of money. Say a person walks up to you in the street and asks for ten dollars. What would you do? Would you say ‘yes’, immediately and hand the money over? Would you enquire as to the reason? Would you offer to supply that person’s need rather than giving money? Would you just say ‘no’? Now imagine that person is a friend – would your reaction change?

It is natural, in the case of strangers to be more inclined to refuse the request than grant it. And we are more likely to question the motive of a stranger than we would wish to tarnish a friendship with thoughts of mistrust. We easily fall into the trap of assuming the worst of a stranger and the best of a friend.

This is the more difficult side of the doctrine of charity, because it challenges our assumptions and lower nature. Most people seem to understand the implications of the doctrine in relation to a stranger in the street. We have misgivings about ‘just handing the money over’ to the stranger who asks, even though we may have been told to treat everyone to the same natural kindnesses. We find our misgivings explained in a rational and sensible manner by the doctrine. But when it comes to being kind to a friend, most of us wouldn’t hesitate or even harbour doubts. But, everyone should be treated with equal care and attention, so that in all situations good may come from our actions. That is to say, we should not treat everyone in the same way, but in dealing with such requests, we should begin from the same principles. This can come as something of a shock.

But there’s another complication to consider. When we deny a kindness to the deserving stranger, it represents one point in time, one missed opportunity for good. We can repent, learn from our mistake and move on, fairly confident of no further contact with that person. Unfortunate as such a missed opportunity it, there are no lasting consequences of our actions for us. But when we are kind to the undeserving friend, we have done more than aid an evil in that person – we may predict with some confidence a continued association with that evil. That evil may lead us to greater and greater problems. Swedenborg describes how detrimental friendship associations can be when they are entered into carelessly (True Christian Religion, paragraphs 446-455; cf. Arcana Caelestia 3875.5).

I’m not suggesting that we can ‘get away’ with treating strangers badly! That’s just plain selfish and short sighted, and who knows what the consequences for other people might be. My point is that friendships are more potentially dangerous for our spiritual well-being.

In The Lord of the Rings, especially the second and third books of the trilogy (The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), we find true and false friendship vividly contrasted in the relationship between Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and Gollum. It shows us how we really ought to treat our friends and who our real friends are.

Samwise (Sam) is Frodo’s true friend. He share’s Frodo’s purpose – the destruction of the ring of power. He is caring, thoughtful and encouraging. But he is also able to correct Frodo and stand up for the truth, even when he knows Frodo will not find it easy to accept his words. He treats Frodo “without fear of favour.”

Gollum is altogether different. His purpose is not to destroy the ring, but to regain possession of it. At first he breathes murder towards Frodo and Sam. When he is forced to guide them towards Mordor he does so only for the opportunity it gives him to move closer to his goal. He is not interested in the truth – he tells Frodo whatever he wants to hear in order to gain his trust. In Peter Jackson’s recent films, Frodo finally rejects Sam’s friendship for Gollum’s, only to plunge himself into terrifying danger – and to be rescued by the ever faithful Sam.

Let’s turn now to friendship in its highest sense – friendship with the Lord. When we are friends with the Lord, all other relationships can be seen in their true perspective – in relation to the highest possible good. Our truest human friendships are those which are formed on this basis. Our priority should not be the personality or character of another, but it should be our connection with the Lord, and through this connection we can be true friends. When the Apostle Paul speaks of the ‘body of Christ’ (Ephesians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 12:4-5), this is what he is describing. This is the church – in an ideal sense. When Swedenborg describes the Grand Man of heaven, he is speaking about the same thing – the ideal become reality. We are in heaven because of the presence of the Lord in our lives, and the collective effect is a reflection of the Lord.

Our gathering to celebrate the Holy Supper represents this idea friendship too. It is an act of worship we most usually celebrate together. One of the most important aspects of sharing the Holy Supper with those who are housebound, is the sense of sharing it with a body of people with whom they are physically unable to be present. When we have gathered for that purpose, we can say our congregation represents those friendships. It is not limited to that particular group – indeed we may not actually call those present our “friends”, but by focussing upon the Lord in an external way, it shows us what the inner nature of friendship ought to be.

There is one more aspect of friendship I would like to mention in conclusion. The Lord said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…” (John 15:15) Friendship with the Lord is a liberating experience! As we align our being with His, the commands of his words become part of our nature too. We no longer have to strive in order to avoid killing, because the need, the desire to kill, or the other evils which would lead to breaking that commandment are no longer part of our lives. Friendship is representative of our regeneration. Our growing friendship with the Lord is the realisation of that potential.


Developing Respect For Marriage

By Rev. Peter M. Buss, Jr.

The Lord created marriage. In the gospel of Matthew the Lord said:

“He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'” (Matthew 19:4-5)

The creation story in the book of Genesis culminates in the formation of human beings. In His crowning work, God created male and female, both in His image. At the very same time the Lord created marriage. As one teaching in the work Conjugial Love puts it:

When the Lord created mankind, He at the same time created [true married love] and implanted in it a capacity for receiving and perceiving … all the blessings, felicities and delights that could ever be conveyed.” (335; see also Conjugial Love 157)

The Lord created marriage. And He did so for some very important reasons. Let me just list three:

1. Marriage is one of His ways of blessing people with happiness. The Lord has a desire to make people happy-here on earth and to eternity in heaven. Marriage is one of the ways He can bring the greatest joy to people. We’ll talk more about this later.

2. A second reason for creating marriage is so that people could prepare for heaven. One of the primary things we need to do to get to heaven is develop an unselfish love for other people. We call it charity towards the neighbor-looking outside ourselves to the well-being of someone else. Marriage is an intense framework within which two people can practice unselfish love and respect for each other, and so make progress towards heaven. What we will see is that preparing for marriage and preparing for heaven are virtually the same thing. Marriage and religion go hand in hand.

3. Marriage is the rightful context for the birth and rearing of children. In the book of the Writings for the New Church called Divine Providence, we read, “[A heaven from the human race] was the Lord’s end in creation, and since this was the end in creation, it is also the end of His Divine Providence” (n. 27).

The Lord created marriage to bring people happiness, to help them prepare for heaven, and to provide a means for the creation of more people whom He could lead to heaven.

Before we go any further, we should acknowledge certain things about marriage and the way it is experienced by many people. Some people don’t end up getting married here on earth. That doesn’t make them any less cared for by the Lord; nor does it handicap them in their path to heaven. Some people’s experience with marriage is marginal at best; they find themselves in a marriage which does not bring them great joy. Two people get married only to discover that they don’t share some of the same values in life, or they have lost sight of what attracted them to the other person in the first place. And let’s face it, lots of marriages end in divorce, sometimes for very good reasons. Having said that, we should also acknowledge that some people experience tremendous joy by means of marriage. It is the best thing in their lives, and they can’t even remember a time when they weren’t married.

Marriage is experienced in many different ways here on earth. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Lord created marriage, and that He created it for our happiness. Our challenge this morning is to look beyond some of the shortcomings of marriage that we can see, to how the Lord created marriage-how He set it up, and how we can cooperate with Him to have the best chance of experiencing a happy marriage. We need to develop a respect for marriage and honor it as the Lord’s creation.

Marriage is holy. The first part of this respect is a recognition that marriages are sacred. Consider this teaching from Married Love:

This love is celestial, spiritual, holy, pure and clean, more so than any other love which exists from the Lord in angels of heaven or people of the church. (n. 64)

Marriage as an institution is holy because it comes from the Lord. It is pure and clean for the same reason. If we are to respect marriage, then we have to see where it comes from. It is not something that just happens whenever two people decide to share their lives. The love which a husband and wife experience is a gift from the Lord. As this passage continues:

If married love is received from its Author, who is the Lord, it is accompanied by holiness from Him.. If then, a person has a desire and striving for it in his will, that love daily becomes more clean and pure to eternity. (Ibid.)

This teaching says to me that marriage is not ours to do with as we please. The Lord set it up. He has certain goals in mind by means of it, one of which is to make us happy. We need to strive for it, pray for it, look forward to it, desire to receive it from the Lord. We need to honor the institution of marriage as a sacred.

To illustrate this point, we turn to the parable of the wedding garment from the Gospel of Matthew. The Lord told this parable about heaven. It is a parable about respect, or more appropriately, a lack of respect for the things the Lord offers. Heaven is compared to a wedding feast. The guests who were invited were unwilling to come. They didn’t see the value of living a good life, and so preparing for heaven. The story goes on to describe the king’s efforts to find other people to come to his son’s wedding: he sent his servants into the highways and streets of the city to invite anyone who was willing to come. Then we hear about one guest who came to the wedding without a wedding garment. It is important to realize that the Lord was not talking about external signs of respect in this story. The parable isn’t about how someone chose to dress at a wedding party. It is about inward respect for heavenly things. The Lord is the king who invites all to come to heaven. But only those end up in heaven who value it, and want to be there.

It’s no accident that the Lord chose a wedding for the context of this message. Marriage deserves the same consideration as heaven does. If our thoughts and inward intentions are pure in respect to marriage, then the Lord can bless us with happiness in marriage, or at least help us to prepare for the time when we will get married. If we do not see it’s value, we are like those guests who were unwilling to come to the wedding feast, or like that man who showed up with without a wedding garment.

The Writings for the New Church use two terms for this sacred attitude towards marriage. One is the term “conjugial.” “Conjugial” love means “married” love or the love experienced within marriage. But many people in our church hold that term as sacred. It conveys the sense that marriages are holy, and that they are from the Lord. Certainly this is a large part of what the book Conjugial Love or Married Love is all about.

Another term which is used is “chastity.” This is a somewhat antiquated term in today’s world. It is a word that conveys purity, lack of corruption, innocence, and decency with respect to marriage. I believe it also has a connotation of restraint, of not letting oneself have any fun, of holding back, of prudishness, but this is not the way the Writings for the New Church use it. In the work Conjugial Love there is a whole chapter devoted to the subject of chastity. It is primarily concerned with a person’s attitude towards marriage-what is going on in a person’s mind-with the purity of a person’s thoughts (see Conjugial Love 140). It talks about the fact that a person’s love and respect for marriage can become more and more purified or chaste (see n. 145). It points out that no love can become completely purified in people-not even the love in strong marriages, which is comforting to know (see n. 146). But it also explains that purification takes place to the extent that people stay away from what is impure. This includes big things such as adulterous relationships and sex before marriage, and also relatively small things like joking about the opposite sex in a mean spirited way, or filthy thoughts about someone. The point is that our attitude towards marriage is what counts. Chastity means that we regard marriage as holy. The more “chaste” our thoughts and intentions are, the more the Lord can lead us towards happiness in marriage.

Marriages can last to eternity. Another part of our respect for marriage is a realization that the love a husband and wife feel for each other does not end at death. This is an essential concept taught in the New Church. Marriages can last to eternity!

There is a common perception in our world, which I believe comes from the Lord, that the next life is real. Heaven is real. And because of that, people have this feeling that they will see loved ones again who have died. The work Divine Providence speaks to this general perception by saying:

Who does not believe that his little children are in heaven, and that after death he will see his wife, whom he has loved? Who thinks that they are ghosts, still less that they are souls or minds hovering about in the universe? (n. 274)

People continue to live in heaven. Good people become angels. And there is marriage in heaven.

Now we need to think about that statement for a minute: there is marriage in heaven. The Lord appeared to say something radically different while He was on earth. We read about the Sadducees who posed a question for Jesus. They devised a scenario which would never really happen: a brother dies, leaving a wife behind and no children. One after the other, each of his six brothers takes her as a wife and dies. And the question comes: “In the resurrection whose wife does she become? For they all had her as a wife” (Luke 20:33). We can see that there intent was to entrap Jesus-to make Him say something foolish, or something which would contradict Jewish law. It doesn’t help that these were people who didn’t even believe in “the resurrection” or in life after death (see Luke 20:27).

Knowing these things, Jesus answered by saying: “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35-36). Our goal this morning is not to discount what Jesus said, for it is part of His Holy Word. But we do need to understand what He meant by it. There is marriage in heaven. And we can see this even here when Jesus appears to have said the direct opposite.

His aim was to teach the Sadducees that there is life after death. He spoke of the reality of the resurrection, and concluded by saying that the Lord “is not a God of the dead but of the living” (Luke 20:38). But by means of His answer He also taught something true and important about the state of marriage after death. If we go back to the parable of the wedding garment we can see that the Lord uses marriage as a symbol for heaven. Being invited to the wedding means being invited into heaven (see Conjugial Love 41:3). In exactly the same way the Lord taught the Sadducees about the process of coming into heaven. The preparation for heaven takes place in this world. We cannot change the kind of person we are once we get to the other world. This is why the person without the wedding garment was cast out. His internal nature was not heavenly. He had not become an angel or prepared himself to live in heaven while he was on earth. So the Lord said, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.” We choose to accept or reject the Lord’s invitation to heaven in this world (see Conjugial Love 41).

It is exactly the same with marriage. The attitude towards marriage which we develop in this world is what counts. We can’t change that when we enter the next life. Marriages in heaven are like the best of marriages here on earth. They are holy, pure, and clean. They are loving and enduring. They are between one man and one woman, not eight people as the Sadducees proposed. The attitude towards marriage displayed by those Sadducees does not exist in heaven-the attitude that marriage is temporary and can be terminated for any reason, that men have more rights than women. The truth of the matter is that the Lord created marriage for people on earth and for people who become angels in heaven. He did not contradict this essential teaching when He was in the world. He just directed our thoughts inward, to our respect for marriage.

Knowing that marriages exist in heaven leads us to an amazing realization and belief. The Lord will provide happy marriages for all good people-on earth or in heaven. Part of our respect for marriage is to realize this. As one teaching from Conjugial Love says:

The only determining factor [of whether we will be happily married here on earth, or in heaven] is the marital disposition [or attitude towards marriage] which is seated and guarded in a person’s will, in whatever state of marriage the person lives.” (Conjugial Love 531)

Ideally a husband and wife who have shared their lives here on earth will remain married in heaven, and their love will continue to grow and develop to eternity. I believe that happens quite frequently. Sometimes marriages end at death; the husband and wife realize that they have some substantial differences, and agree to separate. But they find new partners who are more suited to them, if they have loved marriage, and respected it as something set up by the Lord alone (see Conjugial Love 48[repeated]). Some people never get married in this world. They too will receive the blessings of marriage in heaven, if they have loved marriage while they were here on earth. The same thing could be said for a person who is divorced.

Working towards the dream of love truly conjugial. What we come to see with more and more clarity is that marriage is one of the Lord’s most fundamental institutions. He calls it “the precious jewel of human life, and the repository of the Christian religion” (Conjugial Love 457). Marriage is a “precious jewel” because the Lord has created it to bring us the greatest happiness we can experience. It is “the repository of Christian religion” because “religion,” or the Lord’s laws of order, are essential if we are to feel that happiness (n. 458). Marriage, after all, is two people looking outside of themselves and caring for another human being. Isn’t that what religion is all about?

In whatever state of marriage we find ourselves: happily married, in a mediocre marriage, single, or divorced, we can all develop a respect for marriage. Every generation of people needs to come to love the Lord’s order in relation to marriage. We all need to revisit His precious teachings from time to time. Only then can we prepare ourselves for happiness in marriage to eternity in heaven.


Behold, A Sower Went Forth To Sow

By Candidate David C. Roth

“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside…some fell on stony place … and some fell among thorns … But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:3-8).

The people of the land of Canaan around 30 A.D. had a unique teacher in their midst Divine teacher, Jesus Christ, God incarnate. He was the greatest teacher ever to grace the face of the earth. He alone was able to teach these very external-minded people the truth about life after death, about the kingdom of heaven. He taught them what heaven is like, and He did it in such a way that they could understand it. He accommodated the Divine truth to their modest understandings.

To some who heard, this parable was no more than an illustration of what happens when a farmer sows seed in good or in bad soil. To the others, who later heard the meaning of the parable explained by the Lord, it was seen as it was: an allegorical example of how the people of the church receive the Lord’s doctrine how they receive His truths.

What they, and many even today, don’t realize is that every detail in the Lord’s teaching, and thus in His Word, is a key to a spiritual vision which can be unlocked and unfolded and so seen in each story. The parable of the sower does teach us about the kingdom of heaven. It teaches us how we must receive the Word of the Lord in order to enter into His heavenly kingdom. It also uncovers for us the kind of barriers we put up in our lives which prevent us from loving and living the truths of the Word which will bring healthy and happy relationships here on earth, and ultimately lead us to heaven.

The sower in our parable is the Lord, and the seed is the Word or truth. The ground in which the seed is sown is the mind and life of the individual, or the church in him or her. We are taught that the church is in each one of us according to how we receive the Lord and His Word. The integrity of the church is said to be according to two things: the soundness and purity of its doctrine, and the degree of charity within it. So it could be said that the four types of ground on which the seed fell in our parable are like various states of the church within us. We can then qualify these various states according to these two requisites.

However, in general these four states could be distinguished as three destructive states and one good state. The first three states, as they are represented in the parable, are not heavenly states; only the fourth state is a heavenly state. However, if we see ourselves in one of these prior three states, we can take heart in the fact that with some hard work on our ground (our attitude), we can break out of our destructive state and move on to a more fruitful one. Symbolically speaking, there is much that can be done to salvage a field which is hard, full of stones, or thorny. We can plow, remove the stones, or weed out the thorns, and then something can grow.

Let’s now consider each one of these kinds of ground to see how they reflect the types of attitudes, and ultimately the life, which we can have toward the Lord’s Word and toward our neighbor.

“And as he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.”

The wayside is ground which is packed down very hard and is dry; it could even be said to be just rock with no soil at all (see AC 5096). There is no way that seed can take root on this type of ground. There is no capacity for the ground to receive the seed in its current state. The obvious result is that the birds of the air come and take the exposed seed away. If we don’t improve the soil, it is like trying to plant grass on a concrete slab. All we are doing is feeding the birds.

The hard rock or ground is said to be our persuasion or our firm, unwavering, or what might be called “bullheaded” set of false ideas. It is a set of confirmed false beliefs, and such falsity that has bound up and imprisoned our ability to think freely and to be open-minded. You can imagine a person maybe yourself at some point who is convinced that his way to do a certain thing is the only way to do it, and that everybody else is wrong. This is an example of a false persuasion.

The Writings describe people living under a false persuasion as follows:

“[Such people] are in the persuasion that falsity is truth and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thoughts in bonds and as it were in prison” (AC 5096).

A person with this attitude has no time for truth; it is nothing to him. He has no concern for it. The truth of the Word cannot possibly take root in a person who does not care about the truth (see D. Life 90). Is this talking about us when we don’t make the time to worship the Lord or to read His Word? Or when we hear a truth and we reject it because it means having to change our opinion, or admit that we were wrong?

Until the falsity of this state is dispersed, the truth will be destroyed by our own hardened, misguided understanding, an understanding formed by our reasoning from sensory experience alone and so founded upon falsities. This is what is meant by the birds which come and devour the seed which is sown. Falsity will consume the truth in us unless we receive it with a willing heart, a heart which chooses to follow the Lord’s Word and not our own thinking and reasoning faculties. It is what happens to the truth we learn unless we examine ourselves, put away the false ideas, and then begin to live by the truth truth which leads to good.

If we want to depart from this destructive attitude, we must break the bonds of this state by shunning the love we have for our own false ideas and the evil love from which it springs. When this happens, we can then be set free to start thinking openly and honestly and so see clearly the path which leads toward a life of genuine good.

The second destructive state described in this parable is illustrated by the following: “Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.” This section describes a person who does care for the truth but not for its own sake, which is not to care interiorly, and therefore the truth has no permanence and grants no conviction. This type of person loves truth outwardly, not inwardly. He or she loves truth for the sake of being able to appear intelligent and wise. He gathers in truths and hoards them for the sake of glorifying himself. “Look how smart I am, see how many degrees I hold, and observe how many books are on my shelf.” Truth is not learned for the sake of showing this person how to change his own life to better fit with the Lord’s plan. With him truths can still be called truths, but they are not truths taken for what they really are: ways to show how to live a good life. In this parable “earth” signifies good because it “receives truths as soil does seed,” and allows truth to take root and be of use. When truths have no root in good they are only temporary and superficial. They can look beautiful and make us look pious, but if we receive them for selfish reasons alone they will be of no real use to us when evil spirits rise up and attempt to destroy us and our truths. This is what is meant by the sun rising up and scorching the seedlings. If we remain in this state, then our spiritual life will look like nothing more than a sun-scorched desert rather than the oasis it can become. The Writings tell us that “the love of self lets man down into what is his own, and holds him there, for it looks continually to self, and man’s own is nothing but evil, and from evil comes every falsity” (AE 401:35). It is okay to love to learn truths and to want to be intelligent, so let’s thank the Lord that He has given us intelligence, but then humble ourselves to Him and pray that He show us how to utilize our knowledges to best serve our neighbor and the Lord.

We can never have a new will or desire for following the Lord implanted within us as long as we don’t attempt to put self-love where it belongs, that is, below service to others and below love to the Lord and His Divine uses. When we do this, we can then make the truths we learn our own, truths which the good of the new will would need in order to be born and to survive safely.

Our parable describes a third destructive state which is envisioned in the following: “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.” This verse describes the state of those who have let evils or bad habits take control of their lives. As the Lord’s unfolding of the parable to His followers described, “these are those who hear the word, and the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and they become unfruitful.” When we are in this state, we allow the desires of the flesh and the love for merely sensual and worldly delights to get in the way of truth when we hear it. Basically what we are doing is rejecting the truth because what we are currently doing feels good and we don’t want to give it up. We will allow no truth to lead us away from those things which we love most of all. As the Writings describe those in this state, “They reject the truth as soon as they hear it, and if they listen to it they stifle it.. As they deal thus with truths they do not know what good is, for truth and good act as one” (DP 278a:3).

When we are involved in an evil, because it is something we love and therefore brings us delight, it seems to us that we are in freedom. So when we hear anything that would lead us away from our mirage of freedom we reject it. Take for example an individual caught up in justifying his own behavior to cover his dishonest actions. “Yes, I changed some figures on my tax return, but I needed the money so that I could pay for my child’s orthodontic work. I can’t send the government money now or they will put me in jail. What’s $200 to a billion-dollar operation?” To this person truth seems like a set of handcuffs waiting to be secured firmly around his wrists, severely restricting his freedom. But this is only an illusion. The Lord teaches us very plainly that if we know the truth and abide in it, it will make us free. But as long as we insist on holding onto our own insane ideas of freedom, we do nothing but close ourselves off from the genuine delights and peace which accompany true freedom heavenly freedom. This freedom can come about only when we shun the evils of our life and live the truths of the Word. The means for us to do this is always available to us. Just as the sower casts his seed on all types of ground, so too does the Lord give His truth to all. As the Lord teaches in the gospel of Matthew, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). He does not withhold His truth from us no matter what state or destructive behavior we are involved in. But it is our own individual decision whether or not we will receive His truth and put it to use.

The final state to discuss is one of usefulness. We read, “But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” This verse describes the reason why the sower sowed the seed in the first place: to bear fruit. Why would a farmer spend all the time he does plowing, picking out rocks, adding fertilizer, planting, and weeding in his field if he was not expecting a crop? He wouldn’t. The Lord doesn’t give us truths without a reason, without the possibility of use. He gives us the truths in His Word because He knows that if we prepare our minds to receive them, they can bear fruits of good in our lives, and this will bring us real happiness, not some self-created illusion of joy based solely on what our nervous system feeds our brain.

The seed which fell on good ground is illustrative of what happens when we love the truths that are in the Lord’s Word and do them from Him. When we do this we are said to bear fruit (see D.Life 90). In this case “fruits” signify the doing of good from love or charity (see AR 934, AC 3310). The state represented by the good ground which bore fruit is distinguished into three states itself: a hundredfold, sixty, or thirty. This means that we can receive enough of the Lord’s Word to allow us to bear either a lot of fruit or just some. The important thing is that we are doing good, that we are bearing some fruit, any fruit, which can be of use. When this happens, we will be brought into closer contact with the angels of heaven, and they will give us more and more help and strength to work and to till the field of our mind. If we stop and think on which of the following would be easier to prepare, plant, and maintain an acre of ground by ourselves or do the same with as many willing helpers as were needed or desired the answer is quite clear. When we shun evils as sins and look to the Lord for help, He will most certainly send it in abundance.

But we will never reach this state unless we believe that the Lord’s Word is Divine truth and holds the answers for life change within it. Beginning with this belief and then gradually responding to the truth in the Word is what will break up the rocky crust of our minds and allow moisture to seep in to soften the soil, making our rational minds ready, ready to receive the seeds of truth which will soon sprout into the tiny seedlings which are the beginnings of a life of good. And in time, with more continued work on the ground of our mind, by pulling out the suffocating evils and keeping the ground workable, we can enable these little seedlings of good to grow and become good for food, that is, genuine spiritual goods.

The truths of the Lord’s Word are of utmost importance to us. They will do so much for us if we let them. The Lord is the greatest teacher and has the best lessons ready for us, accommodated for each and every one of us no matter what state we are in. His parables teach us as well today as they did when He spoke them to His followers. So the question is, how are we going to choose to receive them? Will we reject them? Will we gather them in for mere appearance? Will we let our hereditary evils choke any good that may come from them?all ways which lead to spiritual starvation. Or will we open up our hearts and minds to them and feed on the produce of the spiritual goods which they can bear? The choice is ours. It is the Lord’s good pleasure that we inherit the kingdom, that is, that we go to heaven. As the Lord said to those who followed His Word in their lives, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34).