As a child, I occasionally wondered where God came from. Closely related to that issue was the question of what existed before God existed. If God created everything, then how did God get here? I have never come up with a good answer.
As an adult, I still struggle to understand and describe God. Some describe God as the basis of all being. Richard Swinburne suggested God may be a “person without a body.” Any description of God is ultimately inadequate.
I have also come to believe that we most closely understand God and the mind of God through the person of Jesus. Jesus most comprehensively reveals God to us.
One of Jesus' teachings that I believe is pivotal in this regard is the Sermon on the Mount, one of the most memorable of all sermons ever preached. The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew Chapters 5, 6 and 7.
The Sermon on the Mount speaks to issues of righteousness, compassion and justice in a normal community. It suggests that we have a challenge ahead of us to live rightly, compassionately and justly within our world, and to respond to others in ways of righteousness, compassion and justice.
We live in a global community. Our neighbors are not just the people who live within a few miles of us. Our neighbors have become the inhabitants of this globe. Our neighbors are a diversified lot.
Harry Truman once said, “I do not believe there is a problem in this country or the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount."
J. Robert Oppenheimer was probably one of the leading physicists of his day. He was the director of the Los Alamos, N.M., research team for the Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb. Later in his life, he spoke out vehemently against the use of nuclear weaponry, which he had so instrumentally helped to create.
When asked about his achievements a year before he died in 1966, he replied, “I am a complete failure. They leave on the tongue only the taste of ashes.”
With rare exceptions, we all still have the opportunity to do something meaningful in life. We can still do something to bring us peace and contentment, even as our lives wind down. Leaving your mark in life may not necessarily be all about what you "accomplish." It may also be about who you influence and what that influence looks like.
G. K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.”
The words of the Sermon on the Mount are the words of Jesus. They are also a reflection of the thoughts of God. They express the desires of God for us in our time, as they have for every person in their span of living.
Perhaps we might conclude from the Sermon on the Mount that God is a God of righteousness, compassion and justice, and that we should also pursue righteousness, compassion and justice as a reflection of our obedience to God as we understand him to exist.
"From the Pulpit" runs on the Saturday faith pages and features reflections from area religious leaders. To contribute, contact Life Editor Meredith Williams at 701-429-1749 or email@example.com.