Faithfulness’ Dependency on the Holy Spirit

Good fruit on a tree isn’t produced independently of the tree, nor of the nutrients flowing up the roots towards the branches. Good fruit isn’t produced just because the branch wants it so. So where do we go when we are commanded to bear the fruit of faithfulness? 

The apostles had it right when they cried, “Increase our faith.” They knew apart from Jesus, their faith was weak, perhaps even not apparent. We are no different than the apostles, our faithfulness is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

What Does Faithfulness Look Like?

The beginning of faith is a belief in God, the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, and it is him that gives us eternal life. That is the evidence of the fruit faithfulness.

We Trust God

We trust God because he is faithful. He has already shown us what faithfulness looks like. We have learned through time and experience that God is faithful, we are confident in his faithfulness towards us.

“All the promises of God are yes, in Christ Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

God is a promise keeper. When we pray and God answers, we learn he is faithful. Over time, when we realize God protects us and provides for us all the time, our confidence in his faithfulness increases.

His Faithfulness Increases our Dependability

Because of God’s fidelity, we become faithful not only to God but to our word and promises. Soon people find that they can trust us or even confide in us about their deepest secrets.

Christian women who work with South Asian women quickly become the sole confidant for these Asian women because they know that their secrets go nowhere but to God. They have confidence that their Christian friend will not gossip.

This is a reflection on the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers who say we must produce fruit worthy of a faithful and trustworthy God. God says we are not to gossip; therefore, we will keep his word. It’s all about him.

The Fruit of Faithfulness Is Not a Feeling

Faithfulness is not a feeling we have towards God, but rather is a demonstration of the influences of the Holy Spirit who directs and controls our feelings towards people. The Christian is a faithful wife, husband, child, neighbour, employee. A Christian is someone others can depend on. We are reliable in our words and actions.

Even in difficulties and opposition, we are to be found faithful to those around us and to God. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can produce that kind of faithfulness. Even if others are not faithful to us, God calls us to exercise the fruit of faithfulness.

What are some examples of bearing the fruit of faithfulness when others are not faithful towards us, or when we are going through difficulties? Maybe you have a compelling story to tell about faithfulness.

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How Good is the Fruit of Goodness?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “good” as having a “favourable character”. That would be Charlie Brown. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” allows us to love Charlie who is friendly and polite and strives to triumph over difficulties. He is a good man, but is this the kind of goodness Paul is talking about? How good is the fruit of goodness? And can we be that good?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

What Does Goodness Mean in the Bible?

Goodness has to do with uprightness of heart and life. Are we an upright character? That means a moral correctness that is expressed in action. It means that we must have a morally good heart that does good things. So yes, Charlie Brown is good, but as believers we need to go further and look to Him who is holy. That is the true measure of goodness. Furthermore, we cannot achieve that degree of goodness on our own, we need Him who transforms lives.

“We pray for God’s power to help you do all the good things you hope to do, and your faith makes you want to do.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Lest We Get Too Proud

A ruler came to Jesus and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?” Then Jesus questioned him and said that only God is good. On our own we are terribly flawed. Even our righteous acts are as filthy rags. We are all sinners and none of us does good. Oh, God help us to be good like Jesus, like you. We need God’s help desperately.

We are called to bear the fruit of goodness. Unless we are grafted into the good tree, the good branch we can bear no fruit. It may appear as good, but it is flawed. Terribly flawed.

Self-righteousness, conceit, false motivations, all these “hidden agenda’s creep into any goodness we attempt on our own. May the cleansing blood of Jesus produce in us good fruit worthy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town probably expresses goodness better, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake!” What if we wrote instead, “Jesus knows if you have been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake! Jesus is coming to town tonight.”

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The Fruit of Kindness by Helen Khan

“Kind words of a friend when your outlook is gloom, how it brightens your day like the dawn” are two lines from one of my mother’s favourite hymns, The Best Things in Life are Free. We all need kind words and we all like to think that we are kind. Maybe we are kind some of the time, but can we say that we are overflowing with the fruit of kindness? Do we need to always bear fruit? Do we bear fruit in season only and when is that season?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5: 22-23 (NIV)

I don’t find a Bible verse that says I can pick the season when I bear fruit. When I read passages that say, “always be ready”, that means I need to always be fruitful. But the truth is I am incapable of bearing fruit all the time. I am not always kind. I need help, I need to be filled. Where can I get a good outpouring of kindness to fill my cup?

Jesus is Kindness Personified

Jesus is the ultimate example and outpouring of kindness. God, in his great lovingkindness towards us, laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all so that we might be saved from destruction and have LIFE with him, now and forever more. He bore our transgressions while we were yet sinners so that we would be saved from death. This is called unconditional love, a condition of kindness

God calls us to be imitators of him, as beloved children to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But this too is impossible without God’s help. It is through Jesus our minds are renewed when we “put on the new self that has been created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4: 24 NIV). It is only in Jesus we bear the fruit of kindness in and out of season.

Kindness is Love in ACTION.

Kindness has many synonyms: generousness, consideration, mercifulness, charitableness and many more. It is only kindness if there is no expectation of praise or reward. (I think most of us fail this test.) I know of only one who passed it. His name is Jesus.

Every act and every word that Jesus did while on earth was an expression of pure lovingkindness. His kindness was of the radical variety for he befriended prostitutes, tax-collectors, the poor, the ragged and even a thief on a cross. Oh, what a liberal he was!

Liberal you say! This is not a political statement – that is a whole different discussion. I am playing with words because Jesus was liberal with the sinner but never liberal with sin.

Jesus bent down and told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. He had compassion for her but not for her sin. Jesus showed mercy, compassion, sorrow for the downtrodden sinner and righteous indignation with the religious bigots. He touched the leper, the blind, the repentant sinner and wept for the self-righteous who didn’t recognise their disease and need for the Physician.

This was LOVE in ACTION.

This is what kindness is, an outpouring of love that is active and touches lives. In Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse, “the moral of the story is no act of kindness is ever wasted.” God’s kindness towards us is not wasted. Let us pour out the fruit of kindness unto EVERYONE because God has so generously poured out lovingkindness for us.

I would love to hear back from you about stories of kindness. Has someone shown kindness to you? Have you shown kindness to someone who needed “kind words when their outlook was gloom”? Please leave a comment about kindness.

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What is the Fruit of Forbearance?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23 (NIV)

We have so much to learn about forbearance from our Heavenly Father. As much as the verse reminds us that there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit (aka practice them), it is really all about the Father. It is his nature of patience and longsuffering that we ought to bear.

A dictionary definition of forbearance is “refraining from the enforcement of something.” Synonyms include patience, longsuffering, tolerance, restraint, and self-control, among others. Depending on your version of the Bible, the verse may read patience or longsuffering, but I have used forbearance because it comes closer to what it means. The Cambridge Bible commentary states it is an “attribute of God, which means patience sustained under injuries and provocation.”

Forbearance, God’s Style

Love Covers Sin

This doesn’t mean that he turns a blind eye to what we have done. God is so holy that his eye cannot even look at sin. What it does mean that God in his divine forbearance passed over former sins until the time of Christ on earth. It means that God in his mercy provided the way out for our sins. Jesus, His Son bore the penalty so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus paid the price. “God demonstrated his love to us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. God has every right to punish us to the full for our sinful lives, but he has chosen to show mercy and love by sending us his Son to be our substitute. That is forbearance.

Forgiveness

Forbearance is a legal term where a lender refrains from exercising a legal right. It is used often with mortgages and other loans whereby enforced payment of a debt is either delayed or waived. An example of this is found in Matthew 18 when the king wanted his borrowers to pay back what they owed. One servant owed a considerable sum, so large he, his wife and children would have had to be sold into slavery to pay the debt. The servant begged for mercy and the king, “took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” That is forbearance, forgiveness of a debt.

Desires That None Should Perish

Forbearance doesn’t mean slowness or weakness. But it does mean patience and longsuffering. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God’s love, his mercy, his kindness, his goodness, his forbearance means that he holds back from that final day of judgement so that we might have every opportunity to repent.

How Do We Forbear?

As followers of Christ, we are to “walk in the Light, as he is in the Light”. We are to imitate Christ, to have the nature of our Father. But what does that look like?

To finish the story on the servant who owed much, he was also an unmerciful and unforgiving servant for, even though he had been forgiven much, he did not forgive his fellow servants who owed him little. The king, when he heard the news, threw the unmerciful servant in prison. It was at this point he got what he deserved. We ought not to be like the unforgiving, unmerciful servant.

We are to exhibit mercy, forgiveness, long-suffering, forbearance, looking to our Heavenly Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ to follow their example. Forbearance also includes humility for we recognise our own sins and failures before God so we are not the first to judge and “cast stones” at those who wrong us. A humble person forgives easily. We exercise self-control and turn the other cheek rather than striking back. We love, for “love covers a multitude of sins”.

As I reflect on what is happening around us today, where everyone has rights and demands their rights at the expense of others, forbearance is a word we need to bring back into our vocabulary and use it in our everyday lives. We need to exercise it. We need to forgo some of our rights and take on our responsibilities as trustworthy children of God.

On a personal digression:

In Pakistan, where I live, might is right. That Toyota Hilux on the road has more might and rights than we do in our little Suzuki WagonR (aka cheap & small). We get cut off a lot! When it happens, we have learned to say, “They have rights, we have responsibilities, and our word is bigger than theirs.” Some might call that choosing forbearance as we forgo our rights and let others exercise their power and prestige. Whatever you might call it, it’s laughter and sanity in an insane world.

Do you have a forbearance story to tell?

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Where Peace Eludes

Keeping on the theme of peace, here is one of my poems on peace.

War Eludes Peace
Peace! What catalyst begets its demise?
What besets man and nation where peace dies?
We, proud and selfish; hate brings our discord,
We abhor our neighbours, draw the sword,
We use religion to pit man against others,
We in self-righteous piety have no brothers.
We’re conduits that thwart peaceful creation,
Man, the bullish Gurzil wars to his damnation!
Peace! Where are the peace-loving Mandelas?
Replaced with warlords, the latest Mangalas;
Strive for eternity, zeal outweighs faith,
Empires on heaven and earth; peace we scathe
Forget love one another, carry our brothers,
Envy and selfish ambition, it smothers.
With scowling fervor and blood lusting cries,
Slaughter God’s creation watch as he dies.
We obliterate man made in God’s image,
Heralding the Almighty’s righteous rage.

Peace Answers
Where Peace Eludes
WISDOM calls, “Listen, I speak of noble things,
Peace I bring to you, not as the earth brings.
Come Prince of Peace, a millennium reign,
Unity, reunion with God and man now gain.
Children laughing, playing in quiet streets
Where lamb and lion, in harmony meets,
Where weapons fashioned to plough shares,
Selfish desires gone; each brother now cares.
Fear vanquished, wars relentless onslaught stilled,
Hearts with love for one another now filled.
Come, thou eternal kingly Word Supreme,
Peace, that elusive dream is the King’s regime.
 
Consider the Prince of Peace, evil He stills,
Peace, incomprehensible, He instills.

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The Spirit’s Fruit of Peace

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another.
This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)

The common mantra is peace is found within us. Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” Peace is a state of being word, but is it something we can actualize within ourselves through meditation, positive thinking, philanthropy, or any other self- produced action or thought we may engage in? What is the source of the fruit of peace and how do we develop it?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5: 22-23

What is Peace?

Peace, we all want it.

There is no peace in some homes. A wife, subject to domestic violence, longs for peace in her home, peace where her husband doesn’t beat her anymore. A child aches for peace where mother and father don’t fight. A mother wishes her toddlers would give her some peace and quiet. Could she just have the house to herself for a day, or go out with girlfriends for coffee? All of us want peace.

Humankind clamours for world peace. We yearn for “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.” The UN is our biggest global peace agency. Organizations and committees are formed to develop peace talks and strategies so hopefully, someday we will have peace. Recently, world leaders brokered a peaceful economic normalization agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but is that peace?

Peace begins at home, in the heart. The Hebrew word “Shalom” means peace. Derivatives of “Shalom” are “Salaam”, used by Christians in East Asia and “As salaam u-alaikum” used by Muslims throughout the world. Paul started his letters with words of “Grace and Peace”. What did Paul’s greetings of peace mean?

Reconciliation between man and God is the ultimate peace we can have. Without reconciliation with God, there can be no peace. We might have a peaceful world, a peaceful family, a peaceful life, but whether we have peace, or no peace, is determined by the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.

Where Does Peace Come From?

Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) So, not only is Jesus the real Joy-giver, he is also our Peace-giver. Without the Prince of Peace, there is no peace.  Jesus made peace for us between God and mankind through his blood. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20)

First, we need to be reconciled to God, then we will have inner peace. That folks is the beginning place for peace.

What Peace Isn’t

Some of us try to work out our salvation through good deeds. We bypass Jesus and believe our good works are going to get us to heaven. I live in a country where this belief is dominate in the religion. And all I see is strife. When we strive for a foot into heaven, we open the door to competitiveness, comparison, to jealousy, to strife, contention, and religious self-righteousness. Better that we simply rest in the finished work of Christ. It puts all men on equal ground, therefore, there is no striving because he completed it for us. In Christ we don’t have to fight anymore because we rest in him for our salvation.

What Does Peace Look Like?

At Peace with Troubles: People who have inner peace because of the finished work of Christ, are not troubled or afraid. That doesn’t mean we don’t have troubles, or we don’t ever worry or are afraid. We are human, but the general direction of our heart is at peace because we trust God for his protection and provisions for now and all eternity. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the word. (John 16:23)

All Are Respected and Equal: There is no enmity since Jesus “has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” So we don’t have to divide ourselves into male vs. female, blacks vs. whites, Catholics vs. Protestants, etc. We are all equal in Christ Jesus. That doesn’t say we don’t recognize difference, but those differences do not divide us. We are united in Christ.

Live Peacefully With All Men: Because we have inner peace, we “love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us” (Luke 6: 27-28). We stand as peacemakers, seeking justice for those who are oppressed, downtrodden and rejected in society.

Inner peace doesn’t say that wars will end, in fact they will increase as we near the end of the age. But we can remain calm amid the storm. That is the peace that passes all understanding, a peace that the world doesn’t have.

What does peace look to you?

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The Fruit of Joy

“I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine tonight.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

What is joy? One definition says it is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”, and that may be true, but perhaps this definition more closely defines happiness. Happiness and joy are both feelings and are often confused for each other. But they are two quite different feelings. To define joy and happiness, it is best to look at what causes them. Happiness is the result of externals, circumstances, events, people, places, and things. These things make us happy. But what causes joy? The source of joy is also external, but it resides deep within us. When we have joy, it springs from the core of our being, our soul.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

What is the Source of Joy?

Theopedia states joy is “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment and confidence and hope.” This sounds more like a spiritual quality rather than something we acquire from external entities or situations. It also sounds like it is long-lasting if not eternal. It is not a happy marriage, the birth of a child, a good job – those things make us happy, not necessarily joyful. There are people who have all these things and have no joy.

So where does joy come from? Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The source of joy is rooted in the vine. Joy is abiding in the vine. When we are rooted to the vine, we are confident that life will be fine regardless of circumstances. We can even have joy amid struggles and troubles because we know that God is in control, everything about our lives is derived from the vine. Jesus is the “the real joy-giver”.

How Do I Get Joy?

How do we get to know someone? We spend time with them, talk to them. Communication is so important in building relationships, getting to know the other person. So, if joy comes from knowing Jesus who is the joy-giver, then we need to spend time getting to know him. That means reading the Bible, pouring over the Gospels. It means praying to the Father and it means meditating, spending quiet times with God.

Joy comes from a right relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. It is Jesus that gives us the right to be called children of God. Joy comes from believing that Jesus came to this earth to live and die and rise again for the forgiveness of sins. If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us and that is what makes for a close relationship with the Father and living in joy.

What Does the Fruit of Joy Look Like?

Love is an action word. I can say I love you, but I can’t say I joy you. Joy is a state of being. It is something we have or don’t have. But joy has its expression in how we live our lives before God and before men.

Rick Warren described joy thus, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise God in ever situation.”

Have you ever met one of these joyful people? This is that someone who can look into the face of adversity and say, “I know God is in control and whatever happens, he cares for me.” That’s what joy looks like.

The joyful person isn’t always happy, they might even have moments of despair and depression. David certainly had his moments, but he often rebounded from the depths with an “I praise God” ending to his Psalm.

Joy finds its expression in love – to live for others rather than self. Joy says, “I will do my best under ever circumstance.” Joy gives occasion for generosity.

Joy can look like thankfulness, confidence, assurance, generosity, love for others and doing the best we know how.

How does the Fruit of Joy look to you?

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The Fruit of Love by Helen Khan

man and woman pose on a cross monument

The love I want to talk about today isn’t the 1955 film Love is a Many Splendored Thing kind, although it is needed in every relationship. And pure love is certainly multi-splendored. Jesus said that we will know a tree by its fruit. But to pull this analogy further, a tree can only produce a certain kind of fruit. The fruit doesn’t determine the tree, but the tree determines the fruit it bears.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

If that be true, the tree determines the fruit, what tree produces love?

Love is From God

We cannot love outside of God’s realm. We can only love because he first loved us. If he hadn’t shown us his love, we would be incapable of love. So for those outside of Christ, true agape love is impossible. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

There we have it folks, unless we are rooted in Christ, we cannot bear fruit. We can’t bear the fruit of love. If you are fruitless, then maybe you want to anchor your branches in the vine who is Christ Jesus.

Now, none of us are perfect and we do have our bad days when not much fruit is falling from our branches. And bearing fruit takes time. A small tree (even one anchored in Christ) takes time to mature, blossom and produce fruit. Weak, immature branches cannot bear the weight of heavy fruit. It is the desire to bear fruit for God that is important. I am not saying because I don’t see love in your life today, you are not in Christ. I leave this for your self-examination.

Love, especially agape love is indeed a many splendored thing. There are so many facets to love that flows from God and channels through us. So what does the fruit of love look like?

Love for God

I heard a lady on a Christian program say that the fruit of love was what we directed towards other people. Somehow she missed saying that this fruit is also directed to God, maybe foremostly directed towards him. I believe that you can’t love without loving God first.

To love God is to know him. Without knowing him, how can you love him? To love God is to put him first. He is top priority above all else. We are commanded to love him with all our soul, mind and strength. Of course our love for him is seen in how we love others, but he is first. To love God is to praise him, thank him, fall down and worship him. And to love him is to desire him as the “deer pants for the waters, so our soul pants after him, our souls thirst for Him”, to paraphrase the Psalmist. We will spend time with him in prayer, reading His Word, communing with him. And we will obey him.

Love for Self

Proverbs 19: 8 tells us those who acquire wisdom love themselves. Where does wisdom come from? From God. The Psalmist in Psalm 139: 14 calls us to give thanks to God because we are wonderfully made, and for those who know God’s love, who love God have learned from him that we are beautiful, and our soul is aware of it. There is a love for self that is humble and rooted in God and that love is needed for a believer to bear much fruit.

Why did I put love for self before other loves? I believe that we can’t love others without loving ourselves first. When we are caught up in low-self-esteem and negative thoughts, turning our thoughts inward to the self, it is difficult to bear the fruit of love.

Love for the Church

A love relationship with the Father means we love our siblings, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might not always agree, we might not always like them, but we are to love them. Constantly throughout scriptures, we are admonished to love one another. This is a direct commandment to love those in the church.

Love for Non-believers

Nor are we to neglect love for outsiders. Some believers withhold their friendship and love for non-believers, but in God’s kingdom there is no place for that. I believe a good summary of how we should treat non-believers is found in Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

So how are we to treat non-believers? With love, do good to them, lend to them, show kindness and mercy. It is okay to be friends with non-believers, just don’t conform to them – be in the world but not part of the world.

How splendid is this love that God calls us to bear! It is multi-splendored. This is the first fruit that is mentioned in Galatians 5: 22-23 and if we bear this fruit, the others will follow. I encourage you to love, first the Father and then yourself and others.

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Featured Character: Mama from Shrouds Over Eden

Mama is an important figure in the lives of some of the ladies in Helen Khan’s book, Shrouds Over Eden. We wanted to talk to Mama firsthand to learn more about her and the lives she impacts.

When we asked her to join us today, she graciously agreed to come and share with us why she is so passionately involved with broken-hearted women. So, without further ado, here is Mama.

Me

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you and where do you live?

Mama

What can I say about myself? You asked my age, well, I’m a grandmother, so old enough. I live in the suburbs just across the street from Baraka Colony. It’s a nice home, services us well, especially since we have so many people coming and going through our doors all the time. Sometimes, people like to stay overnight, especially if they haven’t slept for awhile. Many say it is very peaceful in our home and it helps them sleep better than even in their own homes.

Me

Do you have any siblings? Do you have children?

Mama

I have four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, all younger than me. And we have 11 grandchildren.

Me

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

Mama

The most important person in my life is my husband. He is my best friend. I prefer to be with him than apart. You could say he is my hero. I have a lot of respect for him. My mother was my role model, but my husband is my hero.

Me

How do you measure success? Is it money, career, husband, children, happiness? What is it?

Mama

For many people money or possessions define success. And although money is important, after all, we all have bills to pay, it isn’t what makes a person successful. Success for me is having well adjusted children who are happy being who they are and what they do. It is being happily married to the man in my life. Success is making people happy; using what God has blessed me with to bless others. Those are some of the things that define success to me.

Me

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Mama

Sometimes I am not humble enough or kind enough. I catch myself being proud or unkind and I don’t like that.

Me

What is your philosophy of life?

Mama

You can call it philosophy or my motto for living, but it is to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself. And my neighbour is very inclusive, it pretty much covers everyone regardless of who they are or believe.

Me

What do you think women need most?

Mama

Love, we need to be loved for who we are. And we need to be hugged. I meet so many hurting ladies who have aching backs and shoulders. But if I put my arms around them and hug them, tension goes out of their bodies, they relax, and the aches and pains go away, at least for awhile. Then they need to be hugged again.

Me

I understand, from reading Shrouds Over Eden, you spend a lot of time with women in your area. So, I’m going to assume you know why misogyny is so prominent in Pakistan. Can we blame religion or tradition for how women are treated in Pakistan?

Mama

Religion does play a factor, and perhaps erroneously so because much of what is done for religion is really tradition and no one knows why. For example, if you ask someone why women in Pakistan take the uncomfortable and backbreaking position of riding bikes aside, you may get the answer, “Well it’s Islamic.” The truth is that many women whether they are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or Sikh ride side-saddle when they are the passenger. And this happens throughout Asia, not just Pakistan. If we look at the history of riding side-saddle, it became taboo to ride that way around the 14th century when Princess Anne of Bohemia rode off to marry King Richard II. Advisors told her she could not ride astride, she had to ride side-saddle as it was improper for her to do otherwise. Then along came Queen Victoria who entrenched the tradition. India, which included Pakistan, was a British colony. So, we can thank Queen Victoria and colonialism, not Islam, for the danger and discomfort women face when they ride aside (side-saddle). Often traditions are given religious sanction, but that is not necessarily their root.

The other thing we can look at is the dowry system. This is a Hindu tradition that carries over into Muslim and Christian traditions. Although the Bible doesn’t mention what should be given to the bride or the groom. In Islam there is what is called mahr where the groom gives, maybe, a monetary or land amount to his bride. The dowry system is another case where tradition prevails.

Me

From Shrouds Over Eden, I understand that Sonu was a frequent visitor to you home. Can you share one or two things about her?

Mama

Sonu frequently visited our house. She, like many others around lived in a home where abuse took place. Sonu would often come over, just for cookies and lemonade and would sit on the veranda, quietly. She didn’t talk much as a child. She was a lovely child that needed lots of love and validation. Validation I think is the key world here. Many of the girls and women I meet need to be validated. They need to be told they are worthy of love and respect. Then she married and that marriage was full of violence. But God led her into a garden where she met Lamb. It was his unconditional love and treatment of women that she clung to and that is what helped her through difficult times.

Me

Do you think the garden was real?

Mama

There are many who think it was fictional. But I think it was real. Why? Because of what she learned in the garden. Lamb lived upon the earth many years ago and the things that Sonu learned are part of history. Also, after her experiences in the garden, she had an inner strength that helped her live life despite her hard circumstances. You don’t do that based on fiction. It had to be real.

Me

And my last question, is a fun question. What is your favourite colour?

Mama

I like creams, browns, and greens. I think that green, soft, muted greens are my favourite. And I look good in green. Most people here love bright colours, but I like softer colours.

Me

Thank you, Mama, for taking time out of your day to be interviewed. Having that insight into the lives of broken-hearted women has helped me, and I am sure our audience, have a better understanding of what some women go through every day. For our readers who want to read Mama’s story, you can purchase Shrouds Over Eden in various outlets worldwide.

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Is Righteous Hatred an Oxymoron? by Helen Khan

“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try mean and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 19-24

I have spent the last number of months moving through Psalm 139, sharing how precious we are to God; how he loves us and created us, a wonderous creation. I have shared the precious thoughts God holds for those he has made. Then, I come up against Psalm 139: 19-24. What happened here? We have moved from pure love to hate, or so it seems. Is this some sort of contradiction?

Protective Love

We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. With us he is warm, friendly, funny, and just a loving dog. We have had him since a pup, and he thinks I am his mommy. We have a loving relationship. But his loyalty also means he is a very protective guard dog. In contrast, if anyone who is not a member of our household comes too close to his mommy, he is upset; ferociously upset. Maybe he even hates.

The first eighteen verses of the Psalm are a major love affair between God and his creation. By now the Psalmist has fallen helplessly in love with God who loves him and thinks about him intimately, all the time. Up to this point it has been just God and him. He now turns his eyes off God and onto the world around him. There he sees evil men who hate God. Therefore, furious indignation ignites David. He uses strong words to these godless evildoers as he stands up to defend the God who loves him.

Is it Okay to Hate?

And he hates what God hates. The intimate relationship between him and God has been intense. He has come to know God, personally. He knows God hates evil and so he too hates it, with righteous hatred.

We have become averse to the word hate. We perceive it is always bad to hate. But sometimes it is okay to hate, it is even the righteous thing to do. We are to hate evil, passionately hate it. When we see evil we ought to pray that God will help those under its evil clutches escape. When we see human trafficking, racism, murder of the innocent, misogyny, child slavery, oppression – the list goes on; it is okay to hate. It is called a righteous hatred. We hate the evil and stand against it and side with the victim and fallen. This hatred is far different than when we lash out at the closest person to us because we had a bad day at the office. It is different that the indication we feel when we are slighted or suffer a minor offence. That is plain old hatred and maybe we need to learn tolerance and forgiveness.

So self-hate towards ourselves, hate towards others for unrighteous reasons is not hate that is acceptable, either by God or in society. It is unrighteous hate. We need to develop a hatred that parallels God’s hatred.

When we think of God’s hatred, we must remember that although God hates evil and evildoers, he still sent Jesus Christ to this world to reconcile us back to Him. “For God demonstrated his love to us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Are we capable of that kind of righteous hatred while loving ultimately?

Fearful Self-Reflection

The Psalmist is not just some self-righteous snob. He is not arrogant for he recognises that he could also succumb to adopting an evil mindset or acting against God and his creation. Thus, he calls out to God and says, (my words); Lord God, I could fall prey to that too. I pray that you, God, will search my heart and if I have any hint of evil in me, lead me away from it, lead me to the way everlasting.

The Psalmist had a realistic expectation of what his body and mind can do. He knows that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. He knows he needs help from God lest he too become a godless hater.

All scripture is written for our benefit. Our takeaway today is that we, like God, should hate sin, love righteousness, and love the God who loves us.

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