Monday, December 1, 2014

Global Warming of a Different Kind

The global warming/climate change debate rages unabated. A newly released report stated despite horrendous early winter conditions in upstate New York and other parts of the United States, 2014 is set to become the world’s warmest year on record. Who knew?

Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted this study, it sounds credible. Who’s to argue with the NOAA? And yet, other seemingly reputable scientific sources report contrary findings. So who are we to believe – Al Gore? Frosty the Snowman? Congress, where it seems much of the world’s hot air is generated?

"It's A Wonderful Life" is a heartwarming, classic
story about redemption and redemption.
As I’ve admitted in previous posts, I’m not a scientist; much of scientific lexicon leaves me at a loss. So the magnitude and consequences of physical global warming aren’t something I’m qualified to assess. But I’ve concluded another form of global warming – global heart-warming – is definitely and desperately needed.

This is the time of year when schmaltzy, feel-good holiday films are shown in theaters and on TV – often simplistic, generally heartwarming stories of harmony overcoming animosity, love evicting hatred, unity dispelling division, compassion conquering selfishness.

One of my favorites for the holiday season is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the Jimmy Stewart classic in which humility and sacrifice triumph over the tyrannical town magnate. Then there’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” in which Kris Kringle succeeds in uniting a cynical mother, her hopeful little daughter and a trusting, determined attorney. And then we have “A Christmas Carol,” the Charles Dickens classic story of a crotchety miser whose heart is softened by a series of midnight visitations. Each concludes with its own version of happily ever after.

But why does this happen only in the movies and not so much in real life? Strife, hatred and conflict seem on the rise, while “good will toward men” seems increasingly in short supply. Why can’t we all just get along, right?

If someone could definitively solve that question, they’d be deserving of more than the Nobel Peace Prize. But as we approach the Christmas celebration, we are reminded a solution has indeed been offered. Discord and cold hearts don’t necessarily need to be our “default setting.” The question is, are we willing to accept it?

In proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago, the angels proclaimed,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). The King James Version adds the phrase, “good will toward men.” Imagine, peace and good will being made available through God coming in the flesh.

Later, during His earthly ministry, Jesus promised His followers, 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).

Many of us, however, don’t believe this. We try everything we can think of to achieve peace, but if anyone utters the name of Jesus, we hear protests of “intolerance” and “narrow-minded.” Maybe that’s why Jesus said His peace is not “as the world gives.” Maybe the reason animosity reigns across the world is because we so readily reject the peace He alone can provide.

We’re quick to observe the Bible tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), as if it’s simply a matter of willpower. But we forget the first part of Jesus’ statement, what we might call the prerequisite for loving our neighbors: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

If we could do a better job of doing the first, maybe the second part wouldn’t be so difficult. And we’d have a lot more real-life, global heart-warming stories to tell.

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