Recently we were awakened by the horrific news that Jewish extremists had set fire to a Palestinian home, killing a baby and badly burning a family with other young children. Terrorists, indeed. Earlier that day, we had witnessed another terrorist, wielding a knife and cutting young people marching in a parade.

I was reminded of the murder of Yitzak Rabin, and the rhetoric and incitement that preceded that history altering event, all under the guise of "religion" and "love of Zion." Balderdash! Everyone is condemning this, roundly, passionately and zealously. But what they don't acknowledge is that first comes the thought, then the words, then the deed. First comes the unchecked attitude about the "Other," the uninhibited remark, the casual, self justifying superior stance, then the slippery slope toward murder. No wonder the rabbis so unequivocally condemn gossip!

As soon as we say something, it becomes real. It has more credence, more power. We may not be able to stop the random thoughts, but we certainly have the power not to entertain them, not to allow them residence in our thinking. The war, first and foremost, is within. We are forbidden to let thoughts become things, because we will reap a bitter harvest if we do.

My heart goes out to this poor family and to every family that has suffered as a result of someone’s hatred and feelings of superiority, the sense that we are ushering in redemption by the murder of those created in the image of God, the sense that we are doing God a favor by killing and stabbing and burning. What blasphemy!

God needs no favors. We need to do ourselves a favor by weeding out the junk and wrong attitudes, the distortions we allow to grow and fester within, choking out whatever is pure and holy. All human life is sacred. In my opinion, everything that has breath or that grows is sacred, including animal and plant life.

"Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord." Psalm 150:6

Now that Elul is upon us, we would do well to consider the trajectory that our society is taking. We would do well to consider the polarization as well as the results of that polarization.

Perhaps we may think that we are alone, and unable to make any changes. But, as we know from sharing our faith, sometimes the smallest seeds can grow into mighty trees, providing shade for many. We may not be called to do "great" things, but we can do some things.

We all know people who, by simply entering a room, can fill it with a sense of compassion and peace. By their very natures, they exude love and acceptance. We gravitate towards such people, and find comfort from being in their presence.

On the other hand, we also know of people who never seem to have a positive word to say about anything or anyone. Our energy, when we are with them, is depleted. And, if we are honest, we wonder whether they also speak negatively about us, when we are not around!

I have a friend who is a life coach and she came up with a lovely acrostic to help us combat negative thoughts. It is NER (Notice. Eliminate. Replace.), which is "candle" in Hebrew. A candle, as we know, gives warmth and light. It draws people to it and it also symbolizes hope and eternity. So, to combat negative thoughts, we do the following.

  • Notice. Simply notice when we are prone to gossip or negative thinking or speech. Become aware of the tendency.
  • Next, eliminate them. We must be ruthless. We may not entertain a bit of "juicy gossip". We may certainly not disparage an entire group of people.
  • Last, replace the thoughts with something more edifying, more pure. We are admonished in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things."

In practical terms, this means that we certainly never allow ourselves to entertain the fiery thoughts that burning people alive would ever remotely be within the will of God.

May God help us. We are in more danger from within than we will ever be from without. The battle is and always will be in our minds, attitudes, and hearts.

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