Picture a recent time when you had the thought that someone was doing something hurtful or destructive. For a number of us, this recognition is accompanied by a very similar response to that of James and John, the Lord’s disciples, when a Samaritan village refused to welcome them. They were angry and believed that a punishment was deserved. We should not be surprised that similar feelings and thoughts of punishment occur within us. We have been told by the Lord that we are constantly in a spiritual environment that includes both good and evil spirits. The perspective of the evil spirits is that others who do things that are wrong should be harshly punished and should suffer. The Lord calls us to beware of accepting their perspective as our own.
One of the fundamental ideas of the New Church about the life after death is that each person’s idea of God determines what his or her place is in heaven (True Christian Religion 110). Our picture of God or the Lord is not determined by the facts about Him we have stored in our memory, but much more by how we view life and think things should be. We tend to act according to our idea of God. We are inclined to see God acting as we do. Traditional Christian doctrine has tended to think of God, the Father, as being angry and inclined to condemn all people to hell because of their sin. We need to beware of this heresy in our own thoughts, words and deeds.
Many stories in the Old Testament particularly seem to indicate that if you do bad things you will be punished by God. The perspective of New Church doctrine is that all destruction and punishment come from hell. It appears to come from God only because when someone by his or her choices steps out of the protection of the Lord bad things happen. But it isn’t the Lord who causes these bad things. If what we feel is the spiritual quality called “zeal” rather than destructive anger, on the inside it will have a sadness and a desire to help prevent harm from occurring (Arcana Caelestia 3909).
The Lord wants us to be aware of how differently angels would see a situation in which something seems to be wrong. He wants us, like the angels, to be concerned about the hurt that could be caused by a harmful or destructive motive, word or deed. May we seek the Lord’s help to see the world and people around us as the angels do.