All the lonely people

Many people are lonely, especially in the developed world. People are living longer than ever before and see their close friends and family die. Broken relationships, between husbands and wives and parents and children, mean that many people live on their own. At our work place or college we may be surrounded by people but at the end of the day we return to our homes and are alone. Almost 50% of people in America say they feel alone or left out always or sometimes. It is not only the elderly who feel lonely, many young people are lonely. Even those who have many “friends” on social media miss meaningful human friendship and companionship.

A new pet robot called Lovot, has been designed in Japan to be a comforting presence for lonely elderly people. It uses Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition and will be on sale in the USA next year for more than $5000. It has cartoon eyes and furry arms and doesn’t speak or respond to commands. It has been designed to respond to those who talk to it and hug it and it gravitates to those who show it most love. Its designer says, “We try to train people with the power of love to be ready for loving something else.” He claims Lovot will make people “truly happy.” However, after 50 minutes activity Lovot needs to be recharged!

Human relationships are important because God is a personal God. The Bible teaches us there is only one God and that within the godhead there are three “persons”, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are bound together in a relationship of eternal love. God has created us as relational beings with an innate capacity to love God and one another. The greatest commands God has given us are profoundly relational. We are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength and also to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. When we love God and each other we experience the joy and fulfilment God created us to know.

When we pray we are talking to the living God who hears us, loves us and knows all our needs. He is always with us. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we also forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”


Remembering Jane Stuart Smith

I recently read the obituary of Jane Stuart Smith, who died on 14 January at the age of 90. She was an American opera singer who made a career on the Italian stage, including appearing with Maria Callas. Her last official performance was in 1959, as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Die Walküre. In 1960, when she was at the height of her powers, she became a Christian and left the world of opera. When, later, Jane was asked why she gave up her operatic career she replied, “I gave it up for the Lord. The world of opera is a wicked place. You have no idea about the temptations I faced. My problem was that I loved those temptations.”

Jane knew privilege and success. She was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1925. Her father, Robert, was president of the Norfolk and Western Railway. As a teenager she served as a page at the White House when Franklin D Roosevelt’s was President. Her father hired the Carnegie Hall for her New York debut. After singing the title role of Puccini’s Turandot at the Detroit Grand Opera Festival in 1951 she was described as “a woman of commanding beauty, both of person and voice”. In Italy she appeared in Milan, Palermo and Cesena, where the stage was carpeted in flowers after her performance; in Venice she arrived for a performance of Tosca on a gondola.

In 1956, while visiting Switzerland, Jane met Francis and Edith Schaeffer, who founded the L’Abri Fellowship in their alpine home near Geneva. Francis and Edith’s home was a place where people could find honest answers to their honest questions and experience practical Christian love. They called it L’Abri, the French word for “shelter,” because they wanted to provide a shelter from the pressures of a relentlessly secular world. Through meeting the Schaeffers, Jane came to know Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour and she joined the L’Abri Fellowship.

Jane’s life was distinctive because she made a definite decision to avoid temptations to sin and so turned her back on fame and fortune. She had found something much more precious; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a life that was real. Jesus told a parable about a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, when he found one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Sixty years ago, Jane made a similar, decisive choice, and now she is in heaven with Jesus, her beloved Lord and Saviour.


Lead us not into Temptation

Temptation is a very powerful influence on us all. Every day we are bombarded with temptations to do things we know are wrong. In the recent riots in London a 23 year old student was walking past a supermarket in Brixton which was being looted. He succumbed to temptation and took bottles of water worth £3.50. When he realised a policeman had seen him do it he threw the water away and tried to escape. He was caught and arrested and immediately admitted what he had done. He was of previous good character, pleaded guilty and expressed genuine remorse for what he had done. He and his family were shocked when the District Judge sentenced him to 6 months in prison.

The student’s barrister explained that her client had not been involved with the looters who originally broke into the supermarket. She described how he succumbed to temptation and now deeply regretted it, “My client is incredibly ashamed. It was opportunistic. He was walking past. He saw the store was unsecure and got caught got up in the moment.” On hearing of the sentence one person commented, “A lot of people would take the opportunity to take something if they thought they would get away with it.”

The Bible tells us how Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation in Eden at the beginning of history. God had provided them with an abundance of good things. Every day they enjoyed warm fellowship with God. However, when Satan tempted them to disobey God, and to eat the forbidden fruit, they rebelled against God. They, too, bitterly regretted what they had done. The consequences of their actions have affected every person born into the world. From that moment on all of us share in their fallen nature.

Temptations come suddenly. The student did not set out that night intending to steal but, when the opportunity presented itself, he did steal. In the moment of temptation we give no thought to the consequences of our actions. Giving in to temptation is always destructive, which is why we need help to resist temptation. We can find that help in Jesus Christ, who was tempted in every way as we, but who did not sin. If we ask him, he will give us strength to resist temptation. On the cross he also suffered the punishment our sins deserve so that through him we might find forgiveness and begin a new life.