Tuesday, July 20, 2010

being virtuous

In my last post, I talked about "a virtuous education" and forgetting to explain one of the most important point which is what is this "virtue." I had been thinking about this one big question between the relation of virtue and faith, and had it discussed with some friends as well. I prefer to use the word "faith" here rather than just simply "religion" because people could have a religion without really having a faith in God. Religion is just the identity and faith is the essence. Well if one ask what faith is, I just take this description written in Hebrew 11:

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." -- Hebrew 11: 1-3

It is certain that a real faith will produce virtue. However does that mean no faith will produce no virtue as well? It depends on how do we see this "virtue." People such as Confucius has been frequently called one of the virtuous man ever alive on earth. Indeed his teaching is really wonderful and many of them is parallel with what the Bible teaches us. There are virtues in which individual could attain without any need in having a faith in God, however there are also virtues which God bestowed on those who believe in Him.

Many of us may have heard about what is called the four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. By being prudent, one is able to take a proper decision and to think out what one's is doing and what is likely to come of that action. By being temperate, one is able to control himself, going the right length and no further, in drinking and in all other pleasures. By being just, one is able to take a proper moderation between self-interest and the rights and needs of others, it includes honesty, give and take, truthfulness, and so on. By being fortitudinous, one is able to confront fears and face dangers. 

Beyond these four cardinal virtues, there are yet other virtues which are argued to be attainable through faith. The first is "charity," in which the current word has already lost its original meaning. "Charity" in this sense is love, it's not just the emotion, it's also not the feeling, but "that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves and must learn to have about other people" as CS Lewis put it. Loving ourself is easy, of course everyone by their nature or "instinct" will love themselves. Loving others as we are, and even loving our enemies, are we able to do that without God who enables us? Confucius said, "what you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others," but Jesus said do to others as what you want others do in you.

The second is "hope". The view of the eternal soul brings hope for our current short life here in earth. Our faith on Jesus and His promise give us an assurance of the eternal world to come and everything that we are doing here on earth is not in vain. We do not live merely just for instant pleasures, hedonism, or materialism; we do not live as in everything will end when our life here on earth ends! We know what we are here for, we know what we are called for, and we have hope to return back to our Father in Heaven.

The third is "faith," yes faith in itself is a virtue. In his work titled "Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments," Søren Kierkegaard wrote this beautiful remark about his faith:

"If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy fathoms of water still preserving my faith."

CS Lewis in his book, "Mere Christianity," also wrote several interesting points of faith as a virtue. The summary of which you can find it here, and scroll to the last point.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

on a virtuous education

I would like to share my personal view towards education, which has over time becoming a personal vision as well. I strongly believe in the importance of education, not only to shape the intelligence of the pupil, furthermore education has the role of shaping one's moral virtue and world view, which make it very important in one's character formation.

The current trend which is emerging is the idea of secular education which put away all kind of faith or believes in any religion from the education system. As opposed to this idea, there is religious education in which faith becomes the center that shape the moral and intellectual of the pupil.

In the United States, education is moving towards the direction of secularism. Some surveys on several US Supreme Court cases which is related with this trend and with regards to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances"):
  • Limitation on government-directed prayer and / or bible reading in public school: Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) which deemed unconstitutional the New York Board of Regents nondenominational school prayer; Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) which ruled as unconstitutional the practice of reading ten verses from the Bible and reciting in unison the Lord's prayer at the beginning of each day; Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980) which ruled unconstitutional the Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public classroom in the State; Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985) which deemed unconstitutional the Alabama statute which authorizing a 1-minute period of silence in all public schools "for meditation or voluntary prayer;" Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992); Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000) which ruled unconstitutional the policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games; Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., 542 U.S. 1 (2004) ruled  that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States are an endorsement of religion, and therefore unconstitutional.
  • Limitation of the use of public funds for religious related educational activity: Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002) which ruled constitutional the use of publicly funded vouchers by parents in Cleveland to send their children to private and religious schools. However, Justice Stevens in his dissent argued that this ruling "allowed public funds to pay for the indoctrination of thousands of grammar school children in particular religious faiths;" Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004) which ruled the constitutionality of Washington publicly funded scholarship program which excluded students pursuing a "degree in theology."

Justice Hugo Black in the proceeding of the ruling of Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947) which resulted in the incorporation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment against the states stressed the importance of this clause to protect the separation between Church and State:

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" -- 330 U.S. 1, 15-16.

Well, that's a brief overview about recent trend in the United States. In Indonesia, the condition perhaps is a bit different. The Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (Undang-Undang Dasar 1945) defends that education shall develop one's potential to gain spiritual maturity and develop one's faith (below, emphasize added):

Chapter XIII - Article 31
  1. Every citizen has the right to receive education.
  2. Every citizen has the obligation to undertake basic education, and the government has the obligation to fund this.
  3. The government shall manage and organize one system of national education, which shall increase the level of spiritual belief, devoutness and moral character in the context of developing the life of the nation and shall be regulated by law.
  4. The state shall prioritize the budget for education to a minimum of 20% of the State Budget and of the Regional Budgets to fulfill the needs of implementation of national education.
  5. The government shall advance science and technology with the highest respect for religious values and national unity for the advancement of civilization and prosperity of humankind.

With regards to this, I have a strong believe that faith in God and education is inseparable. When society cannot draw moral meaning and direction from religious belief, it draws it from other sources, and what are the other sources? Secularism, which provides new sources of meaning including self-esteem, consumerism, materialism, feminism, and relativism.

Benjamin Rush, one of the founding father of the United States, in his letter argued that "the only foundation for useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion," and he further added that, "without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."

Northwest Ordinance 1787 which in effect create the Northwest Territory as the first organized territory of the United States ordered that "religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the mean of education shall forever be encouraged."

It is thus the purpose of education, to make children faithful and virtuous, and this will form them into a good and responsible citizen, able to use their intelligence responsibly upon the right moral foundation. The true virtue is thus the fruits of one's faith on God, and a virtue without faith is as meaningless as a guitar without its strings. The idea of truly non-religious education, for me, is simply unimaginable.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    on knowing and understanding

    Well, I don't really believe in absolute objectivity, perhaps we are still "objective" when we are babies. The entire world was still new to us, thus we could take everything at their respective "face values."

    However, as we grow up, the way we see the world will be heavily influenced by our own perception and ideas which we have gathered about the world. Everything is subjective to one's own mind, one's own value, and one's personal world view. Judgments that a rationalist make will be different from what a post-modernist will make.

    In knowing another person, our "subjectivity" will play the role as well. What we had experienced in knowing other person before, our first impression, and things can't go rational anymore. Oh now I'm talking like an empiricist. Although there's no absolute objectivity in the way we perceived our environment, there's still a certain degree of it. Through the process of knowing another person, we could into a certain degree of "objectivity" perceive whether any further relation is possible. However in this process knowing each other, mutual openness is necessary.

    The door was open but now it seems to be closing.. or I don't know, it's just too hard to comprehend one's mind, or perhaps it's just now my cup of tea? If the human brain were simple enough for us to understand, we would still be so stupid that we couldn't understand it.

    agora, on freedom of faith and on women

    Rachel Weisz who came into fame after "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns" played the role of Hypatia of Alexandria (ca. 360 AD - 415 AD) in this movie. Hypatia is a philosopher, astronomer and mathematician living in Alexandria at the time of the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. She might have been the last pagan philosopher in the west.

    I was a bit disturbed after watching this movie, perhaps due to several facts which was depicted there. I came to know that the idea of heliocentrism has long existed before Copernicus. At that time, Ptolemaic model has widely been accepted as the universal model of the universe. However Hypatia found several difficulties reconciling the motion of the planet with the geocentric model of the universe. Hypatia then investigated the heliocentric model which was first proposed by Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BC and found herself to be in opinion with him.

    I'm interested in discussing two aspects which was shown in this movie, the first is on freedom of faith, and the second is on the role of women in the church. I shall start with the historical background of events happening around that time.

    Historical Background

    Alexandria, the city where Hypatia lived, was the capital of the Diocese of Egypt (
    Dioecesis Aegypti) and ruled by a praefectus augustalis ("Augustal Prefect"). The Church of Alexandria was traditionally believed to have been established by Mark the Apostle in the year 42 AD. The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was started in Alexandria. The Church of Alexandria was led by the Patriarch of Alexandria, at the time of Hypatia the Patriarch was Theophilus which was later succeeded by his nephew Cyril.

    Christianity has become so widely spread within the Roman Empire. The last great prosecution against Christians happened at the time of Emperor Diocletian
    which lasted from 303 AD to 311 AD. In 311 AD, Emperor Galerius who succeeded Diocletian as the Roman Emperor in 305 AD, issued an Edict of Toleration in 311 AD, ending the persecution. Two years later, Emperor Constantine I issued Edict of Milan (Edictum Mediolanense) which again asserted the religious toleration and the return of all confiscated church's property. Constantine was baptised before his death in 337 AD and Christianity became the Empire's preferred religion.

    On Freedom of Faith

    Hypatia lived at the time of the Emperor Theodosius I
    . The Emperor was facing several conflicts with the pagans throughout the empire: Syria, Egypt, Greece, and even in Rome. Theodosius I asserted the ban on other religion other than Christianity:

    "It is our desire that all the various nation which are subject to our clemency and moderation, should continue to the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one diety of the father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in out judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that the shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation an the second the punishment of out authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict." (27 Feb 380 AD) -- Codex Theodosianus Liber XVI.1.2.

    Theodosius I also banned the practice of blood sacrifice, visits to pagan temples and the worship of pagan images:
    "No person shall pollute himself with sacrificial animals; no person shall slaughter an innocent victim; no person shall approach the shrines, shall wander through the temples, or revere the images formed by mortal labor, lest he become guilty by divine and human laws." (24 Feb 391 AD) -- Codex Theodosianus Liber XVI.10.10.

    One disturbing scene in that movie is that when the Christians (Parabolani monks) started to attack the Jewish populace in a theater. The Jews didn't do anything to defend themselves because it was Sabbath. The Jews then took a revenge at the Christians by making a false rumor that the Church of St Alexander is on fire. The Christians came in and the Jews locked them inside the church and started to stone them. The crisis didn't end there as after this attack, Cyril set to take revenge against the Jewish populace. The movie depicted the Christians went into rampage in the city streets and slew all the Jews that they found. The rest of the Jewish populace who survived the massacre were ordered to leave Alexandria at once.

    A historical account from Socrates of Constantinople didn't mention about the first event of the stoning of the Jews inside the theater. He also didn't mention about the massacre of the Jewish populace by the Christians after the crisis at St Alexander church:
    "The Jewish populace on hearing these menaces, instead of suppressing their violence, only became more furious, and were led to form conspiracies for the destruction of the Christians; one of these was of so desperate a character as to cause their entire expulsion from Alexandria; this I shall now describe. Having agreed that each one of them should wear a ring on his finger made of the bark of a palm branch, for the sake of mutual recognition, they determined to make a nightly attack on the Christians. They therefore sent persons into the streets to raise an outcry that the church named after Alexander was on fire. Thus many Christians on hearing this ran out, some from one direction and some from another, in great anxiety to save their church. The Jews immediately fell upon and slew them; readily distinguishing each other by their rings. At daybreak the authors of this atrocity could not be concealed: and Cyril, accompanied by an immense crowd of people, going to their synagogues— for so they call their house of prayer— took them away from them, and drove the Jews out of the city, permitting the multitude to plunder their goods." -- Historia Ecclesiastica, Bk. VII Ch. 13.

    Oh well, this depiction pictures an image that the Christians at that time are no better than the pagan Romans who once did the same bloody persecution against the Christians from the first to the third century. At the time Christianity was venerated as the state religion in the Roman Empire, many men rushed to get themselves baptized, and one of the reason is to ease their path into public offices in the Empire. In the Bible itself, we see that the idea of religious freedom is already inherent because faith is a God's given grace on His chosen people on earth. We mus
    t go and spread the Good News to all the nations on earth, but it doesn't mean that the whole world will turn to Him after hearing the Good News. In the parable of weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), God allows weeds to grow in the field of wheat and let both of them grow together until the harvest (v. 29).

    Perhaps it's better for the Christians to stay as a minority or prosecuted rather than being venerated as the state religion and a majority because it promotes corruptions rather than real growth in faith. We have seen instances when the church grew so powerful and corrupted, the day which we now remember as the Dark Ages. Indeed, an absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    On Women

    Another disturbing scene is when Cyril confronted praefectus augustalis Orestes with a passage from the Bible. It was from 1 Timothy 2. Orestes was heavily influenced by Hypatia, and Cyril saw Hypatia as a dangerous force which create tension between him and Orestes and Cyril wanted to have this influence eliminated.

    "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." -- 1 Timothy 2: 9-16.

    Specifically Cyril asserted that "women are not permitted to teach and to have authority over a man," which directly cornered Hypatia and Orestes. I was quiet surprised to find this (well, I haven't read the entire New Testament) and was looking for why did Paul write this way to Timothy. I found a similar words from Paul in the 1 Corinthians 14:
    "women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." -- 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35.

    Does it really mean literally that all women are prohibited from the office of teachings? If yes, how could we then explain that today many women became evangelists, give sermons and teachings? However in the earlier part of this epistle, which is in 1 Corinthians 11: 5, Paul stated that "every woman who prays and prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head," which seems to be different from what is written in 1 Corinthians 14.

    αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν: ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει. εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν, αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ -- 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35.
    γυνὴ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ μανθανέτω ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ: διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ' εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ. -- 1 Timothy 2: 9-16.

    Paul addressed not only the Corinthian church but the churches in the sense of the "assembly of believers" as he used "ekklesiais" a plural of "ekklesia." The word "silent" in 1 Cor 14 is "sigao" which mean "silence or no sound" as opposed to "lalein" which means "to utter a voice or emit a sound", and in 1 Tim 2, the word "silent" which Paul used is "esuchia" which better to be translated as "quiteness," or "a condition of one's life who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others." The word "teach" in 1 Tim 2 is "didaskein" which means "to give a didactic discourses or teaching."

    Perhaps Paul wanted to stress the role of man and woman, as in the relation of husband and wife, which is like the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church as His bride. However the word "andros (plural) / aner (singular)" and "gunaikes (plural) / gune (singular)" may refer to husband and wife, but may also refer to the generic male and female. Well, anybody out there has any opinions?

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    knowing God

    "The proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead... There's something exceedingly improving to the mind in the comtemplation of Divinity. It's subject so vast, that our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity... While the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it... Whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is also imminently consolatory." -- CH Spurgeon

    JI Packer starts his book by quoting from one of Spurgeon's sermon which he found to be a "fitting preface to a series of studies on the nature and character of God." Knowing God is at the very core of our Christian belief. It humbles ourselves, and provide the utmost consolation to us by knowing that our entire life is in the hand of God, a Spirit infinite and eternal, unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. However we need to be aware of the danger of falling into the pitfall of just "knowing about" God.

    Knowing God vs. Knowing about God

    A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him. Perhaps we already have a sound doctrine with us, but do we have the gaiety, goodness, and the unfetteredness of spirit which mark those who have known God? Do we have great energy for God? Do we have great thoughts of God? Do we show great boldness for God? Do we have great contentment in Him?

    We need to humble ourselves and measure ourselves not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in our churches, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts.

    By His grace, He has let Himself to be known

    In order to be known, God has given us His grace by revealing Himself, He comes to you and begin to talk to you, through the words and truths which are written in the Holy Scriptures.

    Knowing God is a matter of personal dealing with Him as He opens up to you, and being dealth by Him as He takes knowledge of you. Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement, in mind, will, and feeling, committing yourself to His interests and identifying yourself with His concerns. Knowing God is a matter of grace, the initative which is of God's.

    Packer went on to describe each attributes of God: God unchanging, majestic, wise above all, His word, His love, His grace, His goodness, and His justice. I would like to highlight the part about God's wisdom here.

    God's wisdom

    "His wisdom is profound, his power is vast." -- Job 9: 4

    "He has great power and mighty strength, ... His understanding no one can fathom" -- Isa 40: 26, 28

    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." -- Isa 55: 8-9

    His way is higher than my way,
    and through what had happened in my life I started to understand this great truth. I had experienced a time when I thought I have a "perfect plan" for myself but in the end God thwarted everything and denied all the seemingly "perfect plan," made me to wait and only after some time do I get to understand that indeed His way is far higher than my way.

    "We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously he once waited for us!" -- CH Spurgeon

    Through this perhaps He would like to strengthen us: in patience, good, humour, compassion, humility, or meekness. Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps He wishes to break us from complacency, unreality, or pride and conceit. Perhaps His purpose is just to draw us closer to Him.

    "Still He teaches believers to value His promised gifts by making them to wait for those gifts and compelling them to pray persistently for them before He bestows them." -- JI Packer

    Short summary of "Knowing God" by JI Packer

    to be loved and to love

    "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. " -- Moulin Rouge

    One of my friend's twit reminded me of this quote from Moulin Rouge. It took me some effort to visit the original Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris two years ago. I still remember vividly how I alighted in Abesses Metro Station and climbed through its stairs, the station was real deep underground! The next stop was the famous Basilique du Sacré-Cœur at the summit of Montmartre. Satisfied with the fresh view of Paris from the top of the hill and a visit to the basilica, I took my breath and went through hilly roads and finally I sighted the Moulin Rouge. Well, enough about Moulin Rouge and a bit of reminiscence, I'd like to share something about love. Again, about love, a word which has gradually lost its deeper meaning..

    "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." -- John 15: 9-13

    Why do we love others, how could we love others completely? It is because Jesus has first has loved us. Our love for others is built upon this solid rock! It is a blessed assurance, that the source of our love is the unceasing love of Jesus Christ Himself for us.

    I once shared this to a best-friend of mine who once faced a problem of love. As a man, we tend to be more ignorant or "phlegmatic" in some way. I mentioned that, we are like a vessel, and the love of Jesus for us fill up this vessel, it fills this vessel until it becomes full, and it doesn't stop there! It fills up this vessel until this vessel cannot store all of it. That love itself overflows from this vessel to other vessels. And that's exactly what happen for us who's already in Him, that His love should be overflowing from us to others as well!

    Well said, but it made me thinking, have I really been there?

    "Love is the greatest of all because it's the essence of God's character. Love cannot go against the holiness, goodness, and righteousness of God, and love must be accompanied by the fear of the Lord." -- June 2010

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    sepadan & seiman

    TUHAN Allah berfirman: "Tidak baik, kalau manusia itu seorang diri saja. Aku akan menjadikan penolong baginya, yang sepadan dengan dia." -- Kej. 2:18

    Janganlah kamu merupakan pasangan yang tidak seimbang dengan orang-orang yang tak percaya. Sebab persamaan apakah terdapat antara kebenaran dan kedurhakaan? Atau bagaimanakah terang dapat bersatu dengan gelap? -- 2Kor. 6:14

    Sepadan, dan seiman, dua hal yang menjadi standar yang Tuhan berikan di dalam Alkitab bagi kita memilih pasangan hidup. Melalui beberapa percakapan yang aku alami barusan, aku kembali memikirkan mengenai kata "sepadan" ini. Misalnya saja dalam hal "tingkat intelektual," karena kadang-kadang aku merasa agak "minder" bertemu dengan seseorang yang bisa dibilang lebih "pandai" walaupun bertemu dengan orang-orang seperti itu bisa memotivasi aku untuk belajar lebih banyak lagi. Seperti misalnya kalau bertemu dengan Pdt. Stephen Tong, well belum pernah sih bertemu dia secara langsung dan bertatap muka, pressure-nya mungkin berbeda, hahaha. Indah sekali ya kalau bisa menemukan seseorang yang sepadan dalam hal ini dan juga kedewasaannya, selain bisa saling melengkapi, bisa menjadi teman diskusi yang menyenangkan :)

    Well, jadi teringat akan sebuah artikel yang ditulis di dalam sebuah milis yang aku ikuti di tahun 2006 lalu, semoga menjadi berkat:

    Tentang Memilih Pasangan Hidup
    oleh Bernard Dima
    13 November 2006

    Setelah beberapa waktu merenungkan topik ini dan berbagi ide dengan beberapa teman tentang memilih pasangan hidup, aku mencoba untuk menulis tentang hal-hal yang perlu dipertimbangkan dalam memilih pasangan hidup. Ide-ide ini mungkin tidak biasa atau terlalu ideal bagi sebagian orang. Namun, inilah yang perlu diperjuangkan sebagai orang Kristen yang mencari nilai yang lebih tinggi dari dunia ini.

    Dalam pembicaraan dengan beberapa teman, selalu muncul beberapa pertanyaan sama. Paling menonjol adalah mengenai kriteria orang yang diinginkan menjadi pasangan hidup. Kriteria-kriteria ini misalnya karakter seseorang, latar belakang keluarga, atau kedewasaan baik mental maupun spritual. Aku sendiri tidak suka membuat kriteria seperti ini walaupun tentu ada standar-standar tertentu di dalam memilih. Alasannya karena kriteria-kriteria ini ditentukan berdasarkan refleksi diri seseorang yang lebih dipengaruhi oleh keinginan menyenangkan egonya sendiri. Berapa panjang daftar kriteria yg harus kita buat agar kita menemukan orang yang tepat? Berapa banyak pernikahan yang tidak harmonis dan berakhir dengan perceraian hanya karena anggapan bahwa orang yang dinikahi ternyata tidak sesuai dengan kriteria? Atau mereka menemukan apa yang diidamkan dalam diri WIL atau PIL? Lebih lagi, bukankah tiap orang diciptakan sesuai dengan gambar Allah secara unik yang harus diterima secara utuh bukan parsial?

    Namun, di sisi lain tidak mungkin memilih pasangan hidup tidak menggunakan kriteria. Jadi, letak persoalannya pada dasar pertimbangan kita saat memilih pasangan hidup kita. Di sinilah kita harus mengaku bahwa bagaimanapun juga ini bukan cerita tentang kita. Bukan apa maunya kita atau siapa kita. Tetapi tentang Tuhan, apa yang menjadi kehendak dan rencana-Nya bagi hidup kita. It is not about us. It is all about God.

    Dalam Alkitab, Tuhan memberikan 2 standar penting dalam memilih pasangan hidup. Sebelum kejatuhan, Tuhan berkehendak agar pasangan itu sepadan. Setelah kejatuhan, Tuhan menambahkan satu lagi yaitu seiman. Standar kedua lebih mudah dicari walaupun kadang tidak semudah yang dikira. Seiman artinya mencari pasangan yang sama-sama sudah dilahirkan kembali, menerima Tuhan Yesus sebagai Juru Selamat pribadi dan berkomitmen menjadikan Dia sebagai Raja dalam kehidupan sehari-hari. Tidak mudah oleh karena ini adalah pengalaman pribadi seseorang bersama Tuhan di mana hanya Tuhan yang tahu kebenarannya. Tapi paling tidak kita bisa menanyakan: kapan momen ini terjadi? Bagaimana dengan pertumbuhan imannya? Apakah dia dekat dengan Tuhan dalam doa dan firman? Apakah dia suka melayani Tuhan? Bagaimana nilai hidup kristianinya? Namun perlu diingat bahwa belum tentu mereka yang suka melayani dan rajin berdoa adalah orang-orang yang telah mengalami kelahiran kembali dalam Tuhan. Di sisi lain pun harus disadari bahwa mereka yang di dalam Tuhan pun masih memiliki banyak kekurangan. Oleh karena itu, dibutuhkan pengamatan dan dialog yang mendalam untuk menemukan seseorang yang sungguh di dalam Tuhan.

    Kalau standar kedua adalah sesuatu yang mudah dipertimbangkan dan diputuskan karena hanya memerlukan jawaban ya atau tidak, maka standar pertama lebih sulit didefiniskan dalam realitas kehidupan. Sepadan sering ditinjau dari segi kedewasaan baik itu mental maupun spritual.Namun sampai sekarang belum ada alat yang pas untuk mengukur tingkat kedewasaan. Lagipula, pencapaian kedewasaan sangat bergantung situasi yang pernah dilalui dan kadang proses itu bisa terjadi dalam semalam.

    Sepadan juga ditinjau dari sisi karakter yang kemudian digabungkan dengan teori kepribadian. Lalu bermunculanlah pendapat bahwa sama karakter tidak cocok menikah karena seperti magnet kalau sama kutub akan tolak menolak. Sehingga si Sanguin lebih baik menikah dengan si Melankolik karena akan saling mengisi daripada menikah dengan sesama sanguin, dst., dst. Tak heran karakter ini akhirnya menjadi salah satu alasan memutuskan hubungan. Namun, jika karakter ini penting, maka tentunya Tuhan akan berkata, "Mari Kita menciptakan si Kolerik Hawa untuk si Sanguin Adam." Tapi bukan ini yang dicatat oleh Alkitab.

    Selain kedewasaan dan karakter, sepadan pun sering ditinjau dari berbagai sudut pandang. Bahkan ada yang meninjau dari sudut kemapanan ekonomi di mana paling tidak ada kesetaraan ekonomi antara pria dan wanita yang akan menikah. Tapi apa yang sebenarnya dipikirkan Tuhan ketika berkata, "Tidak baik, kalau manusia itu seorang diri saja. Aku akan menjadikan penolong baginya, yang sepadan dengan dia."

    Kembali kepada prinsip di atas: It is not about us. It is all about God. Mengerti arti sepadan haruslah ditinjau dari sudut pandang Tuhan. Pertanyaan penolong adalah: untuk apa Adam memerlukan seorang penolong? Di sini saya melihat ada keterkaitan antara penciptaan Hawa dengan mandat yang Tuhan berikan kepada manusia untuk beranakcucu dan bertambah banyak; memenuhi bumi dan menaklukkan itu, berkuasa atas ikan-ikan di laut dan burung-burung di udara dan atas segala binatang yang merayap di bumi. Untuk menggenapi tugas ini, Adam membutuhkan seorang penolong yang sepadan dengan dia dan Tuhan memberikannya. Panggilan tugas dari Tuhan inilah yang seharusnya menjadi dasar tinjauan arti penolong yang sepadan itu.

    Karena itu, mempertimbangkan dan memilih seorang pasangan hidup sebenarnya tidak pernah lepas dari panggilan Tuhan dalam hidup kita. Apa yang Tuhan kehendaki bagi kita dan Dia ingin kita menjadi seperti apa nantinya, akan sangat menentukan penolong sepadan bagaimana yang akan diberikan Tuhan kepada kita. Bukan ini saja, panggilan Tuhan ini juga akan menjadi dasar memiliki anak dan membesarkan mereka sesuai dengan panggilan Tuhan itu. Dan bagi saya, panggilan Tuhan kepada setiap anak-Nya unik dan berbeda satu dengan yang lain.

    Pada point ini, kita bisa melihat juga begitu pentingnya standar kedua dari Tuhan. Sepasang suami istri yang seiman akan sama-sama dipimpin oleh Roh Kudus. Sehingga perjalanan mereka akan terus terarah pada penggenapan rencana Tuhan. Jika nanti ada yang tidak mengarah ke sana, berarti perlu dipertanyaan status iman mereka di hadapan Tuhan.

    Jadi, pertanyaan yang paling perlu dijawab sebelum mencari, mempertimbangkan dan memilih pasangan hidup adalah: apa visi hidup kita? Bagaimana kita melihat hidup kita dalam Tuhan pada 10 atau 20 tahun mendatang? Kemana Tuhan akan memimpin kita? Jawaban-jawaban ini akan menolong kita untuk menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan berikutnya, seperti: mengapa kita ingin menikah? Apa tujuan pernikahan kita? Mengapa kita memilih si A, B atau C dan tidak memilih si D? Mengapa kita memilih seseorang yang cantik atau tampan? Semuanya harus dikembalikan pada apa rencana Tuhan dalam hidup kita.

    Tetapi di sini "terpaksa" perlu dibedakan antara laki-laki dan perempuan. Karena bagaimanapun perempuan dipanggil sebagai penolong maka pergumulan seorang perempuan lebih kepada pasangan hidup bagaimanakah yang akan ditolong oleh dia. Sedangkan seorang laki-laki akan menggumulkan pasangan hidup yang bisa menolong dia mewujudkan panggilan Tuhan dalam hidupnya.

    Sayangnya tidak ada rumus baku untuk mengerti panggilan Tuhan. Bagaimana Tuhan memimpin seseorang tidak mungkin dijadikan dasar bagi yang lain. Karena pimpinan Tuhan unik kepada setiap anak-Nya. Kita diselamatkan bukan hidup seperti biasanya orang di dunia hidup. Dalam Efesus 2:10, Paulus mempertegas hal ini bahwa panggilan Tuhan itu sudah dipersiapkan Allah sebelumnya dan Dia mau kita hidup di dalamnya. Mengerti kehendak dan panggilan Tuhan pun seharusnya bukan sesuatu yang sulit. Masakan Tuhan mempersulit anak2-Nya yang ingin mengetahui kehendak-Nya? Sebenarnya itu tergantung kedekatan kita dengan Tuhan, bagaimana kita memahami prinsip firman Tuhan dan pimpinan Tuhan di masa lalu.

    Tanpa mengerti panggilan Tuhan maka hidup kita akan menjadi bimbang dan tanpa arah. Kita tidak ada dasar dalam menentukan apa yang kita ingini. Kita tidak tahu apa yang telah dan akan kita raih. Nantinya dalam memilih pasangan hidup pun kita akan lebih mengandalkan getaran-getaran yang seringkali disebut 'cinta' dan ketika getaran itu hilang, kita akan berkata kita tidak mencintai lagi. Hidup ini juga tidak bisa dibiarkan mengalir begitu saja. Kemana hidup ini mengalir perlu diketahui supaya jangan sampai saat terakhir baru kita sadari ternyata hidup mengalir ke tempat yang menyedihkan.

    Kalau visi hidup itu sudah ada dan kita serius mau hidup di dalamnya, maka langkah selanjutnya mencari pasangan hidup yang sepadan. Sejalan dengan prinsip ini, maka setiap orang Kristen yang telah ditebus oleh Tuhan dan belum menikah adalah calon potensial pasangan hidup kita. Ini berarti juga tidak ada yang disebut jodoh di mana Tuhan telah menentukan pasangan masing-masing. Lalu, bagaimana memilihnya? Secara ekstrim, pilih siapa saja ok. Tetapi tentunya orang yang dipilih harus sudah dikenal dan paling tidak kita tahu apa visinya sehingga kita juga bisa melihat rumah tangga yang akan dibentuk. Haruslah juga orang-orang yang terlibat dalam pelayanan. Sulit dimengerti jika seseorang mengaku mengerti panggilan Tuhan tapi tidak melayani. Singkatnya tiap parameter kualitas rohani perlu dipertimbangkan. Di sisi lain, setiap orang tebusan Tuhan haruslah juga mengejar kualitas rohani yang diperintahkan oleh Tuhan. Kalau tidak demikian, sia-sialah penebusan Tuhan bagi kita. Atau kita sebenarnya bukan orang tebusan Dia.

    Selanjutnya dalam proses pacaran haruslah banyak diisi dengan sharing, penyamaan dan bagaimana merealisasikan visi. Jika salah satu belumsampai ke level yang sama, maka menjadi tanggung jawab yang lain untuk menolong dan mengarahkan. Begitupun nanti dalam pernikahan. Sampai sini idealnya tidak ada kata putus bagi orang Kristen dalam berpacaran. Karena perbedaan antara yang cocok dan kurang cocok hanya pada usaha dan waktu. Jika kita memilih dan ternyata cocok, maka proses untuk masuk dalam panggilan Tuhan itu akan lebih cepat dan usahanya lebih ringan. Jika yang kurang cocok, maka dibutuhkan waktu lebih panjang, usaha lebih keras dan mungkin lebih banyak air mata. Tapi akhirnya sama, masuk dalam panggilan Tuhan.

    Kembali lagi kita melihat pentingnya pasangan yang seiman. Kita yang di dalam Tuhan, tentunya mau dibentuk oleh Tuhan. Dengan kata lain, mau berubah dan bertumbuh. Jika ada yang tidak mau berubah dan bertumbuh, maka perlu dipertanyakan lagi status iman mereka di hadapan Tuhan. Dalam Roma 8:29 dengan jelas Paulus menulis bahwa setiap anak Tuhan haruslah mempunyai tujuan menjadi serupa dengan Kristus. Untuk mencapai tujuan ini perlu perubahan dan pertumbuhan.

    Bagi mereka yang telah menikah tapi belum menggumuli panggilan hidupnya, inilah saatnya untuk bertanya kembali apa maunya Tuhan dalam kehidupanmu. Bagi mereka yang telah menikah dengan pasangan yang tidak seiman, kita perlu sekali menanyakan status iman mereka. Apakah mereka sungguh orang tebusan Tuhan yang mengasihi Dia dengan sepenuh hati? Jika tidak, maka yang perlu menjadi kepedulian adalah keselamatan dia di dalam Tuhan. Jika ya, maka perlu diingatkan bahwa mungkin panggilan dia seumur hidup adalah memenangkan pasangannya. Sehingga apapun yang dia lakukan adalah demi hal ini. Panggilan lain hanya bisa direalisasikan ketika pasangannya sudah dimenangkan.

    Lalu, di manakah 'cinta' [1]? Apakah nanti tidak lagi getaran-getaran 'cinta' ketika kita menerapkan prinsip ini? Semuanya tetap ada. Yang berbeda di sini adalah orientasi dalam memilih pasangan hidup. Kalau biasanya pasangan hidup yang diidam-2kan menurut standar dunia yang cantik/ganteng, seksi, mapan, muda, dsb., sekarang yang kita cari adalah yang sesuai dengan panggilan hidup kita. Perasaan yang kita rasakan pun akan sama ketika kita menemukan orang yang sepadan ini dengan perasaan saat kita masih mengidamkan pasangan sesuai tawaran dunia. Tapi panggilan hidup itu haruslah di atas getaran-getaran cinta. Aku percaya Tuhan pun akan bekerja di dalam natur manusia kita.

    Sebagai penutup, aku percaya sekali jika kita telah menangkap panggilan Tuhan itu dan telah melihat bagaimana pasangan yang sepadan untuk kita, maka tidak ada alasan bagi Tuhan untuk menunda mengirim orang yang kita dambakan ini. Namun bukan berarti kita menjadi pasif. Kita perlu taat pada perintah Tuhan, meningkatkan kualitas hidup dan rohani serta memperluas persahabatan dengan orang Kristen lain khususnya dalam pelayanan. Menulis tentang pasangan hidup mungkin tak ada habisnya. Tapi kiranya tulisan ini menolong memberikan paradigma baru dalam memilih pasangan hidup kita.

    [1] Cinta di sini ditulis dalam tanda petik karena sebenarnya tidak ada yang disebut cinta. Cinta itu lebih merupakan tindakan daripada sesuatu.