Previously, in considering how John Adams finished well, I referred to his renewed friendship and correspondence with Thomas Jefferson. Their close friendship during the American revolution had given way to bitter antagonism during the presidency of George Washington. This worsened during Adam’s presidency when Jefferson frequently opposed him and worked to bring him down after one term. In 1809, their mutual friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, had a dream that they had become friends again through letter writing. He then began to encourage both of them and they began a rich and beautiful correspondence until close to the time of their deaths. The peace and joy of Adam’s old age was rooted in a belief in God’s providence and in his willingness to put away bitterness and not only forgive but deeply love and admire one who had done him great harm. I love to read about the role played by Dr. Rush in this restored friendship. In His most famous sermon, Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers……..” and later gives this advice:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar an there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Later, after presenting “the Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus follows with this startling warning, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus places relationships at the center of his Kingdom. He came and died that we might have a restored relationship with His Father. He says that the quality of our love for others reflects our love for Him. It’s therefore evident that bitterness and division are not compatible with wellness. We are offered the choice of living rich and beautiful lives filled with the fruits of love or shriveled lives of bitter antagonism and self-imposed slavery. It seems like an easy choice but I’m astounded at how often I’m tempted to start down the second path.
Jesus summarizes the entire law as “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving relationships are the sine qua non of aging well. Which path will you choose?