By Rev. Calvin Odhner
Text: 2 Samuel 11:1 - 12; Conjugial Love 4
“Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house.” (2 Samuel 11:1)
Good morning, and welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church! It’s great to be back! I hope you had a good break and are ready to turbocharge your spirituality! What a great deal we have, being in the NEW CHURCH! We get to study heaven and hell and decide which to choose! TOTAL FREEDOM! We choose one or the other by loving what people in heaven love, or what people in hell love. Now, every parable, every story, and every psalm warns us to watch out for three nasty things: hatred, revenge, and adultery. These three beasts live in our desires, our expectations, and our resentments! So let’s find out how king David managed His hatred, revenge, and adultery. We read from 2 Samuel chapter 11.
The famous actress Katherine Hepburn was quoted as saying, “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.” Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Everybody finds out life is challenging! I’m sure all of us in here have been through some hard life things, real challenges; you’re probably going through some right now! This reminds me of Mark Twain’s quote: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” And where can we get that fighting spirit? The Heavenly Doctrines!
We discover through the Heavenly Doctrines that challenges and temptations actually take us to a new level--they give us new insights. That’s why the Writings are timeless! They’re written to help with every stage of life. And if we live by key principles in them, life gets easier, because they teach us what makes us happy! Even if we don’t believe it--or live by it--at least we have a path home when we’re ready.
One of these key principles is: every love has a delight. Every love has a delight. Adultery has a delight; loving one wife has a delight. And since we love what delights us, by carefully monitoring our delights we can see if what we love is on track with what people in heaven love. Hell has everything to do with delights. A definition of hell is given in True Christian Religion:
A novitiate spirit was told to research what delight is, so he went around asking in the world of spirits, “What’s delight?” People said: “what kind of question is that? Delight is delight--when you’re glad or happy. One is just like another.” Others said: “Delight is laughing all the time and telling jokes.” Others said: “Delight is eating and drinking until you’re intoxicated. Eventually, he found some wise people who helped him interview devils in hell. Here’s their conversation:
"The devils said, “Know, that everyone, good or evil, is in his own delight, a good man in the delight of good and an evil man in the delight of evil.”
And they asked, “What is your delight?”
They answered, that they were in the delight of whoring, stealing, defrauding, blaspheming. And they asked again, “What is the quality of these delights?”
They said, “They are perceived by others as fetid odors from excrements, and as the stench from dead bodies, and the rank smell from stagnant urine.”
And they were asked, “Are these delightful to you?”
They answered, “Most delightful.”
The others said, “Then you are like the unclean beasts that live in such things.”
They replied, “If we are, we are; but such things are the delights of our nostrils.”
And the others asked, “What else?”
They answered, that, “Everyone is allowed to be in his own delight, even the most unclean, as they call it, if only they do not infest good spirits and angels; but because from our delight, we cannot but infest them, we are cast into workhouses where we suffer horrible things."
It is here they describe the definition of hell:
"The prohibition and withdrawal of our delights there is what is called the torment of hell. It is really interior pain.”
(True Christian Religion 570:7)
Hell is a place where you can’t do what you love to do! This is why we can learn so much from what we delight in, and see if it would be allowed or not in heaven. In hell, people try to fulfill their delights anyway, and are forced to work in workhouses and suffer horrible things. So why would anybody keep hating, revenging, and adulterating? Because it feels good, at first: the pain and misery come later.
One of the easiest ways to see how hatred, revenge, and adultery show up in our lives is studying our relationships, especially marriage. Think back to a time when you were in love! It’s a fantastic feeling. There is no one else we desire more than that person. Everything in us wants to connect: men would climb Everest in the morning and cross the Sahara in the afternoon if needed to prove their love. Women spend hours to get that perfect look, the perfect dress and hair, or whatever else women do. Every part of the feminine is a perfect match for the masculine; this is the divine design.
“...[E]very particular--in fact every detail--of them offers conjunction....[T]his disposition to unite has been implanted from creation, so it is always there, and that means that the one yearns and pants to unite with the other. Viewed in its own right, love is nothing other than a desire, and from it an effort, to join together."
(Conjugial Love 37)
But we also bring desires to our relationships, don’t we? Some of us believed: “We’ll have the same friends like my parents did,” or, “She’ll love to go on vacation where I love to go.” “He’ll understand that I need my coffee in the morning. He’ll bring it to me just like my dad did to my mom.” “It’s just going to be wonderful!” “He also knows that sometimes I need extra care, to lie in bed all day, so he’ll take care of the wash and everything.” So down the aisle we go with all these desires: how our finances will be, how our house will be, how romance will be…. “He’ll even make sure that I’m comfortable at night--so I can wear whatever I want.”
Now, after a week or a month or a year, we begin to place these things we desired into another box, called expectations. It was fine before we were married, when we just started our relationship. I didn’t expect much then, but now that we are married and it’s been a while, it’s time to get going! In fact, I feel like you even agreed to this stuff, that it was your end of the deal. And I kind of said yes because you kinda said yes to all these things!
Love of Self and the World
You see, coming down that aisle is not just two people. There is something else looming inside both of them: loves with their delights; the old love of self and love of the world. This is something nobody gets out of: everybody has it. It’s also part of the divine design. We read:
..[T]he worldly person is the one everyone is led to be at first when he grows up, which happens through information and finding things out, and through rational and intellectual thoughts.
(Conjugial Love 426)
And it’s this person who is running the show, figuring out what’s best for the marriage, determining if this is going to work.
It’s this person, when his loves are not satisfied, when he doesn't get what he thinks he wants, who begins to put things in the next box: resentments.
The definition of a resentment is: “The experience of a negative emotion felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong.” It comes from the Latin “Sentire” which means “to feel.” So re-sentment is to re-feel a negative emotion over and over. And when we begin believing those loves we delight in, something new begins to happen. She may begin to say: “I hate that we don’t have the security, money, romance, children--fill in the blank. I want to punish you for not giving it to me, and I might even leave to find someone else (hatred, revenge and adultery…).
Throughout the Writings these three represent the opposite of charity and love to the neighbor. We read:
Everyone can see that… charity consists in being wholly unwilling to commit adultery with the wife of another; that charity consists in not doing injury to the neighbor in hatred and revenge; that charity consists in not reviling another, and so forth. He who abhors these things as sins, has charity, for he loves the neighbor.
(Last Judgment, Posthumous 164)
So we can see from this progression that the things we love, in the end determine who we are and the way we will think and act (CL 34).1 In many places, Swedenborg tells us how amazed he is that a person’s loves are the real person. He had this proved to him thousands of times. We read:
... Love is a person’s life, and therefore is the person himself... Love is the being of a person’s life or the essential reality of it, and thinking from love is the visible existence or manifestation of his life. So the speech and action that spring from thinking do not really spring from thinking but from love, and flow out through thought. From many experiences I have found out that after death people are not their thoughts, but they are their feelings and the thought from them, in other words they are there love and understanding that comes from it. After death people reject everything not in harmony with their love. In fact, they gradually assume the face, voice, speech, gestures, and manners of their life’s love.
(Conjugial Love 36)
So if our loves and desires lead to expectations, and expectations lead to resentments which carry hatred, revenge, and adultery. How can we change our loves? How can we begin to break the chain at the very beginning? This is where the Word comes in: everything in the Word is designed to heal us and to educate us on what we are actually like. We can see ourselves in King David. He desired Bathsheba; he desired what he thought would be delightful and make him happy. And we resent those who won’t fulfill our fantasies, who stand in our way, just as King David resented Uriah.
Each of us, through trial and error, learn over and over the that only way to happiness is through temptation, through fighting the distress that is felt when we are resisting something we love--the delight of evil. When we resist this evil delight, our spiritual mind is opened and our spirit is introduced into heaven even while we are in the world!
"Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house." (2 Samuel 11:1)