Service and the True Spirit of Religion
Sun Myung Moon
August 7, 1986
Closing Address to the Religious Youth Service
This speech was delivered, in Rev. Moon’s absence, by Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak.
Distinguished guests, participants in the Religious Youth Service, advisors to the Religious Youth Service, ladies and gentlemen: I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all of you on the successful conclusion of this first project of the Religious Youth Service. I wish to thank the people of the Philippines for their warm hospitality to the young people who have come here from every corner of the globe to work on the project, and especially the distinguished members of the Advisory Board who have done much to make the work a success.
I particularly applaud the young people who have come here as participants in the Religious Youth Service. Yours is the spirit of adventure. You have worked hard in the heat, rain, and mud to serve the people of the Philippines. You have made new friends and shared with each other out of your many diverse religious and cultural background. You have had the courage to believe and act according to the great ideal — that world peace can come through religious harmony and unity.
You have participated in a historic and unprecedented service project. Its value cannot be measured only in the school and bridge you built, the wells and septic tanks you dug, and the trees you planted. You have helped many people and made lasting friends, but neither is the value of what you have done limited to that. What is unique and special about this project is that you, who have joined together to serve the Philippine people in these ways, represent so many different religions.
You Have Discovered Unity
You have many different beliefs about God, about the world, and about the way to salvation. Throughout history, disputes over different beliefs have led to wars and the persecution of one religion by another. But here in the Philippines, you have learned that your various beliefs can motivate you to join together for a common purpose — to love and serve people in need. In living out the ideals of sacrifice and service to others, you have discovered a unity which both affirms each of your own religious faiths and transcends the barriers between different faiths.
This Religious Youth Service project is a historic demonstration that the religions of the world can work together for world peace. In a world torn apart by conflicting ideologies, national interests, and economic systems, religion can and should be the primary force for unification and peace.
Why do I say this? Each religion guides people to experience the love of God. God is one. Although there are many religions, their goal to unite with God is ultimately one. When people follow their different religious paths to their ultimate goals, they find themselves united in the heart of God. Thus, religion should naturally be a force for harmony and world peace.
Unfortunately, we all know that historically, religions have often divided us instead of uniting us. Religious leaders and institutions have often used God’s name for their own narrow goals, making God exist for the sake of their religion, instead of making their religion exist for the sake of God. Nations and cultures often fight with each other in the name of religion. Religious words and dogmas may even reflect racial prejudice, nationalistic hatred, or materialistic greed. Then true religion dies, spiritual life declines, and religion becomes a restrictive and deadening force in society. For these reasons, many people have become skeptical and cynical about the value of religion.
God, however, is not narrow-minded. God is not a nationalist. God is not sectarian. God is not a dogmatist. When religious people find an intimate personal relationship with God, or experience the mystical union with the Absolute, then the strictures of racism, nationalism, sectarianism, and dogmatism fade away. Unity with God is the source of all spiritual life and the power of true religion. The world needs men and women who can unite with God, experience God’s love, and then go forth with power to practice the love of God in the world.
Revival of the Founding Spirit
Each great religion finds this true God-centered spirit in the life and faith of its original founder. Each religious founder had such a deep unity with God. Each proclaimed a faith, a way, or a teaching that transcended the social, political, racial, and dogmatic barriers of his time. Each practiced that teaching despite hardship and persecution.
Since each religion has the spirit of its original founder at its core, religions can be a legitimate vehicle for leading people into unity with God today. The religions of the world should revive their founding spirit and traditions and so be liberated from the strictures of conventional narrow-minded belief.
Furthermore, man’s unity with God is not a matter of beliefs and doctrines in the mind. It must be expressed in actions of love and service to others. This is a fundamental principle of all religions. The Hebrew prophets, for example, were proud to be called by the title “servants of God” Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and taught that a man becomes great only through serving others. Muslims practice charity as a central pillar of their faith. Hindus practice bhakti, or service with the heart. Buddhism teaches compassion for all living beings and the bodhisattva ideal of service to mankind. These traditions may have different names for the Divine, but they all teach us the ideal of service to others.
The principle that people should love and serve others is fundamental lo all religions because all religions teach that man finds his purpose in relation to a reality greater than himself — to God who created him and to the cosmos which sustains his life. God created man out of His own love, out of an act of self-giving, and a person likewise gives of himself in loving others. The entire universe, in fact, is a dynamic web of relationships of give-and-take; it can truly be said that “love makes the world go ’round.” By acts of love and service, man comes to occupy his proper place in the cosmos and makes the world function harmoniously and cooperatively.
When a person gives of himself, he resembles God who gives of Himself in the Creation. Therefore he comes close to God. He can tap into the divine source of power and can accomplish feats far beyond what he could do by his own ability. In relationship with God, a person gives of himself yet does not become tired; his love is constantly replenished.
Love is such a magic feeling because a person in love transcends himself and connects with the power and love of God. For example, when a young man loves a young woman, he thinks nothing of himself but only of his beloved. The young woman’s feeling is the same. Each wants only to give to the other. When that attitude resembles the totally selfless love of God, then their loves resonate together and they receive invigorating energy.
Love is a wonderful topic, but behind love lie the actions of selfless giving and service. Without concrete actions, love cannot survive. Secular, romantic love is a fleeting emotion. When it dies, so does the young couple’s willingness to serve each other. The husband begins to look at his wife as someone who will always prepare his meals on time. The wife may come to regard her husband merely for his dependable paycheck. Instead of thinking about serving the other spouse, each is thinking of how the other spouse can serve him. They may imagine in their minds that they still love each other, but their actions show otherwise. Soon, their love grows cold.
Individualistic, self-centered thinking is quite the opposite of the religious life of love and service to others. Self- centeredness has nothing to do with God; it leads to isolation, alienation, greed, lust, and the desire for power. On a larger scale, self-centeredness has the same effect upon families, nations, and religions.
Religion can combat this secular trend by putting the ideal of love and service into practice. When a person’s character is trained through a religious teaching, then the heart to love and serve can become a continuous blessing and source of happiness for his entire life. A society schooled in religious teaching which practices love and service will produce happy families and harmonious communities. When the world is taught to practice service to others, peace and harmony can quickly be realized.
This is what you have done in the Religious Youth Service. Day after day you have practiced love by serving the people of the Philippines. I hope you can continue in this spirit to practice love and service for the rest of your lives. When people love and serve other people, the spirit of God will dwell among them. You have demonstrated that young people from the diverse religions of the world can find harmony and unity in the practical work of serving others.
This is only the beginning. Soon many more young people will follow your example. You are the pioneers in inter-religious service, and you can take pride in that. Let us continue to work together for the day when all religions, invigorated and revived by the spirit of God, will join together and serve the world. Then we will inaugurate a new era of lasting peace and happiness.
May God bless you.
Thank you very much.