There is a challenge in my heart in regards to whether or not I should dislike people for what they say, for example, when they are running for president. The latest craziness is how we should ban muslims from entering the United States. I read about this on the same page that mentioned Pope Francis and the Year of Mercy. Hmmm.
My reaction is to hate the reaction. But just as violence gives us violence, I’m afraid reaction gives us just another reaction. We seem to dislike not having an opinion on something. They’re bad. We’re good. It’s an easy way to go.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, nor is it desired by Jesus, in my opinion. And it’s the consciousness of Jesus that I want to go after.
I quote Richard Rohr often, probably because he’s one of my kind of people. Meaning, he leans towards the mystic way of perceiving the universe and follows in the steps of Saint Francis. I love that the current Pope chose that name, and I love that we can choose to participate in a Year (or life) of Mercy. What bothers me is the reaction to candidates, the Pope, refugees…pick a headline…by many of my fellow Jesus followers (and me). But just as I weep for the lack of compassion or the snide remark about how letting in refugees will lead to our downfall, I also weep for my response to them, which is often one of anger mingled with a condescension, something in my mind that writes that person off as an idiot. They may very well be an idiot, but such thoughts remind me of one of my favorite Jesus stories.
In the Bible there’s a book called Luke. He tells about Jesus telling a story, or a parable. It’s a way to teach.
He says that two men went to pray. One was a Pharisee (very smart, righteous, Godly men) and the other a tax collector. Tax collectors, especially if they were Jewish, were not popular with the people as they collected taxes for the ruling Roman empire (and possibly pocketed a bit for themselves).
The Pharisee was standing by himself. He said, “God, I thank you that I am not like the other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give 10% of my income away.”
Then, the tax collector, who wouldn’t even lift his head, beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Now, here’s one lesson. If you read this story and thought, “I sure am glad I’m not like that Pharisee. He’s a jerk.” Not only would you be correct, but you would also be the Pharisee in this lesson.
Don’t think badly about this guy. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s glad he’s got it right. We all think this way at some point or another, or just about every minute.
What can I do, then? There’s little that works for me to try to explain this, but here it goes. Grace. Offer people, including yourself, grace. It’s incredibly difficult, especially when you consider I’m talking about Donald Trump, terrorists, that person who fired me, and anyone else who I simply disagree with or by whom I am threatened. Grace is the pillar on which all hope stands.
Peter, a follower of Jesus, speaks quite a bit in the Bible. The book of Acts tells the story of the start of the movement of Christianity. After several chapters of some pretty amazing stuff happening to him, Peter takes the stage one last time. His final words in this story, after a long time of just trying to figure things out, are these: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Then he’s done. It’s the last thing he says in this story, and he summarizes life beautifully. It’s grace. For everyone. How can you offer that to yourself and others today?