There is a kindness and gentleness of spirit that is lost when we occupy our thoughts with assertiveness and entitlement.
Forgiveness is sacrificed on the altar of keeping score, and our humanity is compromised when we look inward at the expense of seeing the pain and suffering of those around us.
I spent decades practicing international law before I retired. I traveled much. As I look back, it’s not the legal victories I remember. It’s the acts of kindness and mercy when they were least expected – and not compelled.
Jesus didn’t come to teach us to conquer, berate, and humiliate. He came as an example of how to serve: … “he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.” (Luke 4: 18-19) This message applies not only in a worldly sense, but in a spiritual sense. And if God Himself is willing to humble Himself before us, for the purpose of loving and serving us, is it too much to believe that we — as children of God – have it in ourselves to do the same?
Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed the power of God’s message. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been — among rich or poor, educated or illiterate, during peacetime or periods of unrest. Nor does it matter the color of people’s skin. I’ve beheld in awe the power of both extraordinary and ordinary people when they believe in the teachings of Jesus — and follow Him.
Jesus teaches us many things, all of it based on love: Forgiveness heals the brokenhearted. Faith releases us from the captivity of sin. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the Truth — if we ask, if we search, and if make the choice to see what is found. Hope is the roadmap that God gives us to follow. And though our journeys are often hard and not what we expect, God offers to share the weight of it. He watches over us when we act and when we tire, He comforts us when we feel alone, He lights our path when we lose our way, and He reminds us that our tears are only temporary.
Because of God’s love and mercy for us, we need not be defined by our past sins; we can unlock the chains of lies and deceit that oppress us. We can throw off the shackles of guilt, humiliation, and shame; we can face temptation and death unafraid. Empowered and emboldened by God’s love and mercy for us, we have within us the courage and strength to love God above all else. To resist those who would destroy us. To stand up for others who cannot stand up for themselves. We have within us the ability to love each other as we should love ourselves. We have the opportunity to appreciate the gifts we have been given, and to share them with those who have not.
Let us share our faith out of love. Let us love one another because of our faith. Let’s dare to dream of a better world, beginning with making a better version of ourselves our reality. Let us rise above physical limitation and doubt; they are no match for God. Let us side-step the quicksand of hate, prejudice, and injustice; it is a lie that these things cannot change. Let us hasten to transform our lives through mercy and forgiveness; it is our inheritance for the asking. Let us seek peaceful coexistence with people of all kinds, of all faiths, consistent with Jesus’ teaching. And, let us replace our longing and solitude with a sense of inclusiveness and belonging; it is ours for the making.
Now, if that means there is something about us that must become a bit “not of this world” — or unexpected — in the compassion and forgiveness we must show others to please our Lord; if that means that we must begin to feel and experience love in a way that defies our past experiences and all human logic; well then, we should take comfort in that. It’s a sign we’re on the right path.
For it’s not naivety or weakness that marks Christians when we act a little bit “not of this world.”
Nor is it foolishness or luck that marks Christians when our love surprises those around us and accomplishes the impossible.
It’s a reflection of God’s love, which is the fingerprint of God that exists on all Creation.
It’s a reflection of God’s love, which is the signature of God that is written across our hearts.
Image: “Creazione di Adamo”, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, fresco painting by Michelangelo, 1508-1512 (may be subject to copyright)